TCL Staff Predictions: Round 1 - Eastern Conference

Earlier today, we looked at the TCL Staff's predictions for the four series in the Western Conference. The opinions were varied, and opinions lively. Now, we look at the four series in the Eastern conference. Once again, there were many different opinions, including one series that had no consensus (can you guess which series that is?).

Check out our predictions and thoughts, and leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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WESTERN CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS
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(1) WASHINGTON CAPITALS vs. ( 8 ) NEW YORK RANGES

The eight place New York Rangers squeezed into the playoffs in the final days of the season, but anyone will tell you there were extremely lucky. Carolina faltered in their last couple of games, and without Ryan Callahan, the Rangers aren’t nearly as complete as they would have been a month ago. We all know Henrik Lunqvist can stand on his head, but with the depth and the newfound defensive responsibility of Bruce Boudreau and the Capitals, do the Rangers stand any chance of being this year’s Cinderella team?

Consensus: Washington Capitals in 6
Kip’s Pik: New York Rangers
Genius or Madness: Jonathan Szekeres – Caps in 4.
Previous Meetings: Five, most recently in 2009, a 4-3 win by Washington. The last time the Rangers beat the Caps in the playoffs, they went on to win the cup in 1994.

Blogger Showdown: Scott Lowe vs. Glen Miller

Related Posts:
- Fortune Shines on Blue Shirts by Glen Miller
- Caps Appear Ready To Apply Leasons Learned by Scott Lowe

Key Players:
Washington: F – Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Semin; D – Mike Green, John Carlson; G – Braden Holtby, Semyon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth
New York: F – Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky; D – Dan Girardi, Marc Staal; G – Henrik Lunqvist

Key Injuries:
Washington: Tom Poti (groin – indefinitely), Mike Green (concussion – day-to-day), Dennis Wideman (hematoma – indefinitely), Jason Arnott (undisclosed – questionable)
New York: Alex Frolov (knee – done), Martin Biron (collarbone – indefinitely), Ryan Callahan (broken leg – indefinitely)

Prax’s Take: Despite losing both their deadline acquisitions to series injuries and their ridiculous 3-man show in goal, the Capitals have too much in the tank – thanks to a new defensive system from Bruce Boudreau, among other things – to NOT win this series. The Rangers were my team dark horse team to make it far, but not anymore. Not with Callahan out, and the near collapse in the last few games. They do have some fight in them, and it will lead to them winning at least two games. Caps in 6.

Around The Checking Line:

Scott Lowe: An angry Capitals team, embarrassed by last season’s early playoff exit and two blowout losses to the Rangers this year, will be too much for New York to handle. Lundqvist may steal a game – or even two – but no more. The Caps will take lessons learned in last year’s loss against Montreal team and use them to roll to victory in five games.Caps in 5.

Steph Darwish: This season the Rangers were Caps-Killers, shutting them out twice out of their four meetings. I really want the Capitals to advance, if anything for the sake of Ovechkin's sanity, but once again they drew a bad match-up. Lundqvist will "Halak" them, and the Capitals will become the San Jose Sharks of the East. Rangers in 7.

Jonathan Szekeres: Man oh man. If there was ever a player the Rangers wanted to have for the playoffs, it was Ryan Callahan. However, he is done, and it is time to move on. The Capitals may not have scored as many goals as last year, but they learned to play defense. Turning Alex Ovechkin into a semi-reliable defensive player? Not bad, Bruce Boudreau. The Caps should steamroll the Rangers with little to no difficulty; unless, that is, Henrik Lundqvist stands on his head, which may in fact happen. The fact of the matter is, the Caps don't have the number one goaltender the Rangers do. It' wont be enough for my money, so I'm predicting a fairly easy series for Washington.Caps in 4.

Newman: My darkhorse pick. Lundqvist will steal the show, ala Halak last season, and the Rangers will send the Caps to a second straight first round exit. The Rangers dominated the Caps this season winning three of the four games they played and outscored them 15-1 in those games. Rangers shock here. Rangers in 7

Owen Durkin The Capitals have much to prove, in the year that they finally bought in to Gabby's system of accountability. The Rangers simply don't have the guns to compete, the dressing room is full of distraction with the Gaborik rumour and innuendo, and it is going to fall squarely on King Hank to win this series. No chance. Caps in 5.

