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Tag:Conference Quarterfinals Preview
Posted on: April 12, 2010 12:32 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2010 11:56 pm
 

Preview: No. 1 Washington vs. No. 8 Montreal

No. 1 Washington Capitals vs. No. 8 Montreal Canadiens

Wes Goldstein's Take

The Capitals will win if: They just show up. No, really. Washington is that much better than the Canadiens on paper and the Caps know it. But they were in a very similar situation last spring against the Rangers and ended up on the brink of first-round elimination before storming back to win three straight games. Chances are things will be different this year. Washington, particularly captain Alex Ovechkin , seems to be on a mission this season, and all that fire power will just be too much for the Canadiens to handle. There are still some questions about Washington's ability to defend. But the Caps are bigger and stronger than Montreal, and at least at this point in the playoffs, what happens in their own end shouldn't be much of detriment to them.

The Canadiens will win if: The hockey gods decide to play a cruel trick on anyone who has watched their opponents play this year. Montreal essentially backed into the postseason and lost its final game to put an exclamation point on the effort. The Canadiens were generally not much better this season than a couple of teams that didn't make the Eastern Conference cut, although they are not devoid of talent. Mike Cammalleri , Brian Gionta , Scott Gomez and Tomas Plekanec provide a fair amount of offense up front and Andrei Markov quarterbacks one of the NHL's best power plays. Meanwhile, Jaroslav Halak has enjoyed a breakout season in goal and has shown the ability to steal a win for the Canadiens. But not four.

Regular Season Recap

Washington: 54-15-13, 121 points (1st, Southeast Division)

Montreal: 39-33-10, 88 points (4th, Northeast Division)

 

Schedule
Date Location Time
Apr. 15 at Washington 7 p.m.
Apr. 17 at Washington 7 p.m.
Apr. 19 at Montreal 7 p.m.
Apr. 21 at Montreal 7 p.m.
Apr. 23 at Washington * 7 p.m.
Apr. 26 at Montreal * 7 p.m.
Apr. 28 at Washington * TBD
* if necessary

 

Season Series
Tied, 2-2
Date Result
Nov. 20 Montreal 3, Washington 2 Recap
Nov. 28 Washington 4, Montreal 3 (SO) Recap
Jan. 5 Washington 4, Montreal 2 Recap
Feb. 10 Montreal 6, Washington 5 (OT) Recap

 

Stats Comparison
Statistic WAS MON
Goals For (Avg.) 3.82 2.56
Goals Against (Avg.) 2.77 2.66
Power Play 25.2% 21.8%
Penalty Kill 78.8% 83.0%


Posted on: April 12, 2010 12:24 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2010 11:57 pm
 

Preview: No. 2 New Jersey vs. No. 7 Philadelphia

No. 2 New Jersey Devils vs. No. 7 Philadelphia Flyers

Wes Goldstein's Take

The Devils will win if: They take advantage of the big advantage they have in goal. Martin Brodeur is arguably the best netminder of his generation and Philadelphia's Brian Boucher , well, is not. The key here is that New Jersey isn't all about defense any more, even with Jacques Lemaire back behind the bench, especially since the arrival of Ilya Kovalchuk . The dynamic Russian forward hasn't put up eye-popping numbers since his mid-season arrival, but his presence means that teams can no longer shut down the Devils by shutting down Zach Parise 's line. And yes, the Devils can still play defense, too, an area of their game that will be helped by a healthy Paul Martin back on the blue line. New Jersey has to be disciplined, though, because the Flyers power play is one of the best in the league.

The Flyers will win if: They keep playing the way they did to end the season. Philadelphia has essentially been playing for its playoff life for a couple of weeks now. The Flyers battled back from a five-game losing streak to end March by winning three of their last four, including an emotional do-or-die finale against the Rangers to clinch a playoff spot. The bright side for the Flyers is that they head into this series as healthy as they have been all year and with the knowledge they have effectively controlled New Jersey in all meetings between the bitter rivals this season. Several Philadelphia players had disappointing seasons, but with Jeff Carter , Mike Richards , Danny Briere and Simon Gagne , there is a lot of fire power up front. And the blueline group led by Chris Pronger compares favorably to any other in the league.

