Tampa Bay vs. Washington
Preview: Washington won 4 of the 6 regular season meetings which was the difference in the Capitals SouthEast Division title over the Lightning by 4 points. Since the Lightning acquired Dwayne Roloson, the teams met 4 times splitting those 4 games. Can the Capitals newer defensive style slow down the Lightning's offense? And can Tampa's defense and 41 year old Dwayne Roloson keep back Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals offense? Let's take a look.
Forwards: World class forwards on each team could make this matchup very exciting to watch. However, with the Capitals changing their style mid-season, we could see low scoring games between these two teams. Ovechkin and Stamkos are two of the games most prolific goal scorers and are complemented by fantastic supporting casts. Semin, Laich, Backstrom, Lecavalier, St. Louis just to name a few.
Defense: Mike Green has struggled in previous postseasons, but he was a standout in the first round, totaling 5 points and logging plenty of big minutes. He also took a shot off his helmet in Game 5 but proclaimed himself ready for the next round. His partner, Jeff Schultz , has played more (23:15 per game) without being on the ice for a goal-against than any other defenseman in these playoffs.
The young duo of Karl Alzner and John Carlson were on the ice for two goals seven seconds apart in Game 4 and rebounded to be two of the team's best players during the comeback.
Scott Hannan and John Erskine were steady, while Wideman is back practicing and could be an option toward the end of the round.
The Lightning have done a 180 in the playoffs -- after finishing 22nd in the League during the regular season with a 2.84 goals-against average, Tampa finished the first round second in the postseason with a 2.00 GAA. Leading the way against the Penguins were Eric Brewer and Mike Lundin. Brewer not only averages a team-leading 25:43 of ice time per game, but also tops all defenders on the team with 5 points. Hedman (22:14) and Ohlund (20:27) also averaged more than 20 minutes per game on the blue line. (espn.com)
Goaltending: In 5 games vs. Caps this season, one with Isles, Dwayne Roloson is 2-2-1 with a 2 shutouts, 1.37 GAA and .953 save percentage. He also leads the playoffs in Save Percentage with .949. The 41 year old has carried teams on his back in the playoffs before, leading Edmonton to the Stanley Cup Finals as an 8 seed just a few short years ago. Micheal Neuvirth is the next goalie the Capitals have pinned their faith on. Each season someone new has been the man but Neuvirth has shown signs that he could be the real deal. He was terrific against the Rangers going 4-1 with a .946 save percentage and 1.38 GAA. With Roloson's experience and play as of late, we give the advantage here to the Lightning.
Coaching: Bruce Boudreau fooled us all when he changed the the Capitals to a defense first style. The Capitals were marred in a brutal slump that we all saw on HBO's 24/7 series. Since then, the Capitals glaring weakness has become their strength and they won their 3rd straight SouthEast Division. Guy Boucher has done a terrific job with the Lightning but more impressive was Steve Yzerman making two key moves that in our opinion make the Lightning dangerous in the playoffs. Additions of Dwayne Roloson and Eric Brewer were key to making this team successful.
Pick: Capitals in 7
Boston vs. Philadelphia
Well, we've seen this before.
Last year the Flyers and Bruins met in one of the most memorable Stanley Cup Playoff series in NHL history. The Bruins won the first three games, including Marc's Savard's dramatic overtime goal in Game 1 in his first game back after a serious concussion nearly two months earlier. Then, the Flyers came storming back becoming the 3rd team in NHL history to win a 7 games series after losing the first 3 games.
Forwards: The Flyers got at least 1 goal from eight different forwards during their seven-game first-round win against Buffalo and Kris Versteeg or Mike Richards didn't score 1. The scoring depth of the Flyers is vast and it would be tough to shut down the entire team. The Bruins also had 8 forwards that scored at least one goal in their first round series and were the only team in history to win a playoff series without scoring a power play goal.
Defense: The Bruins led the Eastern Conference in goals against during the regular season. The Bruins play team defense better than anyone in the NHL and move the puck out of their zone as quick as anyone as well. Chara seems to be 100 % and the Bruins are capable of keeping the Flyers off the score board. The Flyers defense is almost as impressive except the fact that Pronger isn't 100%. Can the Flyers defense hold up another long series without him?
Goaltending: Tim Thomas is a lock to win the Vezina trophy this year and had another solid effort in the playoffs. We still aren't sure who the goalie is for the Flyers as they used 3 in their first round series against Buffalo. If Ryan Miller played to his ability, the Flyers would have lost the series due to their goaltending.
Coaching: Peter Laviolette has been successful wherever he has been. He briefly brought the Islanders out of the basement of the NHL, won a cup in Carolina and brought the Flyers all the way to the Cup last season. He is on path to be the next all time great. Claude Julien has for the 2nd straight year had the Eastern Conference goals against leading defense. As good of a coach as he is, Laviolette brought his team back from a 3-0 deficit in last year's series.
Pick: Bruins in 6. They get their revenge as Tim Thomas outplays the trio of Flyers goalies.