NHL Playoffs Preview: Eastern Conference

Addison Smith | Opinions Editor

No. 1 Canadiens vs. No. 4 Senators

Love or hate the Montreal Canadiens, anyone can admit that they have been playing well this postseason. Probable Vezina Trophy winner Carey Price has made impressive saves consistently against the Senators’ quick offensive core, and defenseman Erik Karlsson has been instrumental in setting up goals for the Senators with three assists through three games. However, even with standout play from Karlsson and goaltender Craig Anderson for Ottawa, the overall depth of the Montreal roster outshines the playoff darlings. All games thus far have been one-goal games, so look for the series to stretch on a little bit longer, but the edge goes to Montreal.
Canadiens in 6

No. 2 Lightning vs No. 3 Red Wings

When college hockey standout Jack Eichel from Boston University was invited to be on SportsCenter in early April, anchorman John Buccigross asked Eichel who his probable Stanley Cup champion is. Eichel quickly responded he thinks Tampa Bay can win Lord Stanley’s Cup this year. Led by prolific goal scorer Steven Stamkos and recent NHL star Tyler Johnson, the Lightning haven’t looked as strong as expected by pundits. Neither the Lightning nor the Red Wings finished the season with impressive overall team statistics, so no clear edge could easily be given. Overall, the Lightning have been the better team throughout the series, bouncing back from a one goal game one loss with a statement 5-1 game two victory.
Lightning in 6

No. 1 Rangers vs No. 4 Penguins

If Monday’s less than stellar performance against the New York Rangers didn’t count, the Pittsburgh Penguins would feel more confident about their abilities in this series. However, botched defensive play and slow starts have led the Penguins to a probable Round One exit. The Rangers finished the regular season with the Presidents’ Trophy with the most points in the NHL standings, Henrik Lundqvist is goaltending spectacularly and the Rangers seem more excited about playoff prospects than the Penguins. Due to the heightened level of competitiveness in the New York locker room that has seemingly vanish from Pittsburgh’s, the edge goes to New York.
Rangers in 6

No. 2 Capitals vs No. 3 Islanders

Washington, D.C. may have to wait a little while longer for the Stanley Cup to make a quick trip to the White House. The Capitals, while strong, still don’t seem like a team ripe and ready for the Cup. While head coach Barry Trotz has impressively turned the Capitals around, and smart defensive acquisitions have helped the Caps to finally have a strong blue line for the first time in a while, the New York Islanders have been outplaying Washington. More about depth than star players, the Islanders have shown that putting the puck to the net works. New York finished the season with 62.5 shots for per game, leading the NHL. Due to tenacity, the edge goes to New York.
Islanders in 7

Eastern Conference Champion

The overall conference edge goes to the Montreal Canadiens, thanks to Carey Price, P.K. Subban and superior coaching from Michel Therrien.

Playoff MVP

Goaltender Carey Price will be the backbone of the Montreal team and lead them to victory. History dictates that the team with the hottest goalie tends to go the farthest in the postseason, and if Price plays at his usual caliber, he’ll be deserving of the honors.