Liam Casey

Playoff Preview

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Eastern Conference Preview

Monday, April 12, 2010




(3) BUFFALO VERSUS (6) BOSTON
Buffalo rode the spectacular goaltending of Ryan Miller to the Northeast Division crown, which the Bruins won last season. And this series will come down to goaltending. Ryan Miller finished second in GAA and save percentage in the league. Boston's Tuukka Rask finished first in both, although Miller played 24 more games.

Boston just doesn't have the scoring depth with Marc Savard out. Buffalo, while not a big scoring team either, has better offensive players in Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Tim Connolly.

Buffalo in six.

BUFFALO

Tim Kennedy-Derek Roy-Thomas Vanek
Raffi Torres-Tyler Ennis-Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Mike Grier
Matt Ellis-Adam Mair-Patrick Kaleta

Tyler Myers - Henrik Tallinder
Craig Rivet - Steve Montador
Toni Lydman - Chris Butler

Ryan Miller
Patrick Lalime



WHO'S HOT
Ryan Miller has been unquestionably hot all season and is the biggest reason why Buffalo won the Northeast Division. He will have to keep it up if the Sabres hope to make some noise in the post-season. Thomas Vanek missed six games with a groin injury, and then returned to score five goals in his first two games back. It was a disappointing season for the big winger, who scored 27 goals, down from 40 the year before, but he has the skill set to score in bunches. Derek Roy has seven goals and 12 points in the past eight games.


WHO'S NOT
Raffi Torres hasn't scored in 13 games with the Sabres after collecting 19 in 60 games with the Blue Jackets earlier this season. Other than rookie Tyler Myers, the Sabres don't have an offensive threat from the blueline.

Notes
Drew Stafford suffered an apparent concussion Saturday against the Senators and is questionable for the start of the playoffs. Tim Connolly hasn't played since March 26 because of a lower body injury that's believed to be a foot ailment. Jochen Hecht missed the last three games with an upper body injury.


BOSTON
Milan Lucic - Patrice Bergeron - Mark Recchi
Marco Sturm - David Krejci - Miroslav Satan
Blake Wheeler - Vladimir Sobotka - Michael Ryder
Daniel Paille - Steve Begin - Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Wideman
Johnny Boychuk - Matt Hunwick
Andrew Bodnarchuk - Adam McQuaid.

Tuukka Rask
Tim Thomas


WHO'S HOT
David Krejci has five points, all assists, in the past five games. He will have to be at his creative best as the Bruins are without master playmaker Marc Savard. Zdeno Chara has four assists in the past four games and will be the most important Bruin in the playoffs.

WHO'S NOT
Michael Ryder had two goals Sunday, but had just one in the previous 22 games. Patrice Bergeron has just two points in the last five games � do not expect a lot of production from him in the post-season as he'll be asked to be the top defensive forward against Buffalo.

Notes
Marc Savard remains sidelined indefinitely with a serious concussion and won't be playing hockey for a while. Dennis Seidenberg is out until June after undergoing surgery on his arm to repair a lacerated tendon. Andrew Ference is battling a troublesome groin, but should be ready to start the post-season. Mart Stuart is out for the first two games of the playoffs after undergoing surgery on his left pinkie last week.


(4) PITTSBURGH VERSUS (5) OTTAWA
This will be the third playoff meeting between Pittsburgh and Ottawa in the last four seasons. They split the first two matchups. The Senators suffered a big blow to their scoring depth when they lost Alexei Kovalev for the season with a knee injury. The enigmatic forward still has the ability to take over games, but that won't be an option now.
As good as Pittsburgh is, they go as Sidney Crosby goes. Crosby had to carry the Penguins late in the season as Evgeni Malkin suffered through injuries and poor play. The Penguins will need veterans like Bill Guerin and Alexei Ponikorovsky to step up to take pressure off the Crosby and Malkin.
The Senators, now one of the grittiest teams in the league, will try to beat up the Penguins. They'll throw Anton Volchenkov, Chris Phillips and Andy Sutton like wrecking balls at the Pittsburgh forwards.

However, the Senators are weak up front with just Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza as their only consistent scoring threats.

It will be closer than people expect, but the Penguins will take this in six.


PITTSBURGH

Pascal Dupuis - Sidney Crosby - Alexei Ponikarovsky
Ruslan Fedotenko - Evgeni Malkin - Bill Guerin
Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy
Michael Rupp - Max Talbot - Craig Adams

Alex Goligoski - Sergei Gonchar
Kristopher Letang - Mark Eaton
Brooks Orpik - Jordan Leopold
Jay McKee

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson


WHO'S HOT
Sidney Crosby is always on, but he's been especially torrid of late with 13 points in the past five games. Sergei Gonchar has six points in the last five games after missing a few with a serious flu.

WHO'S NOT
Prior to Sunday's game, Evgeni Malkin had just six points in the previous nine games and has been hampered by the flu and a foot injury since the Olympics. He did collect two goals and four points in the season finale � perhaps Malkin is just waiting for the post-season to pounce. Alexei Ponikarovsky had just two goals in 16 games since coming to Pittsburgh from Toronto at the deadline. Jordan Staal has just one point, an assist, in the past seven games.

Notes
Chris Kunitz hasn't played since April 3 because of a shoulder injury. He is expected to return to the lineup for the post-season, however. Ponikarovsky will return from a two-game suspension for the start of the playoffs. Matt Cooke is questionable for the first game with a suspected concussion while Brooks Orpik left Saturday's game with the dreaded lower body injury � although it sounds like he'll be fine.

OTTAWA

Peter Regin - Jason Spezza - Daniel Alfredsson
Milan Michalek - Mike Fisher - Matt Cullen
Jarkko Ruutu - Chris Kelly - Chris Neil
Nick Foligno - Zack Smith - Shean Donovan

Chris Phillips - Erik Karlsson
Andy Sutton - Chris Campoli
Matt Carkner � Anton Volchenkov

Brian Elliott
Pascal Leclaire

WHO'S HOT
Jason Spezza has eight goals and 19 points in the last 12 games and is looking like the superstar he was a few seasons ago. Daniel Alfredsson has three goals and 17 points in the last 13 games and is a strong playoff performer. Rookie defender Erik Karlsson has four goals and 12 points in the last 10 games. Karlsson will have trouble defensively against the Penguins, so his ice-time may be limited to power-play duty, but he still has the potential to put up good points in that role.

WHO'S NOT
Mike Fisher has three goals and one assist with a horrendous minus-6 rating in the past nine games. Rookie Peter Regin has just one point in his past four games after collecting four goals and one assist in his previous five games. His spot on the top line will be temporary if he struggles early in the post-season.

Notes
Alexei Kovalev is out for the playoffs with a torn ACL injury. Filip Kuba is out for a month after undergoing back surgery in early April. Milan Michalek is pointless in two games since returning from a knee injury.



12
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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