CFB Playoff Predictions (Eastern)

CFB Playoff Predictions (Eastern)

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    The Playoffs are about to start and what better time than now for the CFB predictions. We highlight every series with individual writers giving their own opinion on why or how a particular team can win the series. This is the Round 1 Predictions for the Eastern Conference.

    (1) WASHINGTON Vs. (8) MONTREAL

    The Washington Capitals have set a franchise record of 121 points this past season, and have gone 6-1-3 in their last 10 regular season games. That said, they were the only team from their division to reach the post-season, and were thus securing points from sub-par opposition. Similarly, the Detroit Red Wings had the same occurrence for several years in the past decade; which brings us to question: “Are the Washington Capitals as strong as the Red Wings of the past decade?” There is a big positive for the Capitals, despite being under the impression that they lack goaltending. Jose Theodore has posted a 0.911 SV% this season, and is hot heading into the playoffs with a 0.938 SV% over his last three games. Will he continue his strong play, or fold for the second consecutive year under pressure?

    The Montreal Canadiens lack of scoring capabilities have been stifling their potential to take control of a game without worrying about their mediocre defensive coverage. They have since found themselves fighting tooth and nail to even crack the post-season. In spite of the goaltending controversy between Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak, the Habs are likely to go with Halak due to their lack of faith in Price. Halak has not been his usual self lately. After posting back to back shutouts, he has since gone 0-1-1 in his last two starts with a 0.867 SV%. In Price’s last two outings, he notched an impressive 0.942 SV%. It begs to question if Halak is the right choice to start the series. The Canadiens do not have the scoring ability to match the Capitals offensive pressure, and thus it will require an outstanding performance by either Halak or Price to move on to the second round.

    Mike
    Stan
    Justin
    Mitch
    Dan
    Adam
    WSH in 4
    WSH in 5
    WSH in 6
    WSH in 5
    WSH in 5
    WSH in 5

    (2) NEW JERSEY Vs. (7) PHILADELPHIA

    What the New Jersey Devils can’t accomplish in scoring, they made up for in goals against with the third lowest totals in the Eastern Conference. This could potentially be a really dull series based on the trap system, but otherwise a physical affair. The Devils have the advantage in goaltending and defense, but the Flyers have a slight edge on offensive abilities. That said, the recent addition of Ilya Kovalchuk was done to even up that conflict, and should he not be able to translate his scoring powers to the post-season, then the Devils could be looking at a short detour before heading to the golf course.

    Philadelphia is known to be a goalie cemetery. This season, they’ve gone through a six pack of defenders: Ray Emery, Michael Leighton, Jeremy Duchesne, Johan Backlund, Carter Hutton and now Brian Boucher. This lack of stability at the rear end has translated to their lack of production on the front end. Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Daniel Briere are the only three players who were able to reach the 20+ goal plateau this season, but the scoring is spread out with 10 players posting 10 or more on the year. But it’s the second effort on the back check, mixed with the poor goaltending performances, that have made the team a collective -33 on the plus/minus. Without a proven number one goaltender in net, this team will have to work just as hard on both ends of the rink to move past the Devils in the opening round.

    Mike
    Stan
    Justin
    Mitch
    Dan
    Adam
    NJD in 5
    NJD in 6
    NJD in 5
    NJD in 7
    NJD in 7
    NJD in 6

    (3) BUFFALO Vs. (6) BOSTON

    Buffalo had the potential of being the perfect hockey team this year. They were showing signs of great team play with average to good players, but no elite, and backed by arguably the best goaltender in the NHL this season. They do not have size, they are relatively young, they work hard and they are eager. They will be one of the hardest teams to beat, no matter who they play, this post-season. It’s difficult to imagine a team with better work ethics, and that is thanked to the underestimated coaching skills of one Lindy Ruff. They have 12 players who have double digits in the goal scoring department, and Thomas Vanek capped off the year with a 4 goal performance against the Ottawa Senators. Their sporadic scoring makes it nearly impossible for the opposition to line match. The Sabres placed first in a division in which only the Maple Leafs did not make the post-season. It was a difficult division to get through, yet the team has remained healthy for the exception of three players who are questionable for Thursday’s opener.

    The Boston Bruins can’t score. There’s no secret behind it. Marco Sturm is their offensive juggernaut with 22 goals, yet he only has 37 points on the year. Their best player (Savard) is out for the year with a concussion. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci lead this team up front with just 52 points, or a collective 104 which is less than each of the top three players in the league, and just a few past an additional four. When your two best players can’t even collectively accumulate enough points to outscore the top player in the league, you’re in trouble. In fact, the Bruins “scorers” rank 87th best and lower. That is an equivalence of 4 total team rosters that are outscoring them. To make matters worse, Phil Kessel has outscored every player on the Bruins roster in just 70 games. The only pleasure the Bruins got out of that trade is the potentially 2nd overall pick, but that won’t help them with their playoff run.

    Mike
    Stan
    Justin
    Mitch
    Dan
    Adam
    BUF in 4
    BUF in 5
    BUF in 7
    BUF in 6
    BUF in 7
    BOS in 6

    (4) PITTSBURGH Vs. (5) OTTAWA

    The Ottawa Senators are about to face a double barrel shotgun now that Malkin is healthy, and Crosby is coming into the post-season hot. That said, Brooks Orpik’s thigh laceration has not received a ton of attention, and thus could be worse than expected. He, along with Cooke and Kunitz, are all questionable for Wednesday night’s opener. Pittsburgh has 13 players with 10 or more goals, and five of them hit the 20 goal plateau. Outside of Ruslan Fedotenko, the team plays a strong two way game with a collective +49 on the plus/minus. The Penguins are also heading in with a slightly better goaltending tandem.

    The Ottawa Senators’ biggest advantage is Jason Spezza’s late season drive. For the entire first half of the year, Spezza only scored 4 goals. He scored 19 goals in the second half of the year, but has been on a downward and inconsistent slide since the 2004-05 season. Mike Fisher has posted a career high in goals and points, and Daniel Alfredsson had another successful season with 71 points. Milan Michalek had a good start to the year, but has suffered two injuries (head and leg) that forced him to be sidelined for 16 games, and Alex Kovalev (torn ACL) and Filip Kuba (back surgery) are both gone for the year. In spite of all this, the Senators are coming into the playoffs as the hottest team in the East with 7 wins in their last 10 games. The real question lies in which goaltender they shoulder play: Elliot (2-1-1, 3.32GAA, 0.877SV% in last 4 GPI), or Leclaire (1-2-0, 4.38GAA, 0.852SV% in last 3 GPI).

    Mike
    Stan
    Justin
    Mitch
    Dan
    Adam
    PIT in 5
    PIT in 7
    PIT in 4
    PIT in 6
    PIT in 6
    PIT in 6

    Stay tuned for the Western Conference Predictions that will be available tonight.

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