Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview-Eastern Conference and Stanley Cup Final Predictions

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Unlike the ridiculous depth in the Western Conference, there are a few teams that are on top of the East and they will control the playoffs. I expect that it’s going to be a lot chalk this year.

Atlantic Division:

#1 Boston Bruins vs. #4 Detroit Red Wings
Sporting Charts Matchup Comparison

The Detroit Red Wings went 3-1 against the Boston Bruins during the regular season and two of those wins were without Pavel Datsyuk and the third was without Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk. I’m not saying that the Red Wings will beat the Boston Bruins, I’m just saying that you shouldn’t be so quick to write off this Red Wings team. This is the worst matchup the Bruins could have had in round 1 because their styles are so contrasting. If the Red Wings can play with a full lineup and Jimmy Howard can play well, their puck possession style could give the Bruins fits.

But, we’re not dealing in hypotheticals here. If Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson don’t play (which they likely won’t), a seven game series in that short of a time span could be too much for the Red Wings to handle. The punishing style of the Boston Bruins could wear them down and if Tuukka Rask plays like he should, the Bruins would be able to get out of this round with the win. In the end, I think that Tuukka Rask will outduel Jimmy Howard and the lack of Zetterberg and Ericsson in the lineup will prove too detrimental for the Red Wings down the stretch. Bruins in 7

#2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. #3 Montreal Canadiens
Sporting Charts Matchup Comparison

The Tampa Bay Lightning would have been my favorite in this matchup if Ben Bishop’s status was more clear. On April 9th, he reportedly hurt his elbow, though it looks to me like it was a knee. If Bishop was going to play, I think he would be able to help the Lightning get past the Canadiens. The question mark in net though will be too much for them to overcome. The Canadiens have a stud in Carey Price and he more than makes up for what they lack in other areas. The Tampa Bay Lightning may have Steven Stamkos and the emergence of Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson is encouraging, but offensive depth is not their forte. And despite the Canadiens problems on offense, Tampa Bay’s defense is bad enough that without Bishop, Montreal will move past them. Canadiens in 6

Semi-Finals:

#1 Boston Bruins vs. #3 Montreal Canadiens
Sporting Charts Matchup Comparison

If this series happens, the NHL will never change the playoff format back. A Bruins-Canadiens series would be simply magnificent and the hatred would overflow. A Rask-Price matchup in net would be simply fantastic and the Canadiens would need Thomas Vanek to be the X-factor that they acquired him to be. The Bruins have a very well built team for the playoffs, but in a rivalry anything goes. I’d expect Zdeno Chara to spend most of his time going up against Max Pacioretty, who is definitely the biggest threat for the Canadiens on offense. If Vanek and Price play well, this series could go in favor of the Habs. That being said, I think that the depth of the Bruins will be able to overcome the Canadiens, who simply don’t have enough weapons on offense to keep pace. Bruins in 7

Metropolitan Division:

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #4 Columbus Blue Jackets
Sporting Charts Matchup Comparison

The Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t quite at full health right now, but getting Kris Letang back right before the playoffs is huge. Marc-Andre Fleury may not be the best playoff goalie, but he has had a great year. Unless Sergei Bobrovsky stands on his head, the Blue Jackets don’t have the capability to stay with the Pens. If Evgeni Malkin comes back in time for the start of the first round, this will be over before it even starts. In my opinion, this is the only true slam dunk in the first round. Penguins in 5

#2 New York Rangers vs. #3 Philadelphia Flyers
Sporting Charts Matchup Comparison

This series is poised to be an absolute bloodbath and I personally cannot wait. On paper, the New York Rangers are clearly stronger on the back end and in net, but they have a real question mark are forward. The Rangers only scored 2.61 goals per game this year and have really struggled to put points on the board lately. Hot and cold is the best way to describe this offense. The Flyers, meanwhile, are a bruising bunch but have Steve Mason in net. The Flyers don’t have much trouble scoring, but they have the worst average goals against of any team in the playoffs with 2.74. A struggling offense going up against a struggling goalie usually bodes well for the struggling offense. Steve Mason has played well as of late but I don’t see him as enough to get the Flyers over the hump. Especially when your opponent has Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes, it’s tough to pick against that. Rangers in 6

Semi-Finals:

#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #2 New York Rangers
Sporting Charts Matchup Comparison

As weak as I think Marc-Andre Fleury can be at times, he has been to the Stanley Cup Finals twice before and with the year he’s had, the Penguins should continue to move on. A fully healthy Penguins team is one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Unless the Rangers manage to find some scoring, they will struggle to beat this Pens team. When Mats Zuccarello is your leading scorer and Rick Nash only has 39 points, there is something wrong with your offense. The Rangers always have potential to advance when Henrik Lundqvist can steal a game at a moment’s notice, but he won’t be enough this time. Sidney Crosby with Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz will be too much for the Rangers to contain. Penguins in 6

Eastern Conference Finals:

#1 Boston Bruins vs. #1 Pittsburgh Penguins
Sporting Charts Matchup Comparison

This would be the most exciting series of the Eastern Conference playoffs and it would be a battle. The Bruins have been one of the best teams all year and Tuukka Rask is a Vezina trophy candidate. The Pittsburgh Penguins have one of the most explosive offenses in the league and Sidney Crosby is one of the best players in the world. The two teams are a great matchup for each other, and the difference will be which Marc-Andre Fleury shows up. If the bad Fleury shows up then the Bruins will feast. But, if Fleury can play the way he did for most of the regular season, the Pens matchup very well against the Bruins. Like the Red Wings, the excel with the puck on the stick and playing a puck control game. They have the skill and the depth to give the solid Bruins defensive group hell. In the end though, I don’t think Fleury will play well enough to help the Pens move on. Bruins in 7

Stanley Cup Final

#1 Boston Bruins vs. #3 Chicago Blackhawks
Sporting Charts Matchup Comparison

A rematch of last year, for the first time since the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings did it, but this time the same result. It’ll be a tough pill to swallow for Bruins fans, but the addition of Jarome Iginla isn’t enough to overcome the Chicago Blackhawks. In my mind, these are the two best teams in the league and the Bruins will make it very interesting, but the Blackhawks are too deep. Barring any injuries, the Blackhawks will be able to repeat. The Hawks have the second best offense in the league and while their defense isn’t as strong as the Bruins, they have a great style of play to matchup against the Bruins. The Bruins may have a fantastic forecheck and play a physical style, but hitting doesn’t win championships. This is where the injury to Dennis Seidenberg will come into play. If he is unable to play at a high level, the Bruins will be in even more trouble. The Blackhawks puck possession play and offensive output will overwhelm the Bruins again. Blackhawks in 7

Hopefully I’m wrong. I’d prefer not to see a rematch between these two teams, but at the end of the day, I don’t see it happening any other way. That’s what makes sports great though, you can rarely predict what is going to happen.

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