Washington vs New Jersey
It is very difficult for any team to match the Caps firepower. Led by Ovechkin (56-55-111) and Backstrom (41-46-87), the Caps are able to score in bunches. In contrast to previous years, secondary scoring and goaltending is no longer an issue. Superbly talented young stars Kuznetsov (33-39-72), Johansson (32-31-63) and Oshie (32-44-76) back up the aforementioned superstars up front and Holtby (52-12-8, 2.11 .934) holds down the forte in their own zone.
On the other side of the ice, New Jersey is a team that relies very heavily on star goalie Schiender (36-22-6, 2.35 .928) and a strong group of defenceman, led by Green (4-46-50) and young Adam Larsson (1-37-38). The Devils are, however, a team that struggles to produce offense. The forward group is a little old and a little short of talent. Palmieri (28-30-58) and Cammalleri (23-32-55) are the only two snipers up front, so if the Devil are to win they will have to grind it out against the Washington offensive juggernaut.
Caps in 4
Carolina vs Pittsburgh
Despite lacking a game breaking superstar, Carolina is probably the best offensive team in the league. As such, they will try to outgun the Pens; a tall task, considering who is on Pittsburgh’s roster. The Canes will counter Crosby and Co. with an embarrassment of offensive depth. Wheeler (45-48-93), van Riemsdyk (46-63-109), Nugent-Hopkins (33-47-80) lead the way offensively for a team that attacks in waves and never lets up. If they have a weakness, it’s goaltending. Nilsson (52-16-11, 2.46 .916) had a strong year but there are serious question marks surrounding his ability to perform as a #1 goalie in the play-offs.
The Pens are the only team in the league that can match the Caps in terms of elite firepower. Crosby (24-67-91), Kessel (41-40-81), Malkin (28-37-65) and Carter (38-29-67) could all arguably be considered franchise forwards. Very difficult for a team to isolate and defend and single forward in that group. Backing up that impressive squad is several star quality defenders, including Letang (8-29-37) and Matta (8-50-58). The Pens will be tough to beat.
Canes in 7
Tampa Bay vs Detroit
Yet another offensive superpower in the East, Tampa Bay has many options up front, making them difficult to defend and opening up mismatches against opponents 2nd and 3rd lines. Johnson (41-46-87) teams with Stamkos (33-39-72) and Palat (39-41-80) to establish the front wave of attackers. Secondary players like the slick puck moving Drouin (30-41-71), Kozun (28-38-66) and Eberle (24-31-55) also pack a punch. Defensively, Hedman (5-46-51) is just a notch below super elite and he is supplemented by Barrie (5-29-34) and Stralman (5-38-43).
Detroit can no longer rely on grizzled veteras Datsyuk (15-47-62) and Zetterberg (19-36-55) to be counted on to play at a superstar level every night. The Wings will instead look to the next generation, including Nyquist (36-30-66), Larkin (20-33-53) and defensean Smith (7-49-56). Injuries to Lightning forwards Eberle and Drouin give the Wings some hope for an upset, although they are missing key forward Turris (22-34-56) themselves.
Lightning in 5
Boston vs Ottawa
The Sens are as well balanced a team as there is in the NHL. Backed by the solid goaltending of Mrazek (46-16-6, 2.41 .924) and superstar defenseman Karlsson (9-40-49) and led up front by a plethora of skilled two way forwards, Ottawa is both difficult to defend and assault. The majority of the goal scoring burden will fall to Tatar (35-37-72), Krejci (19-46-65) Ladd (30-28-58) and Stone (24-41-65). Defensive stalwarts Staal (15-26-41) and O’Reilly (23-27-50) may be the key to winning the series.
In stark contrast to Ottawa, Boston will rely on several offensively talented but defensively weak forwards, namely Bergfors (39-29-68), Dadonov (35-31-65) and Wolski (38-21-59). This type of team is not normally associated with the Bruins, and typically doesn’t do well in the intense, physical atmosphere of the play-offs. Balancing out the aforementioned forwards are players with some more grit and sandpaper, such as Coyle (24-32-56) and the oft-injured Bergeron (11-38-49). Defensively, the Bruins are built in much the same fashion as the forwards- superb puck moving ability and an offensive mentality. Krug (10-35-45), Savard (2-36-38) and Eronen (3-38-41) transition the puck up ice with ease. A possible trump card for Boston exists in the form of star goalie Rask (47-16-11, 2.41 .924). He’ll need to be at his best.
Sens in 6