National Hockey League
Eastern Conference: Previewing first-round matchups
National Hockey League

Eastern Conference: Previewing first-round matchups

Published Apr. 14, 2009 6:12 p.m. ET


  • Spector: Western Conference playoff preview

    Boston Bruins (1) vs. Montreal Canadiens (8)

    It's a rematch of last season's opening round, except this time it's the Bruins who topped the East while the Habs barely made the playoffs. The Bruins possess a well-balanced offensive attack and strong goaltending, but Boston's Achilles' heel could be its blueline depth, particularly the fourth, fifth and sixth defensemen, so expect the Canadiens to try to get a lot of shots on goalie Tim Thomas.

    However, the Habs had a myriad of problems this season, particularly with their scoring and overall team defense, and if goalie Carey Price should struggle this series could be a short one. There certainly won't be a lack of intensity between these long-time rivals. Spector's pick: Bruins in five

    Washington Capitals (2) vs. New York Rangers (7)

    The Capitals' daunting offensive attack — led by superstar Alexander Ovechkin — will be difficult for the Rangers' middling defense to contain, but the Caps do have defensive weaknesses and goalie Jose Theodore has yet to prove he can carry a team deep into the postseason. The Blueshirts are stocked with postseason experience but their popgun offense doesn't match up well against the Capitals.

    Expect Rangers super-pest Sean Avery to be in Ovechkin's face while star netminder Henrik Lundqvist will give the Rangers a chance to win every night, but they probably won't be enough to blunt Washington's vaunted offense. Spector's pick: Capitals in five

    New Jersey Devils (3) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (6)

    The last time these two met in the postseason, the Hurricanes defeated the Devils en route to the 2006 Stanley Cup championship. At one point in the season, the Devils were considered a favorite to win the Cup. But they've stumbled badly down the stretch while the Hurricanes enter the playoffs as one of the NHL's hottest teams.

    While the Hurricanes and Devils will look toward Eric Staal and Zach Parise for timely offense, it'll be their respective defensive systems and the play of goaltenders Cam Ward and Martin Brodeur upon which this series will likely be decided. Spector's pick: Hurricanes in six

    Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (5)

    A rematch of the 2008 Eastern Conference Final pits two clubs with notable similarities. Both clubs pack plenty of offensive firepower, with the Flyers led by 46-goal scorer Jeff Carter and Mike Richards while the Penguins counter with Art Ross winner Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Both also have average goaltending — the Flyers are 15th overall in goals-against, the Penguins 17th — and there is some concern about their respective defensive depth.

    Whichever club best contains the opposing offense will ultimately determine the outcome of this one. Expect plenty of physical play in this one. Spector's pick: Penguins in six
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