Eastern Conference Round 2 series previews and picks

Eastern Conference Round 2 series previews and picks

Eastern Conference Round 2 series previews and picks

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Season series: 5-3 Rangers (two New York wins were in OT)

This will be a heck of a series between what could be the two best teams in the Eastern Conference right now.

Pittsburgh breezed through its first round in four games over a lame duck Ottawa squad while New York continued its season dominance over New Jersey by winning in five games. Don’t be surprised if the winner of this series goes on to the Stanley Cup finals.

The Penguins covered the puckline in all four games in Round 1 by averaging four goals per game, but it’s their defensively play that is quietly getting the job done. Not only is goalie Marc-Andre Fleury playing well, but the Pens are playing a great system across the board and limiting opponents’ scoring chances.

Eight of Pittsburgh’s last 10 games have played under and the club has only allowed more than two goals once in its last 10. There is value in the under with Pittsburgh right now, though the Pens face a club that can pot some goals.

The Rangers scored 19 goals in five games against New Jersey and wore Devils goalie Martin Brodeur down so much that he’s too deflated to play for Team Canada in the upcoming IIHF Hockey World Championships.

Jaromir Jagr’s emergence is the best news for Rangers fans coming out of Round 1 though. He is tied for the team lead with eight points and appears to have woken up after a quiet regular season. He’ll need to outshine at least one of the Penguins’ stars like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in order for New York to advance because Pittsburgh is also getting all kinds of production. 

Pick: Penguins in seven games

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens

Season series:  7-1 Montreal

Three teams won a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs, though only one team had its fans tear the city apart after the victory.

Canadiens fans thought it would be a good idea to destroy 16 police cars and unleash fury on the city following the Habs’ series win over Boston. What they should have been doing is breathing a sigh of relief.

Montreal is lucky to have gotten past the No. 8 seed in the East and the team will need better to beat a hot Flyers team.

These two clubs had the best power plays of the regular season and Philly kept its PP going by scoring eight goals in its seven-game series with Washington. Unfortunately, the Flyers also allowed eight power play goals and the Habs could use some of that penalty killing after they scored just three times on the man advantage against Boston.

Montreal is back to its boring style of hockey where it dumps the puck in and cycles it as long as possible until it can produce a shot of some kind. It is hard on the eyes and it might have worked against Boston, but it will be tougher against a faster and deeper Philly squad.

Goaltending, home ice and star power will likely be the three biggest factors in this game. The Habs saw a combination of sensational and soft goalkeeping from Carey Price throughout the series with the Bruins while Martin Biron was steady but not spectacular for the Flyers against the Caps. I’m not really sure what’s better, but I’m thinking it could add up to some over bets.

Both teams carried great home crowds through the first round, so if the Flyers can split the first two games with Montreal, they’ll be in good shape. Philly also has the top two scorers in the playoffs so far in Daniel Briere and Vaclav Prospal. Montreal is going to have to find a way to slow them without taking penalties.

The good news for the Habs is they have their captain back, Saku Koivu. They always seem to play with more heart when he’s in the lineup, even when he’s not on the scoresheet. He has three points in two games for Montreal since returning from a broken foot and could be the difference in this series.

Pick: Montreal six games

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