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NHL 142 43 2013 NHL playoffs: Eastern Conference first round preview 31721711 4 Bruins vs. 5 Maple Leafs 4+Bruins+vs.+5+Maple+Leafs NHL

Records: Bruins 28-14-6, Maple Leafs 26-17-5

Season series: Bruins, 3-1

Last playoff meeting: In 1974 when the Bruins swept the Leafs.

Why the Bruins will win: The Bruins hardly inspired much confidence with the way they finished the season. But they are the deeper of the two teams -- even if the Bruins’ depth at center remains questionable -- and have the league’s most imposing defenseman in Zdeno Chara (pictured, right).

Why the Maple Leafs will win: Maybe the Leafs can gain the advantage on which untested playoff goalie -- Toronto’s James Reimer or Boston’s Tuukka Rask -- will step up. If Reimer shines and the forwards Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel produce, the Leafs have a shot.

Prediction: With much of the nucleus (minus goalie Tim Thomas) still around from the championship team from two years ago, the Bruins have the edge. Bruins in 6.

Tom Szczerbowski - USA TODAY Sports http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/04/29/042813-nhl-eastern-conference-preview-TV-G5_20130429025956807_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/04/29/042813-nhl-eastern-conference-preview-TV-G5_20130429025956807_107_80.JPG
NHL 142 43 2013 NHL playoffs: Eastern Conference first round preview 31721709 3 Capitals vs. 6 Rangers 3+Capitals+vs.+6+Rangers NHL

Records: Capitals 27-18-3, Rangers 26-18-4

Season series: Rangers, 2-1-0

Last playoff meeting: Last season when the Rangers won in seven games.

Why the Capitals will win: Alex Ovechkin (pictured, top) shed a slow start (and a move to the opposite wing) to become the league’s leading goal-scorer (32). He and the rest of the Capitals finally settled into first-year coach Adam Oates, who has a much less rigid scheme than the previous regime. Nicklas Backstrom was third in the league in assists (40) and Braden Holtby enters the playoff as the No. 1 goalie after a tepid start to the season.

Why the Rangers will win: The man behind the bench -- John Tortorella -- playing head games with Oates could certainly turn the tide. Or maybe the Rangers’ high-priced forwards -- Brad Richards, Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan -- can live up to their billing (and value of their contracts). It could just take four good games from King Henrik Lundqvist (pictured, in net).

Prediction: This is the fourth time over the last five years these two teams have met. Two of the first three went the distance, and expect another long series. Rangers in 7.

Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/04/29/042813-nhl-eastern-conference-preview-TV-G4_20130429025955806_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/04/29/042813-nhl-eastern-conference-preview-TV-G4_20130429025955806_107_80.JPG
NHL 142 43 2013 NHL playoffs: Eastern Conference first round preview 31721708 2 Canadiens vs. 7 Senators 2+Canadiens+vs.+7+Senators NHL

Records: Canadiens 29-14- 5, Senators 25-17-6

Season series: Tied, 2-1-1

Last playoff meeting: No previous meetings.

Why the Canadiens will win: Although the Habs struggled down the stretch, they excelled overall en route to winning the division under new coach Michel Therrien. Goalie Carey Price wasn’t as spectacular -- especially late in the season -- as he’s been in previous seasons, but he didn’t have to be as Montreal was a much improved team all around.

Why the Senators will win: The Sens got two cogs back from injury during the final days of the regular season: defenseman Erik Karlsson (torn Achilles) and goalie Craig Anderson (ankle). The fact that Karlsson, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, is back after having his Achilles tendon 70 percent severed by a skate on Feb 13. is amazing. The Sens aren’t exactly a high-scoring team -- especially with top center Jason Spezza (back) still out -- so those additions Karlsson and Anderson were critical.

Prediction: The season ended just in time for the Habs to retain the division lead. But as the games get tighter (and more competitive), the Sens could be better equipped to handle it. Sens in 7.

Jean-Yves Ahern - USA TODAY Sports http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/04/29/042813-nhl-eastern-conference-preview-TV-G3_20130429025955803_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/04/29/042813-nhl-eastern-conference-preview-TV-G3_20130429025955803_107_80.JPG
NHL 142 43 2013 NHL playoffs: Eastern Conference first round preview 31721710 1 Penguins vs. 8 Islanders 1+Penguins+vs.+8+Islanders NHL

Records: Penguins 36-12- 0, Islanders 24-17-7

Season series: Penguins, 4-1-0

Last playoff meeting: In 1993 when the Islanders won the best-of-7 series to end Pittsburgh’s hopes of winning a third consecutive Stanley Cup.

Why the Penguins will win: The Pens are the deepest team in hockey. They also will likely get back captain Sidney Crosby (pictured), who has been sidelined since March 30 when he broke his jaw against these Islanders. Forwards Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow -- both veterans who have never won the Cup -- add a sense of urgency they may have been lacking.

Why the Islanders will win: The Pens have won just one playoff series since claiming the 2009 Stanley Cup. The Islanders have history on their side, advancing to the next round each of the first three times these teams have met. John Tavares and all that history, however, won’t be enough. It’ll take goalie Evgeni Nabokov, once reluctant to join the Islanders, to pull off the playoff performance of a lifetime for the Isles to have a shot.

Prediction: It’s hard to see how the Islanders win this series, especially if Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is on his game. Penguins in 5.

Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/04/29/042813-nhl-eastern-conference-preview-TV-G2_20130429025955804_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/04/29/042813-nhl-eastern-conference-preview-TV-G2_20130429025955804_107_80.JPG
NHL 142 43 2013 NHL playoffs: Eastern Conference first round preview 31724325 Let the good times roll Let+the+good+times+roll NHL

It was the Pittsburgh Penguins and everybody else in East -- and that was even before the trade deadline. The Pens added two captains from other teams (Brenden Morrow from Dallas and Jarome Iginla, pictured, from Calgary) right before the guy who wears their “C,” Sidney Crosby, went down with a broken jaw. There are three teams (Islanders, Maple Leafs and Canadiens) who made it back to the playoffs after at least a one-season absence. (The Leafs hadn’t made it since 2003.) There’s one more thing in the Pens’ favor: The Flyers missed the playoffs and can’t bounce them in the first round like last postseason. Keep clicking for a breakdown of each first-round series in the East.

-- A.J. Perez

Charles LeClaire - USA TODAY Sports http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/04/30/042913-NHL-Penguins-Jarome-Iginla-G-AA_20130430012232384_600_400.JPG http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/04/30/042913-NHL-Penguins-Jarome-Iginla-G-AA_20130430012232384_107_80.JPG
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