Eastern Conference Playoff Capsules

The Matchup 

(A1) Boston vs. (WC2) Detroit

The Season Series

The Red Wings took three out of four from the B’s this year, including a gutsy, oh-so-Red-Wing-like 3-2 win in early April. 

The Skinny 

A mighty tough draw for the Presidents Trophy winners, who did everything right this season and receive a gut-punch of a first round matchup. Congrats on your regular season success Boston – let’s race a tall glass of acid in your honor.

The Guys You Should Root For 

Boston: Jarome Iginla, he of the 18-year career and Stanley Cup curse.

Detroit: Daniel Alfredsson, he of the Jarome Iginla syndrome.

The All-Important Edge 

Tuukka Rask over Jimmy Howard. Detroit matches up with Boston as well as any team in the East, but they lose ground in goal where Rask is simply in a different bracket than Howard.  

The Prediction 

Bruins in six, but it won’t be easy. And it will get a whole lot harder if Henrik Zetterberg makes his return.

***

The Matchup  

(A2) Tampa Bay vs. (A3) Montreal

The Season Series 

The Bolts won the series by a 3-0-1 count, but, ya know, thanks to the NHL’s half-baked point system, the Habs can claim a respectable 1-1-2 line themselves.

The Skinny 

There may not be a whole lot of old-school rancor between these two teams but don’t change the channel just yet. If the regular season carries over into the playoffs, they’ll hate each other by next week.

The Guys You Should Root For 

Tampa Bay: Ondrej Palat, he of the seventh-round surprise.

Montreal: Brian Gionta, he of the American birth and Canadian captaincy.

The All-Important Edge 

The Bell Centre over the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Some say home-ice advantage is overblown in the playoffs, but the Bell Centre is a different beast. If the Canadiens can split the first two in Tampa, they’ll gain the immediate upper hand.

The Prediction 

Canadiens in six, on the back of a 3-0 record at home.

***

The Matchup 

(M1) Pittsburgh vs. (WC1) Columbus

The Season Series

The Penguins handed the Blue Jackets a five-game whitewashing this season, though only one of those wins came in the second half.

The Skinny

David meets Goliath for round two (Cam Atkinson has to be David and Evgeni Malkin, obviously, Goliath), as the playoff-winless Blue Jackets take on the almighty Penguins. Say what you want about Pittsburgh getting off easy by avoiding Detroit, but this Columbus team packs a punch of its own.

The Guys You Should Root For

Pittsburgh: Kris Letang, he of the mid-winter stroke and miraculous recovery. Also, anyone but James Neal.

Columbus: Ryan Johansen, he of the really awesome skills you’ll want to see more of.

The All-Important Edge 

Pittsburgh’s power play over Columbus’ penalty kill. No one was more lethal on the power play this year than the Penguins, who scored at nearly a 25% clip. The Jackets, who were merely average on the PK, are toast if they don’t stay out of the box.

The Prediction 

Penguins in five, despite the national coming-out party of Johansen. 

***

The Matchup 

(M2) N.Y. Rangers vs. (M3) Philadelphia

The Season Series

Four games, two wins for each side – all for the home team.

The Skinny 

Bitter rivals, the Rangers and Flyers meet in the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Elsewhere, Gary Bettman points and laughs at everyone who opposed realignment.

The Guys You Should Root For 

New York: Dominic Moore, he of the fallen wife and triumphant return to hockey.

Philadelphia: NO ONE, you heathens. Okay, okay: Hal Gill, he of the “Remember me? Yea I’m still playing” generation.

The All-Important Edge

Henrik Lundqvist over Steve Mason/Ray Emery. It’s not yet clear who will handle the bulk of the goaltending duties for the Flyers, but the Rangers have a clear advantage in net either way. If this series goes seven, there’s your difference.

The Prediction 

Rangers in seven, but not before Craig Berube tries fighting Ulf Samuelsson. Alain Vigneault will have to separate them again in the handshake line. 

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