2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Preview, Predictions

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Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

(1) New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Senators

Senators took the season series 3 to 1. Ottawa has a ton of talent offensively. Their weakness is defense which is why they match up nicely with the Rangers, a team that often struggles to score goals. Home ice will be a key factor. MSG is a tough place to play and the Rangers finally have home ice in a series for the first time since Gretzky was on the team. Rangers find a way to win.

Prediction: Rangers in 7

(2)Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals

Capitals have been a mess all season. Now that both Vokoun and Neuvirth are injured in goal, it appears rookie Braden Holtby will get the start in net for the Capitals. The Bruins on the other hand have quietly put together another quality season. They may not have the same mix of special players that they had last year when they won the Cup, but they are a better team than the Capitals. Difference between these two organizations recently: one rises when faced with adversity, one crumbles. Bruins win the series.

Prediction: Bruins in 5

(3) Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils

The Devils probably have the easiest draw in the entire playoffs. It will be nice for New Jersey to get a cupcake match up and spend a few days at the beach before they get ready for their next opponent. The Panthers are the worst division winner in NHL history. Their goal differential is an astonishing -27. In comparison, the Montreal Canadians who finished dead last in the Eastern Conference had a goal differential of -17. Their winning percentage when leading after two periods is an atrocious .719 so a game is never over against them. To cap it off, the Panthers don't even know who will start in goal. Florida should just hope “Lets Go Heat” chants don’t start during any of their games. Peter DeBoer will be looking for revenge on his former team and the Panthers are just lucky to be here. Devils sweep.

Prediction: Devils in 4

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

Get your popcorn ready. Whoever wins this match up wins the Eastern Conference. The Flyers have owned the Penguins recently. Although the Penguins have the edge on paper, the Flyers beat the Penguins 4 out of 6 times this season. Maybe they can set up a steel cage around the rink instead of boards because this series is going to be a war. These teams absolutely despise each other. The biggest factor in this series will be goaltending. Fleury has been there and won before and Bryzgalov has appeared shaky throughout much of the season. As always, goaltending will be the Achilles' heel for the Flyers. One other huge factor: Philly is still without Chris Pronger. If the Flyers had Pronger, they have the edge. The Penguins win because they have the home ice advantage and a better and more experienced goalie.

Prediction: Penguins in 7

Eastern Conference Semifinals

(1) New York Rangers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils

The Devils will be well rested after they finish scrimmaging the Panthers. New Jersey needs to make some noise in the playoffs. Before missing the postseason last year, the Devils were knocked out in the Quarterfinals their previous three trips to the playoffs. In addition, it could be Martin Brodeur’s last chance to win. The Devils can handle the pressure of playing at the Garden in front of a rowdy crowd since they already do it every time they play there. I think the Rangers lack of scoring will finally catch up with them. The Devils are peaking at the right time, entering the postseason hot after winning six straight. At this point it will be ten straight so they will be on fire. I look for Brodeur to finally avenge the 1994 Playoffs and knock out the Rangers in a hard fought series.

Prediction: Devils in 6

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (4) Pittsburgh Penguins

The Bruins will not be easy to eliminate. Boston is the defending Stanley Cup Champions which is never an easy team to eliminate. The Penguins are the most complete team in the East though. Pittsburgh is just way too dominant. Malkin is the best player in the postseason and with Crosby back, they might be unstoppable. Boston simply does not have the same depth as last season. Guys like Mark Recchi can put a team over the edge and help carry them to a Cup. That same mix of veteran leadership and hunger is not there from Boston this season. Penguins knock out the defending Champs.

Prediction: Penguins in 6

Eastern Conference Finals

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (6) New Jersey Devils

These teams split the season series 3 to 3. After the Penguins get past the Flyers and Bruins, they will defeat the Devils easily. The Devils will reach this point due to a fortunate draw but cannot compete with the Penguins. Malkin, Staal, Crosby, Kunitz, Neal; the Devils simply do not have the firepower to match those players. Don't discount how important a coach is in the postseason either. Bylsma has been here before and knows how to lead this group. Penguins reach the Stanley Cup for the third time in five years.

Prediction: Penguins in 5

What are your thoughts? Will the Canucks win the Cup? Will the Penguins win the East or even beat the Flyers? Did I miss an upset? Is it possible for the Panthers to be eliminated in less than 4 games? Does Brodeur have one more run? Are the Rangers being overlooked? Can the Predators finally make some noise?

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