TCL Staff Predictions: Eastern Conference!

As promised, The Checking Line will have extensive coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs. From Scott Lowe covering the Caps to Phil Y and James Edington on the case for the Canucks, as many other writers to fill the gaps, you can be certain that the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs will be the top subject here at TCL.

As part of this coverage, we have polled 10 of our writers in order to come to a consensus on which teams will win their respective series. Knowing that some of these results would be biased, based on team affiliations, we recruited Checkers, The Checking Line Cat in order to remove these biases and make choices that would not be based on team affiliation, or, frankly, any knowledge of the sport at all.

Hey, you can't blame us. With TSN and its monkey, not to mention Eklund and his dog, we have to find some way to compete.

Without further adieu, here are the predictions for the Eastern Conference, with the Western Conference to be posted early this afternoon! So use this to join your pools, make your predictions, and impress all your friends!

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SERIES 1: Washington Capitals (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (8 )

Where to follow: Canadiens - George Prax, Habs Laughs; Capitals: Scott Lowe
Regular Season Records: Canadiens - 39-33-10 88pts; Capitals - 54-15-13 121pts
TCL Consensus pick: Capitals in 5 games

As you can tell by the picks above, the odds are stacked against the Canadiens. It may or may not help that Habs Center Tomas Plekanec seemingly added fuel to the fire by saying that the Canadiens goaltending was better than that of the Caps. Despite pretty much everyone going against the Canadiens in this one, we'll never know until they hit the ice and this series in the books. Stranger things have happens, and with 3+ writers on the job, TCL will be there every step of the way!

Scott Lowe: On paper this is a mismatch, with the Caps holding a 33-point final advantage in the standings, and a considerable advantage in offensive firepower. Also, Montreal limped to the finish line a bit, playing inconsistently in games that meant an awful lot.

Rob McGowan: The Capitals are my favorite to go to the Cup from the Eastern Conference. Their offense simply cannot be matched by any team in the East, and the Habs have not been consistent enough to hold off the powerhouse that is in Washington.

George Prax While most people are easily going with the Caps, most will tell you that this is the most interesting series in the playoffs. Most Habs fans will tell you that they thought the Caps would be their best match-up, versus the potential of facing the Devils, Pens or Sabres, and although it would be a major upset and a major upset - you never know what could happen in the playoffs!

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SERIES 2: New Jersey Devils (2) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (7)

Where to follow: Flyers - Jim Zilling Jr.
Regular Season Records: Devils - 48-27-7 103pts; Flyers - 41-35-6 88pts
TCL Consensus pick: Devils in 6 games

While most agree that the Devils are the favorite here, the Flyers should never be discounted in a series. They're tough and willing to do whatever it takes to win. If anyone is going to push the Devils, it's going to be the Flyers. The only question mark is in goal. Can Brian Boucher withstand the test of some incredible Devils snipers in Parise, Langenbrunner and, of course, Kovalchuk, just to name a few?

Scott Lowe: This will be a tough, physical six-game series, and despite Philly's success against the Devils here, the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk to go along with a little bit more overall offensive firepower and a solid, but realtively unknown defensive corps will be too much for the Flyers. And don't forget that Martin Brodeur has something to prove after last year's upset loss to the Hurricanes and a sub-par personal Olympic showing.

Rob McGowan: Nothing like a good'ol Atlantic Division match-up to open the first round of the playoffs. The Flyers have a talented roster but have a lot of questions between the pipes. The Devils, however, do have Martin Brodeur, but he has recently been fading by playoff time since he seems to be burnt out from his iron-man regular season. I expect the Devils to win, but only because Brodeur will still be better than the mediocre goaltending in Phili.

George Prax Another uphill battle for the lower seeded team. Injuries and lack of depth in goal has led the Flyers to scraping by in the regular season and drawing a nearly complete team in the playoffs. Although I picked the Flyers for the upset in this one, it's going to take a lot out of them if they can get it done. I simply have a feeling that Marty Brodeur will lay an egg and the Flyers, who do have playoff experience and team toughness, will take advantage and find a way to silence the Devils.

