We now turn our focus to the Atlantic Division. These matchups see the top seed Canadiens playing the first Wild Card Rangers and the second seeded Senators going up against the third seeded Bruins.
I personally don’t want any of these four teams to play for the Cup, but let’s take a more objective view.
Montreal Canadiens vs New York Rangers
The New York Rangers spent the last month or so of the season, how shall we say, attempting to massage their record so they could jump to the Atlantic instead of staying in the Metro. With the Metro being so strong, this made a lot of sense, but it could be a case of “be careful what you wish for.”
The last time these two teams played in the playoffs, the Rangers won in 6 games (Eastern Conference Finals in 2014). The Habs will be seeking revenge, and should be the definite favorites, even though the Rangers only finished one point behind them.
Montreal beat the Rangers all three times they played this year, but the series will likely be close. Each team has a goalie who can steal not just games, but entire series.
Price has been the better goalie this season, while Lundqvist was not as dominant as he has been in years past. Here’s Ian Fleming’s SAVE visual for the goalie comparison:
On the other hand, the Rangers finished with a higher goal differential (+37 to +25). The Rangers PP was better (20.2 - 10th in the league) than Montreal’s (19.6 - 13th), though not by much. The Canadiens had the better PK (81.1 to 79.8). All in all, the numbers would indicate a close matchup.
Why Wings Fans Should Care:
The Rangers feature former Red Wing Brendan Smith, which will make some Detroit fans root for New York (Looking at you, Jeff), and some fans root against him.
The Habs have Steve Ott. If that’s not enough, they have Shea Weber. And they traded P.K. Subban. Regardless of how people feel about Smith, I can’t imagine it being easy for Wings fans to root for Shea Weber. The Red Wing rooting interest seems pretty clear.
You Might Cheer for the Rangers If:
You don’t post that Brendan Smith touched the puck while on the bench every other article.
You Might Cheer for the Canadiens If:
You have forgotten how Shea Weber assaulted Henrik Zetterberg in the playoffs a few years back. You have also forgotten that Marc Bergevin chose Michel Therrien over P.K. Subban. Basically, memory issues.
I think I’ve made it pretty clear who I want to win. But, I think in the end Price and company are too much for the Rangers. Canadiens in 6
Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins
Not many people thought the Senators would do as well as they did under new coach Guy Boucher. The Bruins thought that firing Claude Julien would be a good idea (it wasn’t). This match-up is a team I can’t root for against a team I don’t really care about.
If you look at the season series, you would likely think that Ottawa should easily win this. The Senators won all four games against the Bruins.
Nearly every other stat, however, suggests that the Bruins are a much better team.
Boston finished with a +23 goal differential to Ottawa’s -4. Boston’s adjusted Corsi% was 55.23 to Ottawa’s 48.41. Boston’s special teams were equally dominant compared to the Senators: PP - Boston 21.7 (7th), Ottawa 17.0 (23rd) / PK - Boston 85.7 (1st), Ottawa 79.7 (22nd)
As we Red Wings fans saw, Erik Karlsson is currently hampered by foot/ankle injuries. If he can’t play at 100%, it’s hard to see Ottawa having a chance. The wild card could be Craig Anderson, who had a very tough season this year emotionally, with his wife’s cancer diagnosis. Anderson had the better year overall, but Rask is still more than capable of stealing a series. Here is their matchup:
Boston has injury troubles too, with Krug and Carlo both injured down the stretch.
Why Wings Fans Should Care:
Because Boston sucks.
You Might Cheer for the Senators If:
You have a soul. You like watching fun Swedish defensemen. You believe in a god that loves us and wants us to be happy.
You Might Cheer for the Bruins If:
You are a Boston fan who has gotten lost and wandered into this preview.
I really want to say Ottawa here. But I think Ottawa winning would be the biggest first round upset. Without a healthy Erik Karlsson, I just can’t see it happening. But, who knows? Maybe Brad Marchand gets confused and accidentally slewfoots Patrice Bergeron. Maybe the Bruins fire Cassidy and replace him with Jack Capuano before the series starts. Bruins in 5
I think that the Eastern Conference champion will come out of the Metro section of the bracket. So, this might be a good place to make an upset pick or two if you are doing a bracket challenge.
So, just how wrong am I?