Preview: NHL Playoffs

So, if you missed the Rangers-Flyers game earlier, you missed an outstanding exhibition of goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist, as well as an amazing game in itself. The Flyers won in a shootout (and that's a story for later), securing the seventh seed. And now, here are the match-ups, along with my (baseless) predictions of who will advance.

Eastern Conference:

1. Washington vs. 8 Montreal

Season series tied 2-2

If anyone has watched Montreal play recently, Jaroslav Halak has the ability to steal games for Montreal; however, Montreal has been playing really badly lately (lost to Toronto 4-3 in OT yesterday). Montreal also probably does not have the firepower to compete with Washington's offense. Questions surrounding Washington's goaltending and defensive playing remain, but should be covered up by Montreal's recent issues. If Montreal catches fire, and Halak can steal a few games, then the series could be more interesting.

Series Prediction: Washington in 5

2. New Jersey vs. 7 Philadelphia

Philadelphia wins season series 5-1

Philadelphia escaped the New York Rangers and made it into the playoffs with an advantage over Montreal in wins, therefore allowing them to make it into the playoffs as the seventh seed. New Jersey holds the obvious goaltending advantage, while Brian Boucher for Philly has not played in the playoffs in several years. New Jersey just needs to score, and they should be fine.

Prediction: New Jersey in 6

3. Boston vs. 6 Boston

Boston wins season series 4-2

Boston has been on a bit of a roll lately, even without Marc Savard. The loss of Savard might very well hurt them in the end, as beating Ryan Miller is a tall order. If Boston can make up for the offense lost by Savard's injury, they have the potential to make this series interesting. Tukka Rask has played well for Boston as a rookie, and if he falters, Tim Thomas won the Vezina last year and played well against Washington today. Look for this to be a low scoring and interesting match-up.

Prediction: Buffalo in 7

4. Pittsburgh vs. 5 Ottawa

Season series tied 2-2

This is another incredibly interesting series. These teams have met in the last two of the last three playoffs, and the winner went on to the Stanley Cup Finals and lost. Pittsburgh might be the favorite, but Ottawa is not as bad as everyone predicted. This Ottawa team also overachieved during the season, and lost one of their best players in Alex Kovalev (torn ACL, done for the year). Jason Spezza will have to step up to fill the void, which he is more than capable of doing. Ottawa also has goaltending questions, which could hamper their chances. Look for an exciting series that will probably go the distance.

Prediction: Ottawa in 7

Western Conference: (Note: The top 7 teams in the West finished with 100 or more points)

1. San Jose vs. 8 Colorado

Season series tied 2-2

Normally, this is the year where on places bets on how fast San Jose will be eliminated, and that could still be a possibility come the second round; however, they are facing a Colorado team that was spectacular during the first half of the season and has tanked during the second half. If Mueller continues to impress after his trade from Phoenix and Matt Duchene can continue to impress, then this series could be interesting. Side note, the home team won all games during the season series.

Prediction: San Jose in 6

2. Chicago vs. 7 Nashville

Chicago wins season series 4-2

This series features Chicago's firepower vs. Pekka Rinne. If Antti Niemi does not play well for Chicago, this could be an interesting series, with the potential for an upset. Rinne has stolen games before, don't be surprised to see excellent goaltending on Nashville's end. In the end, Chicago probably still has too much firepower for Nashville.

Prediction: Chicago in 6

3. Vancouver vs. 6 Los Angeles

Vancouver win season series 3-1

This is another interesting match-up featuring two hot teams. Vancouver has been lights out at home, and feature quite possibly the best goaltender in the West in Roberto Luongo. If Luongo can not implode like he did against Chicago last year, then Vancouver should move on. Do not count out LA though, as they have been a surprise team all year and have played extremely well. This is probably the second best series in the West after Detroit and Phoenix.

Prediction: Vancouver in 6

4. Phoenix vs. 5 Detroit

Season series tied 2-2

This could quite potentially be the most intriguing match-up of the playoffs. The feel good story of the year vs. the perennial powerhouse. No one expected Phoenix to make it into the playoffs, and Phoenix has had some unbelievable goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov. This series could quite easily go back and forth for most of the way. Jimmy Howard needs to be spectacular, or if he fails, Chris Osgood needs to return to last year's playoff form in order for the Wings to advance. This has seven games written all over it. Note: The last time these two teams met in the playoffs in the first round, Detroit won in six and went on to win the cup.

Prediction: Detroit in 7

Check in the next few days for their playoff series overviews, which will include quite a few details that either I've left out or forgotten.

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