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SERIES 3:Buffalo Sabres (3) vs. Boston Bruins (6)

Where to follow: Sabres - Kevin Freiheit; Bruins - Walter Brennan
Regular Season Records: Sabres - 45-27-10 100pts; Bruins - 39-30-13 91pts
TCL Consensus pick: Sabres in 6

The Sabres have had an incredible season. While most will point to Ryan Miller as the catalyst, equal amounts of the credit can be handed to 18 year old Tyler Myers, who has incredibly cemented himself as one of the youngest number one defensemen in the history of the game. Not to mention the coaching style of Lindy Ruff, who will certainly be recognized as one of the greatest coaches of all time when his career is finished. The Bruins, on the other hand, have struggled in the goal scoring department. But with Tuuka Rask and a good group of defensemen, the Bruins have managed to become one of the best defensive teams in the league, and could definitely pose a thread to the Sabres bid to advance.

Scott Lowe: Key injuries on the Bruins blueline (Dennis Seidenberg, Mark Stewart) and the apparent season-ending concussion suffered by playmaker Marc Savard, along with the play of Miller and the Sabres' deeper group of forwards will be the difference. While I think the games will be close, I don't see Boston scoring much. Sabres in five.

Rob McGowan: This series might go the distance of 7 games. Rask will get the chance to prove that he is a number-one goaltender in the National Hockey League by taking the reigns in the playoffs. And if he starts to struggle, he's going to have veteran Tim Thomas to back him up. But Thomas has not had his best year, and the B's still are without Savard. Buffalo will be introducing big defenesman Tyler Myers to the playoffs as well, which certainly will be entertaining. Although I am going to say the Sabres in 7, I would not be surprised if the Bruins find a way to pull out an upset.

George Prax While the Bruins will definitely find a way to keep these scores low, they simply don't have the firepower to beat Ryan Miller enough to win a series. I wouldn't be surprised if they're able to stretch this series out further than the 5 games I predicted, but I don't see how they could beat Ryan Miller while he's at, arguably, the peak of his career. A good team game and great roleplayers will lead the Sabres past the Bruins.

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SERIES 4: Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Ottawa Senators (5)

Regular Season Records: Penguins - 47-28-7 101pts; Senators - 44-32-6 94pts
TCL Consensus pick: Penguins in 6 games.

Most are arguing this this will be the closest series in the first round. These two teams have met before, and both have a wealth of playoff experience and will to win. While the Pens have Crosby and Malkin, the Sens can counter with Alfredsson and Spezza. Gonchar and Letang? How about Volchenkov and Phillips! Lets not forget Fleury and Elliott, which should be a great match-up in goal. The Pens will be looking for their second cup in a row, and third final in a row, but may be distracted by looking too far ahead. The Sens have surprised many, and could stand a good chance here.

Scott Lowe: The Sens have a real chance to frustrate the high-powered Pittsburgh offense early in this series and may surprise the Pens early, but ultimately the cerebral and talented Pens will figure Ottawa out and rally for a seven-game victory. The X-factor here is Marc-Andre Fleury. If continues the inconsistent play that plagued him throughout the season, Pittsburgh could be upset, however that's what everyone said last year. The same can be expected in 2010.

Rob McGowan: The Senators turned up the heat the second half of the season and propelled themselves to 5th in the East, but they will not be able to get passed Sidney, Gino, Fleury and the rest of the defending Stanley Cup Champs. Pittsburgh will take the series in no more than 6 games.

George Prax This may be the the most grueling and personal series of the first round. In a year where we're seeing a lot of first-time match-ups, we go back to the history between the Pens and the Sens. The comparisons between the two teams are staggering when you really read between the lines, but the Pens have one thing that the Sens don't - a Stanley Cup win in last year's playoffs. Having been to the dance a lot in recent times, it will motivate the Pens to do it again, and it will push them past the Sens, but only in 7 games.

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As we said at the very beginning, the Western Conference predictions will be posted this afternoon, so look out for that.

Until then, rate, hate, debate our predictions and offer your own!