Despite going only 2 for 4 so far in the Eastern Conference, I still had a better record than most experts because of the three first round upsets. The only favourites that managed to win are the Pittsburgh Penguins who will host the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night.
For those of you that have been reading my blog over the past few weeks, you know that I often talk about points per game since March 1st. That statistic has been a great indicator of success over the past few years and has in fact been better than simply using the playoff seeds. Unfortunately, when it comes to this series, the Penguins and Canadiens were within 0.01 of each other in this category. I’ve mentioned before that the Penguins had an impressive record of 37-15-5 this season when Crosby, Malkin and Gonchar are in the lineup. The Canadiens top seven scorers however missed a combined total of 124 games. Moreover, Jaroslav Halak has a record of 26-13-5 this season which is still very impressive despite facing easier opponents. The Canadiens have a solid 30-19-7 record when they have at least 6 of the following 8 players in the lineup: Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Andrei Markov and Jaroslav Halak. Much better than their 9-14-3 record when they are missing three or more of those players.
Despite finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference, the Montreal Canadiens have shown that they can compete with the best teams in the NHL. They have the hottest goaltender in the league and are facing a team that somewhat struggled against the Ottawa Senators. Prediction: Montreal Canadiens in 7 games
The other series, between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers, is one that no one expected. The Bruins led by goalie Tuukka Rask not only upset the Buffalo Sabres but were clearly the better team. The Flyers, on the other hand, looked good but I personally wasn’t impressed by them or the Devils in that series. They’ve had no trouble all year long against the Devils and it was a great match-up for them but I’d be surprised if they can move on to the Eastern Conference Finals. They struggled down the stretch with only 0.95 points per game since the Olympic break and I still wouldn’t trust Brian Boucher despite his stellar first round performance. The Boston Bruins will also welcome back Marc Savard into the lineup while the Philadelphia Flyers will be without Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Ian Laperriere. I really don’t see how the Flyers could defeat the Bruins in this series. Prediction: Boston Bruins in 5 games
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