The Pick: Devils in seven.
Buffalo Sabres vs. Boston Bruins
Two old Adams Division rivals battle in the first round, with the Sabres back into the playoffs for the first time since 2007, while the Bruins slid down from being the East’s top seed last year to sixth seed in the East.
Unlike the 2006-07 Buffalo team to make the playoffs, which was a high-octane offensive club, this year’s Sabres rely heavily on goaltender Ryan Miller, who is a strong favorite to win this year’s Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder.
For their own part, the Bruins also play a strong defensive game and have a good netminder of their own in Tuukka Rask, who posted a 1.97 goals-against and a .931 save percentage in 45 games for Boston and unseated defending Vezina winner Tim Thomas from the starting role in Boston.
So, with good goaltending at both ends of the ice, it will be up to the offenses to generate chances. This is where the series likely turns, as Boston features just one 20-goal scorer, Marco Sturm, while Buffalo features three.
What was the league’s top offense a year ago has been undone with the trade of Phil Kessel to Toronto — for a top three pick in this year’s draft — as well as injuries, but Boston will need to find some goals to have a chance to advance.
The Pick: Sabres in six.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators
Finishing fourth in the East wasn’t a bad thing for the Penguins last year, as Pittsburgh won their third Stanley Cup in franchise history as the No. 4 seed last spring. Now, after losing the Atlantic Division title to the Devils in the season’s final weekend and falling to fourth seed again, the Penguins open their title defense with their third meeting against the Senators in four years.
This year, Ottawa rebounded nicely from missing the playoffs a year ago to snag the fifth seed in the East, although they will have to make their Cup run without forward Alexei Kovalev, who is out for the year with a torn ACL.
The Sens rely on Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza for their offense to help generate their offense, and goaltender Brian Elliott has been good in net to bolster the team’s successful playoff push.
While not quite as loaded talent-wise as last year’s championship roster, the Penguins still feature two of the best young players in the game in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, with Crosby getting his first 50-goal season with a two-goal effort in the Penguins’ final game of the regular season Sunday on Long Island.
While this year’s Pens aren’t as deep as last year’s club, they are still one of the most talented teams in the East — and still the team to beat. Unless Elliott badly outplays Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, the Pens will advance.
The Pick: Penguins in six.View Entire Story
Ted Starkey, a Web editor for the continuous news desk, has written for and edited high-traffic websites, including AOL News, AOL Sports, FanHouse.com, USAHockey.com and BuffaloBills.com. He also has covered the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics, Stanley Cup playoffs, NFL, NHL, MLB and NCAA hockey during his career.
He is a graduate of American University, with a double major in ...
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