Like every year, we will be doing our 2012 Playoff Previews for the Eastern and Western Conference.
Does it seem like this season is filled with matchups that could go either way and it's hard to even figure out who will win? Sure you can make a guess but other seasons you usually had the one matchup where you were like, "Oh there is no way they can win. It's sad that they're even trying."
There doesn't seem to be that matchup this season. Which could be a good or bad thing for fans.
Here is the schedule for the days and times and channels that each series will be played on. The Quarterfinals is always the hardest one to keep track of.
Anyway, onto the Eastern Conference preview.
#1 New York Rangers / #8 Ottawa Senators
The Rangers have been tops pretty much all season except for like a week when they weren't.
The Senators have been that team that had major ups and downs this season and made it into the playoffs in the eighth spot through sheer will. And decent goaltending from Craig Anderson and a career year from Erik Karlsson.
Two very different teams in two very different positions and it's hard to tell what could happen in this series.
Will Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza continue their dazzling offensive output and just run roughshod over the Rangers?
Will Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards produce like they have pretty much all season and just give it to the Senators goaltender?
These are the questions that keep us awake most nights.
Everyone is picking the Rangers to win this and we really can't argue with it.
But we do think that the Senators are going to put up a good fight and score some goals on Mr. Lundqvist.
Honestly, we have had some pretty good feelings about the Rangers this season. This is their time to shine and show the hockey world that they're finally ready to contend for the Stanley Cup.
Our Pick: New York Rangers
Because: they have Lundqvist who is healthy and playing lights out again and he is the difference-maker in the series...both teams have the offense but only one has the King.
#2 Boston Bruins / #7 Washington Capitals
The Bruins. Everyone is obsessed with their defense of the Cup but in all seriousness, we could see them making a serious run for it. They had an awful start to the season but then turned it around and clinched the Northeast Division.
The Capitals had one of those seasons that you just wish would end mercifully for all. Injuries plagued them. Offense just wasn't there. Defense didn't happen. It was just all over the place.
The interesting part will be goaltending. With the injuries to Vokoun and Neuvirth, the Capitals will be turning to Braden Holtby and Dany Sabourin to be the backup. Holtby is not a bad goaltender but this is the playoffs and the Bruins know how the playoffs are.
We can't talk enough about experience and how that does make a difference. This will probably be a hard-hitting and possibly a high-scoring series. Also, did the Capitals use everything they had to get into the playoffs and have nothing left in them for the playoffs? That's a huge question as well.
Our Pick: Boston Bruins
Because: their defense is still one of the toughest in the league and you can't argue with Tim Thomas being great...the only problem we see is the Capitals offense being too much for the Bruins but maybe not.
#3 Florida Panthers / #6 New Jersey Devils
Well, this happened.
The Panthers won the Southeast Division but honestly, we could win the Southeast this season. Admittedly, they were the top team in that division for almost the whole season but still, beating up on those teams isn't that hard.
What we like about the Panthers is that they seem to be the Goonies of the season. Maybe that should be a future award or something. They just never say die and just go and go and go. Many NHL pundits pegged them to fail and they didn't.
As for the Devils, jeez, a team that's been middling throughout the season and just roared their way into the sixth spot. They seem to be always in the mix and with 30-goal seasons from David Clarkson, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk it almost seems like they were going to make the playoffs all alone.
We would love to see the Panthers kick some butt and take it to the Devils and at least make it a good series. Everyone's been picking the Devils to just run over the Panthers but we don't believe it. Like the rest of the season, the Panthers are being counted out and we think they're going to give the Devils some fits.
Our Pick: New Jersey Devils
Because: With their playoff experience, Martin Brodeur and Ilya Kovalchuk, and Peter DeBoer motivated to win against his old team, it's hard to bet against them.
#4 Pittsburgh Penguins / #5 Philadelphia Flyers
The series to end all series.
The Penguins have been pretty consistent all season until the last few weeks when shit just seemed to be failing left and right. But that's just Penguins fans going all Chicken Little on us again. They're stacked. Sidney Crosby is hungry for another Cup. Evgeni Malkin is scoring at will. And pretty much everyone is healthy. This is a scary team.
The Flyers have been pretty much neck and neck with the Penguins all season, the two teams snapping at each other's heels. This series was destined to happen. And the Flyers are pretty stacked as well with Claude Giroux having an MVP season and Scott Hartnell doing what he does best.
Of course the question is goaltending for the Flyers. Bobrovsky is undefeated at Consol Energy Center. They're 5-1 against the Penguins at Consol and the Pens have home ice advantage. That's the good news. The bad news is the up and down season that Ilya Bryzgalov had and for them to win, he has to be awesome.
Our Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins
Because: We had to and we really believe that they'r the stronger team.
What do you think? How do you think your team will fare? Let us know here!
Tomorrow will be the Western Conference Preview.