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NHL first round playoff picks: Eastern Conference

Here is part one of my three part preview of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. Today, I take a brief look at the matchups in the first round in the Eastern Conference, and make my picks.

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 New York Rangers

Picking New York is tempting here.The top seed isn't always a lock to beat the eight seed: last year Montreal knocked off Washington in the first round, and this Washington team has seen plenty of postseason let downs in previous years. Both teams play good defense meaning there could be some low-scoring games here. New York will need all the goals it can muster, especially without Ryan Callahan who is out with an injury. In the end, Washington is a more talented team and will take care of business. Washington in 6.            

#2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. #7 Buffalo Sabres                

For most of the year Philadelphia looked like the clear number one team in the East, but they ended the year on a 9-9-7 run and lost that spot to Washington. Despite questionable goaltending and the absence of Chris Pronger (for now at least), this is still a dangerous Philadelphia team. A team that led the East in goals scored for the season, and has plenty of weapons on offense. On the other side is red-hot Buffalo who is 16-5-4 in their last 25 and will benefit from a rested and healed Ryan Miller. Everything has been clicking lately for Buffalo, which includes beating Philadelphia twice over those last 25 games. Buffalo in 5.     

#3 Boston Bruin vs. #6 Montreal Canadiens

Here is a division and original six matchup, this one could get ugly. One year after Tuukka Rask stole the spotlight from Tim Thomas, Thomas is the undisputed starter and top candidate for the Vezina trophy. However, Montreal rode the play of a hot goalie in last year's playoffs and Carey Price could play that role this year. Also hot is Montreal rookie defenseman P.K. Subban who was turning heads with his play down the stretch. I think the difference maker in this series will be Boston's trade-deadline-acquisition Thomas Kaberle who can really get involved on offense. Boston in 6.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. #5 Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay is probably the most one-sided team in these playoffs, they score a lot and get scored on a lot. This means Pittsburgh, even without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, can get an advantage simply by putting a lot of shots on net. However, this Tampa Bay team has a ton of goal scoring potential. Keeping Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos under control will be a tough task for Pittsburgh. If those guys get hot, Tampa Bay could rack up goals. Rumor has it that Crosby will return at some point in this series, with him on the ice, Pittsburgh might be the best team in the East. Pittsburgh in 7. 


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most of the year Philadelphia looked like the clear number one team in the East

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