Adam Reid: Sure, Washington has the firepower in their lineup, but Alex Ovechkin has had a bit off a down season this year, and I think this will catch up with him in the playoffs. Washington enters the playoffs with an unclear cut goaltender to turn too. The Rangers are a tough team to beat, who have a really strong goaltender to turn to in Lundqvist. Caps win, but Rangers don't go down without a fight. Caps in 6.

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(2) PHILADELPHIA FLYERS vs. (7) BUFFALO SABRES

In their last ten games of the season, the Flyers were 3-4-3, and lost the conference title that was theirs the entire season. The Sabres, on the other hand, played most of those same 10 games without Olympic goaltender Ryan Miller, and went 8-1-1 to ensure a playoff spot that no one thought they’d have earlier in the season. Is this just a case of a good team slumping, and an average team playing over their heads, or are we in for another potential upset?

Consensus: Philadelphia Flyers in 6
Kip’s Pik: Buffalo Sabres
Genius or Madness: George Prax, Flyers in 4
Previous Meetings: Nine prior meetings, the Sabres have taken the previous two in the Quarterfinals in 2001 and 2006.

Blogger Showdown: Six Flyers bloggers, led by Mark Trible (with Adam Pardes, Alicia Sprenkle, Larry D’Angelo, Kim Pollock and Matt Brigidi). Also check out our TCL Flyers facebook page!.

Related Posts:
- History of the Eastern Conference Playoffs by Matt Brigidi.
- March Flyers Introspective by Matt Brigidi.
- With All Their Will, Will They? by Kim Pollock.
Flyers Clinch Atlantic At Last by Alicia Sprenkle.
- Flyers First Round Roundtable by Mark Trible and the gang.

Key Players:
Philadelphia: F – Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Mike Richards; D – Chris Pronger; G – Sergei Bobrovsky
Buffalo:: F – Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford; D – Tyler Myers; G – Ryan Miller

Key Injuries:
Philadelphia: Ian Laperierre (post-concussion syndrome – done), Chris Pronger (hand – questionable)
Buffalo: Derek Roy (quadriceps – indefinitely), Jordan Leopold (hand/pneumonia – indefinitely), Jochen Hecht (upper body – indefinitely), Tim Connolly (undisclosed – questionable).

Prax’s Take: Despite the complete opposite path of these two teams in recent games, a good losing streak is generally a good thing for a top team like the Flyers to close out the season. On the other hand, the Sabres have given it everything they got, and they’re not very deep in any position. Ryan Miller will give them a fighting chance, but the Flyers need to steamroll here – if anything for their own personal sanity. Flyers in 4.

Around The Checking Line:

Adam Reid: What needs to be said, Buffalo was lucky to make the playoffs to begin with, they do not have the team to compete with the Flyers. The Sabres will get down early in the series and self destruct. . Flyers in 5.

Larry D’Angelo: As a huge Flyers fan I would love to say they will win this series but I have to look at reality here as the Flyers have lost 14 of their last 21 games and have struggled mightily on the power play. They have many issues that needed to be resolved and they ran out of time to correct them. They often have trouble scoring , solving Miller will be a tough challenge for this team no matter how much depth it has.Sabres in 6.

Matt Brigidi: Buffalo is 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and beat Philadelphia right before the regular season ended. Ryan Miller is returning from injury and looks to be back to form and Jhonas Enroth went 8-2-2 during his abscene. Philadelphia had the single worst March and April in the post-lockout era of any playoff team (.350 winning %). They also lost five consecutive games prior to winning their season finale; 67% of teams who lose multiple games prior to the end of the season are eliminated in the first round. Did the Flyers have problems at the end of the seson? Yes. Are they on paper the better team? Yes. Will they advance? Flyers in 6.

Micheal Aldred: The Flyers are a team that simply coasted their way down the stretch to finish atop the Eastern Conference. The Buffalo Sabres have been putting up clutch performances in front of Ryan Miller and their snipers are coming alive. Don't be shocked to see the Flyers fall out in a heartbreaker after 7 games.Sabres in 7.

