May 18, 2008; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) poses for a photo with the Eastern Conference championship trophy after game five of the Eastern Conference finals against the Philadelphia Flyers at Mellon Arena. The Penguins defeated the Flyers 6-0 to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

There’s no arguing that West has more depth and more Stanley Cup contenders than the East. However, the East is filled with a few teams that would challenge any opponent in the Final, making year’s playoffs a very tough one to call. Here is a preview for the Eastern Conference Playoffs:

First Round Upset Alert: Both the Bruins and Panthers have tough first-round match ups on their hands, with the streaking Washington Capitals, spearheaded by a revived Alex Ovechkin, and the tough New Jersey Devils led by perennial 30 goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk. The Bruins, who have played sloppy during the second half of the season and have been hampered by the poor goalie play of Tim Thomas, have still been able to remain atop the lackluster Northeast Division. Similarly, the Panthers started off the season hot but have cooled off considerably, finishing the season losing 5 of 6 (1-2-3) and barely edging out the Capitals for first in the Southeast.

Prediction: Boston over Washington in 7; New Jersey over Florida in 6 

Best First Round Series: Although I think every first round match up will yield a series of at least 6 games, I think the Penguins-Flyers battle will be epic. Both teams have stacked offensive firepower, with the likes of Claude Giroux for Philly and leading MVP candidate Evgeni Malkin for Pittsburgh. The real x-factor will be goaltending, especially the Flyers Ilya Bryzgalov, who posted a mediocre 2.48 GAA during the regular season and surely be peppered with shots throughout the series.

Prediction: Pittsburgh over Philadelphia in 7

Conference Final Front-Runners: If things fall the way I think they will, it will set up a fantastic matchup of the Rangers, the number 1 seed in the East, and the Penguins, who have been nipping at New York’s heels since early February. This would set up the likely Vezina Award winner Henrik Lundqvist and the stingy Ranger defense against former MVP Sidney Crosby and the extremely potent Penguin offense. If predicted upsets hold true, the 1 seeded Rangers will have home-ice advantage, which the Rangers must protect in order to have a shot at derailing the hot Pens.

Prediction: Pittsburgh over New York in 6

Tags: Alex Ovechkin Boston Bruins Claude Giroux Evgeni Malkin Florida Panthers Henrik Lundqvist Ilya Bryzgalov Ilya Kovalchuk New Jersey Devils Philadelphia Flyers Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby Tim Thomas Washington Capitals

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