Tuesday 27th September 2016,
Balltribe

2015 NHL Playoffs Preview — Eastern Conference

habssenseEastern Conference

In many ways, the first round out East is more compelling than its Western counterpart. Their final two wildcard spots weren’t totally settled until the last game of the season, and the storylines that accompany the playoff teams are bi-polar. Contrast Ottawa’s meteoric rise to the dance with Pittsburgh’s comically bad stretch run — or the unexpected rebirth of the New York Islanders alongside the reassertion of Eastern dominance by the Rangers. We are in for some incredibly entertaining playoff hockey on the eastern seaboard.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators

MTL-OTT-head-to-head

[The Hockey News]

TRIBAL LEADERS

Difference-makers and catalysts for both teams

Yeah — this one is obvious, right? WRONG! Andrew Hammond has been the story of the second half of the season, I grant you, but he won’t shut down the entirety of the Habs offensive powerhouse. Bobby Ryan will need to match blow-for-blow the goalscoring attack of Subban and Pacioretty if the Senators have any chance of pulling an upset.

The Habs, like the San Jose Sharks, haven’t named a captain for whatever odd and inexplicable reason. Now is the time for P.K Subban to earn the captaincy and dispel any doubt about his elite status and his leadership and command of his locker room. Playoff games live and die on special teams — and he must create goals when Ottawa lands in the box.  

YouTube Nostalgia

Greatest Playoff Moments for Each Team

Montreal

Tough to choose a single moment for this prestigious franchise, but who doesn’t love watching a very young Patrick Roy winning his first Cup on home ice in 1993?

Ottawa Senators

I remember cheering for Ottawa hardcore in their 2007 run to the Finals, and their only win of that series was awesome.

Adam’s pick: I keep hearing “No one wants to face Ottawa right now” and I don’t really agree. Hammond isn’t unbeatable, and the Senators don’t have a potent defense. I see this one ending quickly and painfully for Ottawa fans. Montreal in 5

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Screen-Shot-2015-04-12-at-7

[The Hockey News]

TRIBAL LEADERS

Difference-makers and catalysts for both teams

The Penguins are hurting in a big way, and in times of crisis, the team will look to none other than Sidney Crosby. He’s a talented goalscorer, he’s every bit the superstar that Stamkos, Kane, Toews, and Tavares are, but can he carry this team to an improbable series victory after a prolonged slump?

Much was made out of the Rangers continuing to find success during Henrik Lundqvist’s extended time away from the club due to his crazy neck injury. Impressive, yes, but the Rangers won’t win anything without The Qvist providing a solid backbone in net. If he wobbles, Cam Talbot has proven himself worthy of the job, but he doesn’t have the Conference title experience of Henrik. New York needs him now more than ever.  

YouTube Nostalgia

Greatest Playoff Moments for Each Team

New York Rangers

Not even remotely a fan of the Rangers, but I can’t watch their Cup victory in 1994 without getting goosebumps. Defining moment in NHL history, no question.

Pittsburgh

Totally underrated moment here — Lidstrom is wide open, couple of seconds left on the clock, and his shot is stopped by a sprawling Marc-Andre Fluery, and the rebound is smothered by a diving Craig Adams. Couldn’t write a better script.

Adam’s pick: Is anyone taking the Penguins in this series? Any faith Crosby and Malkin built up over several successful seasons has been seriously shaken by their huge late-season slump. The season-ending injury to Letang should not be overlooked here. Pens have the leadership and experience to push the Rangers close to the brink and fizzle. Rangers in 6

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings

TBL-DET-head-to-head

[The Hockey News]

TRIBAL LEADERS

Difference-makers and catalysts for both teams

Don’t be surprised if the big story at the end of this series isn’t Stamkos or Ben Bishop — Nikita Kucherov is knocking on the door of NHL stardom in his own right. He’s stacked up an impressive statline over the last 82 games (28G, 36A, 64PTS) Even more noteworthy is his 14.7% shooting percentage over 190 shots during the regular season. Guy doesn’t waste chances, and doesn’t get the yips when it counts.

Remember the Russian disaster that was their men’s ice hockey team in the Sochi Olympics? The one bright spot in that black hole was the brilliantly clutch performance of future hall of famer Pavel Datsuk. The Detroit Red Wings simply cannot beat Tampa in this series without the same timely point production and defensive responsibility that has made Pavel a household name.

YouTube Nostalgia

Greatest Playoff Moments for Each Team

Tampa Bay

Guaranteed to make any proper Calgary Flames fans cringe, here’s the tense final minute of the Lightning’s Game 7 Stanley Cup Final victory at home.

Detroit

Grinder suddenly gets dangles! I promise you’ve seen this clip before, and what makes it even more incredible is that this occurred in 1997 — at the height of the clutch-and-grab-dead-puck era.

Adam’s pick: Detroit’s been underrated all season. They managed to piece together a 100 point season with injuries and goaltending trouble. Mike Babcock’s expertise is a huge factor, but it won’t be enough to contain the winning combo of a healthy Stamkos and Bishop. Wings will make ’em sweat for a minute or two. Tampa Bay in 6

New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals

WSH-NYI-head-to-head

[The Hockey News]

TRIBAL LEADERS

Difference-makers and catalysts for both teams

The Islanders shocked the hockey world with their truly elite performance this season. They unseated the reigning Eastern Conference oligarchs under the guidance of budding NHL superstar John Tavares. His days of playing second-fiddle to Kane, Toews, Ovechkin, and Crosby could soon be over — and like the other players mentioned in this list, there is no chance of seeing the Islanders in the second round if he doesn’t get results.

The Capitals have done everything right. They added a defensively savvy coach, they spared no expense in shoring up their blueline with Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, and the only question mark surrounding this 101 point team is in the goalcrease. Is Holtby the real deal? He’s shown flashes of absolute brilliance, but can he bail out his team when it matters in the postseason? Safe to say backup Justin Peters would need a miracle to win a series in relief.

YouTube Nostalgia

Greatest Playoff Moments for Each Team

New York Islanders

I love watching the old clips of the great Islanders dynasties, but as a lifelong Blues fan, I thought Pierre Turgeon was the greatest thing ever. I even wore #77 on my jersey for a few seasons as a tribute. Wasn’t until the birth of Youtube that I saw Hunter’s cheap-shot on Turgeon in the ’93 playoffs.

Washington

Joel Ward is a criminally underrated player, and many people fail to remember his series-ending overtime winner against the Boston Bruins. Definition of clutch right here:

Adam’s pick: This could the single best and closest first-round series. I don’t see either team collapsing. Capitals are defensibly formidable with Trotz behind the bench, and the Islanders have a secret weapon in Halak, who has stolen a series away from Washington in the past. Islanders in a bitter 7 games

Vegas Odds!

Stanley Cup Betting lines for every playoff team

New York Rangers 6/1

Anaheim Ducks 8/1

Chicago Blackhawks 8/1

Minnesota Wild 8/1

St. Louis Blues 8/1

Montreal Canadiens 9/1

Nashville Predators 12/1

Tampa Bay Lightning 12/1

Detroit Red Wings 16/1

Ottawa Senators 16/1

Pittsburgh Penguins 16/1

Vancouver Canucks 16/1

New York Islanders 18/1

Washington Capitals 18/1

Calgary Flames 20/1

Winnipeg Jets 25/1

[Bovada]

Adam’s Bracket

adamsbracket

Mike’s Bracket

mikebracket

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