Rob McGowan: Buffalo could be an interesting team in the playoffs; I expect them to put up a good fight against the Flyers. Bobrovsky's inexperience might get tested early, but the Flyers have too good of a team to go down in the first round, if not go all the way to the Cup again. Flyers in 6.

Scott Lowe: The Flyers have too much depth up front and are too solid defensively to fall to a team that really has been carried by one line the last few weeks of the season. There also are big holes in the Buffalo defense. Ryan Miller will be good enough to overcome those holes for part of the series, but Philly’s depth will wear the Sabres down. Flyers in 7.

Jordan Kuhns: The Sabres are the sexy pic in this series for reasons I'm not even sure of. The Flyers didn't play well going down the stretch, and will likely be missing Chris Pronger to start, but the Flyers are three scoring lines deep and extremely battle-tested. The Flyers were the best road team in the League, so they will give the Sabres a run for their money at home. The Sabres have some shifty players in their ranks like Thomas Vanek and Nathan Gerbe, both of which have a thing of scoring against the Flyers. But I think the Flyers' scoring depth wins the day.. Flyers in 5.

Lowell Williamson: If these two teams could play a 21 game series, that would be perfect. I just don’t see it with the Flyers. Sure their offence looks good but Pronger is getting old and Bob-whatever in net does not instill a lot of confidence. Even without Derek Roy in the lineup, I think the Sabres might have it in them to give the Flyers a run for their money…. but the city of Buffalo is used to losers. Flyers in 7.

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(3) BOSTON BRUINS vs. (6) MONTREAL CANADIENS

Ah yes, Habs vs. Bruins. How could you go wrong? Are there two teams (fan bases and players included) that hate each other more than these two? Is there a more storied rivalry in all of sports, yet alone hockey? The things that have transpired between these two teams is stuff of legends – but a lot of it will also make you cringe. Needless to say, this is the most anticipated series of the playoffs, and arguably, the most unpredictable.

Consensus: NO CONSENSUS WAS REACHED.
Kip’s Pik: Boston Bruins
Genius or Madness: The fact that despite 25 predictions, no team had a significant advantage in the predictions over the other..
Previous Meetings: The Bruins and Canadiens have met 400 times in the playoffs, with the Canadiens winning about 390 of the series.

Blogger Showdown: Chelsea Frajerman vs. Five Bloggers led by George Prax (with Jason Pietroniro, Joe Corson, Shahab The Schoolboy and Steph Darwish. Also check out our facebook page!

Related Posts:
- What Does A Quick Start Mean For the Canadiens? by Joe Corson.
- Whatever Hab-ened Last Week, Bring On the Bruins! by George Prax.

Key Players:
Boston: F – Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Gregory Campbell (oops); D – Zdeno Chara; G – Tim Thomas
Montreal: F – Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta; D – PK Subban, James Wisniewski, Roman Hamrlik, Hal Gill; G – Carey Price, Carey Price, and oh ya, Carey Price

Key Injuries:
Boston: Marc Savard (concussion – done)
Montreal: Andrei Markov (knee – done), Josh Gorges (knee – done), Max Pacioretty (broken neck, indefinitely), Jeff Halpern (lower body – doubtful)

Prax’s Take: I was going to pick the Bruins. I really was. They’ve proven that they can beat the Habs by playing tough, but also by playing the same style as the Canadiens should be playing – quick and offensive. But truth be told, I don’t know what to think. So I’m going to leave this prediction to my faith. Habs in 7.

Around The Checking Line:

Jonathan Szekeres: Assuredly, this will be the premiere match up in terms of Goaltending. Price vs Thomas; could it be any better? It's hard to give either team an edge in that regard, but, come on, Thomas did set the friggin record for Save Percentage. The biggest difference here is that of goal scoring. Boston scores alot, Montreal doesn't. On defense, Boston has stalwart Zdeno Chara on the blueline, Montreal doesn't. Montreal does have better special teams, with a higher ranked PP (7th) and PK (also 7th). If the regular season is any indication of playoff advantages, the Canadiens are probably shaking in their boots, as Boston dominated head to head matchups this season. Interesting stat: If Montreal is leading after the first period, they are 25-2-3. If Boston does, they are 24-4-2. Bruins in 5.