Regular Season Recap

New Jersey: 48-27-7, 103 points (1st, Atlantic Division)

Philadelphia: 41-35-6, 88 points (3rd, Atlantic Division)

 

Schedules
Date Location Time
Apr. 14 at New Jersey 7:30 p.m.
Apr. 16 at New Jersey 7:30 p.m.
Apr. 18 at Philadelphia 6 p.m.
Apr. 20 at Philadelphia 7:30 p.m.
Apr. 22 at New Jersey * 7 p.m.
Apr. 25 at Philadelphia * TBD
Apr. 27 at New Jersey * 7:30 p.m.
* if necessary

 

Season Series
Philadelphia wins, 5-1
Date Result
Oct. 3 Philadelphia 5, New Jersey 2 Recap
Nov. 16 Philadelphia 3, New Jersey 2 Recap
Dec. 12 New Jersey 4, Philadelphia 1 Recap
Feb. 8 Philadelphia 3, New Jersey 2 Recap
Feb. 10 Philadelphia 3, New Jersey 2 (OT) Recap
Mar. 28 Philadelphia 5, New Jersey 1 Recap

 

Stats Comparison
Statistic NJ PHI
Goals For (Avg.) 2.63 2.83
Goals Against (Avg.) 2.27 2.71
Power Play 18.7% 21.4%
Penalty Kill 82.8% 83.0%


Posted on: April 12, 2010 12:08 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2010 11:58 pm
 

Preview: No. 3 Buffalo vs. No. 6 Boston

No. 3 Buffalo Sabres vs. No. 6 Boston Bruins

Wes Goldstein's Take

The Sabres will win if: They don't rely on Ryan Miller to do it all, at least not right away. The likely Vezina winner had a superb season, but what should separate the teams in this series more than anything is Buffalo's more balanced offense. The problem is, the offense tends to disappear at times, and that poses a challenge for a team that has a disturbing tendency to start slowly and fall behind. Still, Buffalo's best sniper, Thomas Vanek , finished the season on fire and gifted playmaker Tim Connolly is expected to return for the playoffs. The Sabres can play defense, their penalty killers are among the best in the league and they have home ice advantage. And then there is the Miller factor. Buffalo doesn't want to have to ride him, but it can, and in a wide open conference, that may be enough.

The Bruins will win if: They can keep games close enough to be able to steal them at the end. Boston's best bet in that regard would be to put the Sabres to sleep with their tight, and quite often boring, emphasis on defense. Boston doesn't have much choice in the matter because the Bruins can't score goals, either at even strength or on the power play. In fact, no playoff team has managed fewer. Still, Boston does play good defense under coach Claude Julien 's system, especially when it comes to killing penalties, and young goalie Tuukka Rask has played well enough to steal the No. 1 job away from last year's Vezina winner, Tim Thomas . The problem is, that formula required a great deal of success in shootouts just to get the Bruins this far, and they don't have those in the playoffs.

Regular Season Recap

Buffalo: 45-27-10, 100 points (1st, Northeast Division)

Boston: 39-30-13, 91 points (3rd, Northeast Division)

 

Schedule
Date Location Time
Apr. 15 at Buffalo 7 p.m.
Apr. 17 at Buffalo 1 p.m.
Apr. 19 at Boston 7 p.m.
Apr. 21 at Boston 7 p.m.
Apr. 23 at Buffalo * 7 p.m.
Apr. 26 at Boston * 7 p.m.
Apr. 28 at Buffalo * 7 p.m.
* if necessary

 

Season Series
Boston wins, 4-2
Date Result
Nov. 7 Boston 4, Buffalo 2 Recap
Nov. 20 Boston 2, Buffalo 1 (OT) Recap
Jan. 29 Buffalo 2, Boston 1 Recap
Feb. 9 Boston 3, Buffalo 2 (SO) Recap
Mar. 29 Buffalo 3, Boston 2 Recap
Apr. 8 Boston 3, Buffalo 1 Recap

 

Stats Comparison
Statistic BUF BOS
Goals For (Avg.) 2.82 2.39
Goals Against (Avg.) 2.45 2.33
Power Play 17.6% 16.6%
Penalty Kill 86.6% 86.4%


Posted on: April 12, 2010 12:03 pm
Edited on: April 19, 2010 11:58 pm
 

Preview: No. 4 Pittsburgh vs. No. 5 Ottawa

No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Ottawa Senators

Wes Goldstein's Take

The Penguins will win if: They can avoid looking beyond a team they have a clear talent advantage on. That's actually a serious concern for Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma , who admitted recently that he wasn't particularly pleased with the consistency -- or lack thereof -- his team has shown through much of the season. Then again, the Penguins have learned a lot about what it takes to win at this time of year. Besides, it is not as if the Penguins have to turn a switch on. They finished with more than 100 points, good for the fourth seed, which has launched them into the Finals in each of the last two seasons. Sidney Crosby , Evgeni Malkin , Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury tend to take their already great games to higher levels at this time of year, and the rest of the team usually follows.

The Senators will win if: They can take advantage of the one area where the Penguins may be vulnerable: along the blue line. The Senators have some decent offensive firepower with Daniel Alfredsson , Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek , although the loss of Alexei Kovalev for the duration will be felt. So will the absence of top four defenseman Filip Kuba . Ottawa has to avoid giving Pittsburgh's dangerous power play too many chances. The Senators' best shot at winning this series will come from getting into streak mode in a hurry. Ottawa overcame an up-and-down season with some extended winning runs, including an 11-game streak just before the Olympics. But the Senators also had a few losing streaks as well, and finished the season with a couple of lackadaisical losses.

Regular Season Recap

Pittsburgh: 47-28-7, 101 points (2nd, Atlantic Division)

Ottawa: 44-32-6, 94 points (2nd, Northeast Division)

 

Schedule
Date Location Time
Apr. 14 at Pittsburgh 7 p.m.
Apr. 16 at Pittsburgh 7 p.m.
Apr. 18 at Ottawa 6:30 p.m.
Apr. 20 at Ottawa 7 p.m.
Apr. 22 at Pittsburgh * 7 p.m.
Apr. 24 at Ottawa * 7 p.m.
Apr. 27 at Pittsburgh * 7 p.m.
* if necessary

 

Season Series
Tied, 2-2
Date Result
Oct. 12 Pittsburgh 4, Ottawa 1 Recap
Nov. 19 Ottawa 6, Pittsburgh 2 Recap
Dec. 23 Pittsburgh 8, Ottawa 2 Recap
Jan. 28 Ottawa 4, Pittsburgh 1 Recap

 

Stats Comparison
Statistic PIT OTT
Goals For (Avg.) 3.04 2.68
Goals Against (Avg.) 2.87 2.84
Power Play 17.2% 16.9%
Penalty Kill 84.1% 84.3%


Posted on: April 12, 2010 11:57 am
Edited on: April 19, 2010 11:59 pm
 

Preview: No. 1 San Jose vs. No. 8 Colorado

No. 1 San Jose Sharks vs. No. 8 Colorado Avalanche

Wes Goldstein's Take

The Sharks will win if: They play to their capabilities, which should be more than enough against a seriously overmatched opponent. Then again, meeting expectations has never been the strong suit of a team built as well as anyone to succeed at this time of year. The Sharks have become the NHL's most notorious underachievers since the lockout. That said, San Jose has four solid lines -- including one of the NHL's most dangerous in Joe Thornton , Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau -- a good balance of power and speed on defense and special teams that are among the league's best. Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov has had streaks of brilliance in his career, but enough meltdowns, especially since the Olympics, to give the Sharks serious cause for concern heading into the postseason. Still, this is the best possible matchup for a team in need of a confidence boost.

The Avalanche will win if: Goalie Craig Anderson stands on his head and his young teammates do not get overwhelmed by the fact they've already achieved far more than they should have. Colorado's kiddie corps may have already figured that out, as they faded badly down the stretch and barely hung on to a playoff spot. Still, the Avs do have some offensive pop with Paul Stastny , Chris Stewart , Matt Duchene and veteran Milan Hejduk . Colorado might be able to rattle Nabokov and the Sharks if it can get to them early and steal one of the first two games on the road. San Jose can be fragile in the playoffs and any reminder of that, even by a team that has nothing to lose, could make things interesting.

Regular Season Recap

San Jose: 51-20-11, 113 points (1st, Pacific Division)

Colorado: 43-30-9, 95 points (2nd, Northwest Division)

 

Schedule
Date Location Time
Apr. 14 at San Jose 10:30 p.m.
Apr. 16 at San Jose 10:30 p.m.
Apr. 18 at Colorado 9:30 p.m.
Apr. 20 at Colorado 10 p.m.
Apr. 22 at San Jose * 10:30 p.m.
Apr. 24 at Colorado * TBD
Apr. 26 at San Jose * TBD
* if necessary

 

Season Series
Tied, 2-2
Date Result
Oct. 1 Colorado 5, San Jose 2 Recap
Oct. 30 San Jose 3, Colorado 1 Recap
Mar. 28 San Jose 4, Colorado 3 Recap
Apr. 4 Colorado 5, San Jose 4 (OT) Recap

 

Stats Comparison
Statistic SJ COL
Goals For (Avg.) 3.13 2.89
Goals Against (Avg.) 2.55 2.78
Power Play 21.0% 18.1%
Penalty Kill 85.0% 80.2%


Posted on: April 12, 2010 11:52 am
Edited on: April 20, 2010 12:00 am
 

Preview: No. 2 Chicago vs. No. 7 Nashville

No. 2 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 7 Nashville Predators

Wes Goldstein's Take

The Blackhawks will win if: They don't let their goaltending become a factor. Rookie Antti Niemi will get to start because he outplayed Cristobal Huet this season, but he has no postseason experience and that could be a problem for a team with serious Stanley Cup aspirations. Chicago doesn't need Niemi to win games as much as not to lose them. The Blackhawks allow fewer shots than anyone and Nashville doesn't produce much offense, so that will help. The key for Chicago will be their explosive offense led by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews . The scoring comes from a lot of places, though, and a lot of it is generated from the back end, but puck movers Brian Campbell and Kim Johnsson are on the shelf.

The Predators will win if: They can grind this into a long series and frustrate Chicago with their work ethic and disciplined game. Shea Weber , Ryan Suter and Dan Hamhuis are the core of a really good blueline and Pekka Rinne has been among the best goaltenders all season, which gives Nashville an edge in two key areas in this series. But the Predators don't score much and their top goal scorer Patric Hornqvist was hurt late in the season and is uncertain for the playoffs. Maybe the best thing Nashville has going for it is a lack of expectations. The Predators generally are not seen as a playoff team heading into seasons, yet they've managed to get there five of the past six. The problem is, they have yet to advance beyond the first round.

Regular Season Recap

Chicago: 52-22-8, 112 points (1st, Central Division)

Nashville: 47-29-6, 100 points (3rd, Central Division)

 

Schedule
Date Location Time
Apr. 16 at Chicago 8:30 p.m.
Apr. 18 at Chicago 8:30 p.m.
Apr. 20 at Nashville 9 p.m.
Apr. 22 at Nashville 8:30 p.m.
Apr. 24 at Chicago * 3 p.m.
Apr. 26 at Nashville * TBD
Apr. 28 at Chicago * TBD
* if necessary

 

Season Series
Chicago wins, 4-2
Date Result
Oct. 15 Chicago 3, Nashville 1 Recap
Oct. 24 Chicago 2, Nashville 0 Recap
Oct. 29 Nashville 2, Chicago 0 Recap
Dec. 4 Nashville 4, Chicago 1 Recap
Dec. 26 Chicago 4, Nashville 1 Recap
Dec. 27 Chicago 5, Nashville 4 Recap

 

Stats Comparison
Statistic CHI NSH
Goals For (Avg.) 3.20 2.65
Goals Against (Avg.) 2.48 2.70
Power Play 17.7% 16.4%
Penalty Kill 85.3% 77.1%


Posted on: April 12, 2010 11:44 am
Edited on: April 20, 2010 12:01 am
 

Preview: No. 3 Vancouver vs. No. 6 Los Angeles

No. 3 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 6 Los Angeles Kings

Wes Goldstein's Take

The Canucks will win if: Roberto Luongo finally proves he is the elite goalie that everyone says he is. The Olympic gold medal he won didn't really do it, and the reality is, for all his kudos, Luongo hasn't been out of the second round. Even worse, he has struggled since the break. But the Canucks have assembled what is arguably the most talented lineup in franchise history. Vancouver can score and in bunches, with scoring champion Henrik Sedin and his twin, Daniel Sedin , leading the way. Alex Burrows , Ryan Kesler and Mikael Samuelsson provide nice support. The defense is a bit of a question mark because of injuries to Willie Mitchell and possibly to Sami Salo . The Canucks have home ice advantage and no team won more games in their own building.

The Kings will win if: Like the Canucks, they get the kind of performance from their starting goalie they are supposed to. Jonathan Quick was brilliant for most of the season, but faded down the stretch and failed to get his 40th win in eight consecutive tries. Still, the Kings finished with only two fewer points than Vancouver in the overall standings. Their blueline, led by young Olympians Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson , is the better one in this series. That could be the biggest edge for the Kings, who have three lines that can wear down teams with their ability to cycle the puck and control games when they have a lead.

Regular Season Recap

Vancouver: 49-28-5, 103 points (1st, Northwest Division)

Los Angeles: 46-27-9, 101 points (3rd, Pacific Division)

 

Schedule
Date Location Time
Apr. 15 at Vancouver 10 p.m.
Apr. 17 at Vancouver 10 p.m.
Apr. 19 at Los Angeles 10 p.m.
Apr. 21 at Los Angeles 10 p.m.
Apr. 23 at Vancouver * 10 p.m.
Apr. 25 at Los Angeles * TBD
Apr. 27 at Vancouver * TBD
* if necessary

 

Season Series
Vancouver wins, 3-1
Date Result
Oct. 29 Vancouver 2, Los Angeles 1 (SO) Recap
Nov. 26 Vancouver 4, Los Angeles 1 Recap
Dec. 14 Vancouver 3, Los Angeles 1 Recap
Apr. 1 Los Angeles 8, Vancouver 3 Recap

 

Stats Comparison
Statistic VAN LA
Goals For (Avg.) 3.27 2.82
Goals Against (Avg.) 2.66 2.57
Power Play 20.9% 20.8%
Penalty Kill 81.6% 80.3%


Posted on: April 12, 2010 11:15 am
Edited on: April 20, 2010 12:02 am
 

Preview: No. 4 Phoenix vs. No. 5 Detroit

No. 4 Phoenix Coyotes  vs. No. 5 Detroit Red Wings

Wes Goldstein's Take

The Coyotes will win if: Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov steals the series. Phoenix is the league's feel-good story of the season, and it earned its way into the playoffs by playing smart, systematic, defensive hockey and being extremely difficult to beat once it had a lead. The Coyotes got a big boost at the deadline with the additions of several veteran players, most notably Lee Stempniak , who became a scoring machine when he arrived in the desert. Captain Shane Doan is among the league's grittiest players and the group along the blue line doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Phoenix's best shot at pulling off what would be an upset against a lower seed is to keep this a low-scoring affair, something they managed with regularity during the season because of Bryzgalov. But a lot of the Coyotes success came from its domination in shootouts, and that advantage goes by the way side at this time of year.

The Red Wings will win if: They don't take a lesser team for granted. Chances are that won't happen. Detroit is a veteran team that understands what it takes to win in the playoffs, which is evident by its hot streak over the last six weeks. The Red Wings have been the league's best team since the Olympic break, and they've been winning games the way they usually do -- with timely scoring, solid defense and by keeping the puck on their sticks most of the time. People always wonder about the Red Wings' netminding at playoff time, but Jimmy Howard took the job away from Chris Osgood and became a leading Calder Trophy candidate in the process. Detroit is healthier than it has been at any time this season, and with so many key players having spent extended periods on the injured list, the Wings are better rested than they have been heading into the playoffs in several years.

Regular Season Recap

Phoenix: 50-25-7, 107 points (2nd, Pacific Division)

Detroit: 44-24-14, 102 points (2nd, Central Division)

 

Schedule
Date Location Time
Apr. 14 at Phoenix 10 p.m.
Apr. 16 at Phoenix 10 p.m.
Apr. 18 at Detroit 3 p.m.
Apr. 20 at Detroit 6:30 p.m.
Apr. 23 at Phoenix * 10 p.m.
Apr. 25 at Detroit * 2 p.m.
Apr. 27 at Phoenix * TBD
* if necessary

 

Season Series
Tied, 2-2
Date Result
Oct. 22 Phoenix 3, Detroit 2 (OT) Recap
Dec. 14 Detroit 3, Phoenix 2 Recap
Jan. 2 Detroit 4, Phoenix 1 Recap
Jan. 26 Phoenix 5, Detroit 4 (OT) Recap

 

Stats Comparison
Statistic PHO DET
Goals For (Avg.) 2.57 2.72
Goals Against (Avg.) 2.39 2.52
Power Play 14.6% 19.2%
Penalty Kill 84.5% 83.9%


 
 
 
 
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