Yesterday, the Fully Reconditioned predictions for the opening round of the Western Conference Quarterfinals hit the Web. Strangely enough, the ripples from this seismic event have not knocked the Earth off of its axis quite yet, which means today the Eastern Conference will get its do. So, what it do, Eastern Conference?
(1) Washington Capitals vs. (8) New York Rangers
For the second year in a row, the New York Rangers’ playoff hopes hinged on the season’s final game. This year, however, they made it in. The Rangers’ only real hope in this early-round series is for Swedish goaltender, Justin Bieber pal, and all-around well-dressed, handsome man Henrik Lundqvist to turn in the kind of performance that made him a 2006 Gold Medal winner.
Or they can hope that the continued lack of playoff success for the Alexander Ovechkin-led Capitals carries over into this season. Ovie didn’t have his best scoring year, only lighting the lamp thirty-two times, but he did captain his team to the first overall seed in the East. The Capitals are a deep team, with plenty of scoring threats and a shored up defense, but their lack of playoff success could end up coming back to bite them. Not this round, though.
Prediction: Capitals in 5
(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (7) Buffalo Sabres
The Flyers made it to the finals this year, and their team has only gotten better, adding proven scorers like Kris Versteeg (a member of the Blackhawks team that defeated the Flyers last year) and impressive goaltending from rookie Sergei “Bob” Bobrovsky. The Sabres are always a tough matchup, and the two split their season series, each winning two games. The Flyers are too strong for the Sabres this year, though, and Buffalo will fall on the way to the Flyers’ finals return (hey, another prediction!).
Prediction: Flyers in 5
(3) Boston Bruins vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens
Because of the Original Six rivalry and the violent hit by Zdeno Chara on Montreal Canadien Max Pacioretty, along with the threatened legal action that followed, this series is being hyped as an old-school potential bloodbath, the kind of playoff hockey everyone yearns for. The truth of the matter is that these are two mediocre teams who likely wouldn’t make it out of the first round, but for the fact that one has to, because they are facing one another. The Canadiens took the season series 4-2, but in the game following the Chara hit, they neither took bloody revenge nor won the game, getting spanked 7-0 on March 24. That being said, these Bruins have a reputation for playoff collapse, and likely will not make the second round.
Prediction: Canadiens in 7
(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning
Were the Pittsburgh Penguins healthy, this would be an easy pick. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the lineup, the Stanley Cup Winners from 2009 easily outclass the very talented but youthful Lightning. Since the Penguins are not healthy, it’s still an easy pick, just leaning the other way. Losing the best player in hockey this year up until the point of his injury, Crosby, and the Conn Smythe winner for Playoff MVP in the year they won, Malkin, is too much difference to make up, no matter how gritty and experienced the rest of the team might be. Steven Stamkos gets his first taste of the playoffs this year, and he’ll get his first taste of the second round as well.
Prediction: Lightning in 5
Check out the Western Conference Fully Reconditioned predictions here.