Micheal Aldred: It seems like every year these two teams meet up one way or another. Montreal has struggled to be consistent scorers down the stretch, while the Bruins have lost many games they should have one. This is a series I could see going either way, and I think Carey Price is due to make a statement. Watch for the Habs to get rid of the Bruins after six games. Habs in 6.

Scott Lowe: The Bruins’ special-teams balance was impressive throughout the season, as they ranked seventh in the league in both power play and shorthanded situations. But they have struggled on the power play (10.4 percent) since acquiring extra-man quarterback Tomas Kaberle from Toronto. If those struggles continue, and if Price returns to his first-half form, the Habs have a chance. But in the end the the league's top goaltender and the Bruins' balance will prevail in six. Bruins in 6.

Alicia Sprenkle: This is the series everyone has been hoping for. It doesn't get much better than Habs Bruins. I went back and forth on who will win this, but while the Bruins have the clear edge in goaltending, I believe that while the Bruins are the better team, the Canadiens will be a team that comes alive in the playoffs. Habs in 7.

Patrick Storto: There are two excellent reasons why the Habs won't win this series. #1 is because I have a deep strong hate for them. #2 is because their playoff savior is somewhere else now. Maybe Price steps into that role now? I think not. Also Colin Campbell's son plays for the other team. Series goes the distance though. P.S. if the Habs do win, I won't complain seeing how the Leafs have Boston's 1st round pick. Bruins in 7

Matt Brigidi: This is going to be heated. I doubt I need to document the animosity between these teams, but for those of you who don’t know them…they’re intense. Tim Thomas had one of the single greatest seasons a goaltender has ever had. Boston is a great team with a lot of scoring potential as well as defensive depth. While I have a lot of confidence in Boston, confidence is the one thing about the Canadiens that really impresses me. Montreal has this energy about them, this arrogant confidence that they will find a way to beat you. I never look forward to seeing the Canadiens and I doubt the Bruins do either. Montreal beat Boston four times this season in six meetings.
Habs in 7.

Jordan Kuhns: I have a feeling this series will come down to goaltending. Price doesn't have to worry about Alex Auld taking his job like Jaroslav Halak did in years past. Price is a more mature and more efficient goaltender and he will need supreme efforts to take down the likely Vezina winner Tim Thomas, who ended his season with a goals against average of 2.00, and a save percentage of .938. Thomas is simply unreal this year, and if the Habs have a chance, they need Cammalleri to step up on the goal scoring front. Bruins in 7.

Steph Darwish: There's no getting around it... I am obviously picking the Habs. I am a biased and subjective writer who never bets against the home team. Go Habs Go! That being said, the Habs haven't won a series without going to 7 games in I don't know how long. Habs in 7.

Adam Pardes: I say seven games for the sole reason that I want to see as much of the series as possible. Tensions between these two rivals are the highest they've been in years, and the return of Max Pacioretty to the Habs lineup will only heighten the drama. Thomas steals the show to lift the B's to the second round. Bruins in 7

Lowell Williamson We all know the history both recent and the storied past of these 2 original six rivals. As long as Montreal stays out of the box and tries to win with speed and skill, the Bruins can’t match up. If the Bruins get the Habs to play their game, get their cycle game going or simply goon it up, advantage Boston. The refs will play an important role in determining what kind of series this turns out to be. That doesn’t make me very confident. However, I will take Carey Price over Tim “rebounds aplenty” Thomas any day. It will be classic! Habs in 7.

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(4) PITTSBURGH PENGUINS vs. (5) TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

The Pens are missing two of the top five players in the entire NHL, including the number one player, but led by a solid team effort and a great goalie between the pipes, they’ve made the most of it, coming to within a few points of winning their division. On the other hand, the Lightning have had a rebound season with a new GM, new coach, and one of the most exciting young players in the league, Steven Stamkos. Can this, however, translate into a win against the 2009 Cup Champ Penguins?

