After a look at the West yesterday, today let's turn to the East. There is some real intrigue here.
Who's Beast in the East?
#1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #8 New York Islanders
AJ rejoices as the Isles return to the playoffs. John Tavares dragged his teammates into the post season this year, and they have been rewarded with a date with the Pittsburgh All Stars. The Pens have been without Sidney Crosby for over a month and have kept rolling anyway. The depth of elite talent this team has is unparalleled in the salary cap era. The 2003 Avs come to mind. Meanwhile, should this one go south for Pittsburgh early, the gongshow potential is high. Not 2012 Pens-Flyers high, but rather high.
Season Series: 4-1 Pittsburgh
Prediction: The Islanders win at least one game. BOLD I KNOW
#2 Montreal Canadiens vs. #7 Ottawa Senators
Ladies and gentlemen, your long awaited Habs-Leafs playoff series WAIT MAH GOD THAT'S THE SENATORS' MUSIC! Once again, Ottawa has to ruin everything, beating Boston in the game some joker delayed to 4/29 and giving the Canadiens a division title (hurk). It was far from a forgone conclusion that Montreal would take the Northeast, as Carey Price ended the season on a pretty shaky note, playing well one night and then poorly the next. Old friend Peter Budaj saw a fair amount of time as the season came to a close. It's somewhat remarkable that Ottawa made the postseason at all... I'm pretty sure the Binghamton Baby Sens saw more ice time in Ottawa than the parent club due to the injury bug biting hard. They're very healthy now though.
Season Series: 2-2, each team winning both of their home games, 1 in the shootout apiece.
Prediction: Eugene Melnyk's forensic investigation is called off when they notice how fast Erik Karlsson's return was and start asking questions.
#3 Washington Capitals vs. #6 New York Rangers
I think I've seen this episode before.
Ovechkin has been marvelous for half the year. Just a fantastic goal scoring run. In fact, the Caps have put together so much offense that Troy Brouwer, who outgoalsed everyone on the Avs, hasn't even been noticed for it. Meanwhile the Rangers made the playoffs by scoring a fluke goal off the endboards off Dan Ellis's back, then a terrible goal on Dan Ellis (with a game remaining to play which they won handily but we don't talk about that because narratives) on Winnipeg Deep Hurting Night. The Rangers have been on the brink of the postseason all year, never firmly in, but if Lundqvist gets hot anything can happen. Don't forget Rick Nash and Brad Richards warming up too. Meanwhile the Caps barely won the SouthLeast and, like Vancouver, would have finished below both our next competitors if seeds were given by points/ROW alone rather than division winners being 1-3.
Season Series: 2-1 Rangers
Prediction: 7 games. Seriously, this is a series to watch in my book.
#4 Boston Bruins vs. #5 Toronto Maple Leafs
Choose your own adventure edition!
Angle 1: This is the playoffs, where a hot goaltender can steal a whole series, and James Reimer. Plus the Leafs actually beat Boston late in the season. Phil Kessel HAS to score against Boston sometime, it's simple probability.
Angle 2: Former Avs! The Leafs feature old friends Ryan O'Byrne, John-Michael Liles, and Jay McClement.
Angle 3: BOSTON SMASH TRANA.
Season Series: 3-1 Boston
Prediction: Don Cherry gives some misguided HNIC rant about Dougie Gilmour and Bobby Orr. Then his head explodes. It becomes the most-used gif in HF Boards's photoshop thread.