Liam Casey

Playoff Preview

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Eastern Conference Preview

Monday, April 12, 2010


(1) WASHINGTON VERSUS (8) MONTREAL

The Capitals ran away with the league this year with 121 points. They have the best line in the league with Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin, although coach Bruce Boudreau will often drop Semin to the second line to balance the attack and use Mike Knuble in his place. Washington plays similar to the run-and-gun Oilers of the 1980's and seem to win games 6-5 rather than 2-1.

The Canadiens have the second-best power play in the league � second to Washington � and have the wheels to skate with the Capitals. But that's where the Canadiens matchups stop. They don't have the defensive depth to contain the Capitals and Andrei Markov will probably be playing half-a-game. Look for Alex Ovechkin to play like a caged gorilla recently released into the wild as he tries to make up for the Russian Olympic letdown.

Washington in four.

WASHINGTON

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom � Mike Knuble
Brooks Laich - Brendan Morrison - Alexander Semin
Jason Chimera - Eric Belanger - Tomas Fleischmann
Eric Fehr - Boyd Gordon - Scott Walker

Shaone Morrisonn - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Joe Corvo
John Carlson - Tyler Sloan

Jose Theodore
Semyon Varlamov


WHO'S HOT

The top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin is always hot as is Norris Trophy candidate Mike Green. Look for Bruce Boudreau to split the top line up to open the playoffs, but they'll be reunited throughout the post-season to keep opponents off-balance. Mike Knuble, who'll likely take Semin's spot on the top line, is heating up with two goals and four points in the last three games. His grinding game and net-play will be critical to Washington's success, especially if the big guns get shut down.


WHO'S NOT
Brooks Laich had a six-game point streak at the end of March, but has just three points in six games in April. Laich is a legitimate scoring threat with 25 goals and 59 points in 78 games this season. He doesn't have to catch fire, but if he could score a few goals in support of the big three, that will help the Capitals immensely.

Notes
Tyler Sloan is out with an upper body injury, but he should be ready for the start of the playoffs. Milan Jurcina is a little further away after undergoing a double hernia surgery in early March � he should return some time in the first round, but won't be ready for the start. Brendan Morrison is without a point in two games since returning from a groin injury that kept him sidelined for six games.

MONTREAL
Michael Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Andrei Kostitsyn
Benoit Pouliot - Scott Gomez - Brian Gionta
Travis Moen - Dominic Moore - Tom Pyatt
Mathieu Darche - Maxim Lapierre - Marc-Andre Bergeron

Andrei Markov - Josh Gorges
Roman Hamrlik - Jaroslav Spacek
Ryan O'Byrne - Hal Gill

Jaroslav Halak
Carey Price


WHO'S HOT
Scott Gomez has three points in the last two games. He is Montreal's wild card with the speed to offset the opposition and the creativity to make opponents pay. But Gomez also has the propensity to skate himself in circles and take himself out of position. Andrei Markov has four points in the last two games and is, simply, Montreal's best player. He will be assigned the task of trying to slow down fellow Russians Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.

WHO'S NOT
Starting netminder Jaroslav Halak has lost three straight games heading into the post-season. Could the Habs turn to Carey Price after giving up on him down the stretch? Michael Cammalleri has no goals since returning from a knee injury 12 games ago. Andrei Kostitsyn has just three goals in the last 21 games. Tomas Plekance has just two points, both goals, in the past six games.

Notes
Glen Metropolit is out until mid-May with a serious shoulder injury. Paul Mara is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in March.



(2) NEW JERSEY VERSUS (7) PHILADELPHIA
Despite winning the Jennings trophy for the fewest goals allowed in the league, this isn't the same Devils team. Yes, they are great defensively under head coach Jacques Lemaire, but they have two legitimate game-breakers in Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. And they still have Martin Brodeur between the pipes.

The Flyers struggled this season, which was exacerbated by the rash of injuries to their goalies. They still have the firepower up front and the defensive pressure on the blueline to cause trouble, but they'll need Brian Boucher to get hot between the pipes. Other than in goal, the Flyers match up well with New Jersey.

It will be a tough, hard-fought series, but the Devils will take this in seven.



NEW JERSEY
Zach Parise - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus
Ilya Kovalchuk - Patrik Elias - Jamie Langenbrunner
Brian Rolston - Rob Niedermayer - David Clarkson
Jay Pandolfo - Dean McAmmond - Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond

Paul Martin - Colin White
Mike Mottau - Bryce Salvador
Martin Skoula - Mark Fraser

Martin Brodeur
Yann Danis


WHO'S HOT
Zach Parise is a reliable point-producer, but Ilya Kovalchuk is either pistol-hot or liquid-nitrogen cold. He hasn't looked completely comfortable since arriving in New Jersey in February and has played with numerous linemates, but he's still dangerous and should remain a top pick in playoff pools. He has six points in the last six games, but was held pointless in three of those games. Dainius Zubrus has two goals and six points in the last four games and has looked good on a line with Parise and Travis Zajac.


WHO'S NOT
Before Saturday's big game in which Zajac collected three assists, the center had just two points in the previous eight games. Captain Jamie Langenbrunner has zero points in the last six games. Brian Rolston has just one point in the past six games.

Notes
The Devils are a healthy crew, which is an important factor in the playoffs.

PHILADELPHIA

Simon Gagne - Mike Richards - Daniel Carcillo
Scott Hartnell - Jeff Carter - Daniel Briere
James van Riemsdyk - Claude Giroux - Arron Asham
Darroll Powe - Blair Betts - Ian Laperriere

Chris Pronger - Matt Carle
Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Lucas Krajicek - Ryan Parent

Brian Boucher
Sebastien Caron
Jeremey Duchesne

WHO'S HOT
Mike Richards has three goals in the last three games. Daniel Briere has three points in the last three games, but more importantly, he has some jump back in his step.
Claude Giroux has two goals and five points in the last six games and scored a huge shootout goal with the weight of a playoff appearance on his shoulders Sunday against Henrik Lundqvist. That confidence will help his game in the post-season.

WHO'S NOT
Jeff Carter has just one point in the past four games, but did return from a fractured foot two games ago. Chris Pronger has just one point in the last five games. Scott Hartnell has moved back to the ice age with just three goals in the last 36 games. Simon Gagne has just one point, an assist, in the last six games.

Notes
Ray Emery is out for the season after undergoing hip surgery and Michael Leighton is out another month with a high ankle sprain. Another goalie, Johan Backlund is day-to-day with a groin injury. Depth forward Jared Ross is day-to-day with a suspected concussion.


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Liam Casey is a senior hockey writer for Rotoworld. He has also written for Toronto Life and the Ottawa Citizen. He once selected Alexandre Daigle in a keeper league but has learned much since then. He also runs BusterAvenue.com, like The Onion, but worse.
Email :Liam Casey



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