Consensus: Tampa Bay Lightning in 6.
Kip’s Pik: Tampa Bay Lightning
Genius or Madness: Russell Dornisch, Pens in 4.
Previous Meetings: None

Blogger Showdown: Quinn Mell-Cobb, Chuck Gaston Jr. for the Pens.

Related Posts:
- First Round of the Unexpected by Chuck Gaston Jr.

Key Players:
Pittsburgh: F – Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz, Alex Kovalev; D Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Zbynek Michalek; G – Marc-Andre Fleury
Tampa Bay: F – Martin St-Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos; D – Victor Hedman, Pavel Kubina; G – Dwayne Roloson

Key Injuries:
Pittsburgh: Sidney Crosby (concussion – indefinitely), Evgeni Malkin (knee – done), Matt Cooke (suspended for series)
Tampa Bay: Steve Downie (lower body – questionable), Victor Hedman (lower body – questionable).

Prax’s Take: I really want the Pens to win this one – to prove the can win without Crosby, or Malkin. Unfortunately, going through all the facts on my way to making my prediction, I noticed that beyond those two, they really don’t have anything to brag about up front. While Fleury is obviously a better goalie than Roloson and the Pens win the defensive battle, it won’t be enough to contain the Bolts’ forwards. Bolts in 7.

Around The Checking Line:

Adam Reid: A very fast paced series with lots of action. Each game will show high scoring results. Both offensives will shine, but it is Marc-Andre Fleury who will play out of his mind, and shine in this series, giving his team a chance. Crosby will return late in the series and spark his team, and lead them past the Lightning. Pens in 7.

Owen Durkin: Minus the distraction Matt Cooke brings, and the offense that is lost due to the absence of Malkin and Sid, You have to wonder if the Pens can get past a determined, deep, and talented Bolts team. Hedman may be marked for the hit that compromised Crosby's season, but he's a big boy and can handle himself. I like the Bolts’ chances of upsetting the perennial playoff favourites in the East. Bolts in 7.

Scott Lowe: If Crosby pulls a Willis Reed and returns at any point in this series it could prove to be the shot in the arm Pittsburgh needs, but the Pens' offensive lineup just doesn’t appear to be one that’s built for a serious Cup run and doesn’t match up with Tampa's forwards. The Pens are clearly more solid on defense and should have the advantage in goal, but at some point you have to score goals to win four games. Bolts in 6.

Evan Pivnick: Dwayne Roloson is one of the most consistent goalies in the game today. If he stays healthy, the Lightning will go far this year. Not to mention the offensive talents of Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavallier, and Martin St. Louis. Bolts in 5.

Russell Dornisch: This one I think is an easier series to predict. Pittsburgh has more playoff experience. Minus St. Louis and Lecavalier, (as well as Roloson), Tampa is pretty young. The Bolts might be able to extend the series out if Stamkos carries the team, however I don't feel he will be able to do this and Pit will get the win. Pens in 4.

Matt Brigidi: Tampa is offensively dangerous. They have established themselves as at eam that gets scoring across the board. Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis are one of the most dangerous duos in the game today. Pittsburgh has impressed me with their ability to rally without captain Sidney Crosby and Geno Malkin. Marc-Andre Fluery has played out of his mind this year and Tyler Kennedy has stepped up in a big way. I have questions about Tampa’s defense and I feel Pittsburgh’s balance will help them take out the Lightning.
Pens in 7.

Aaron Green:Bolts in 6.

Steph Darwish: This is a tough one. I like Tampa Bay, but Pittsburgh just has too much playoff experience as a team. The Lightning have been out of the playoff picture for awhile now, and while I welcome back to the real season, they have a few hard lessons to learn – the first being that you don't get out of the first round by playing fire-wagon hockey. Pens in 6

Newman: The absence of Malkin and possibly Crosby from the Pens lineup will be too much to overcome. The high powered Bolts offence will win this series. Lecavalier has really found his groove of late and a healthy Simon Gagne will be crucial to the Lightning win. St. Louis and Stamkos work their magic as well. Bolts in 6.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS