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NHL playoffs preview: Eastern Conference second round

Will Sidney Crosby find the net in round two?
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

While the Western Conference was full of fun, exciting series, the Eastern Conference was a bit less joyous. Sure, there were a couple very good matchups, and I enjoyed watching Columbus even in defeat, but there was also a sweep and a five game series, and now those two teams play one another in this round. We've got the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens and the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the New York Rangers. All the favorites won in round one out East. Sure, the Habs were technically the lower seed against Tampa Bay, but that was a Lightning team without Ben Bishop. Nobody was surprised by Montreal's win. In this round, that would be different.

Boston Bruins v. Montreal Canadiens: It's always good when these two teams square off, especially when they are both quite good. The Bruins are the best team in the league, and nothing about their easy dispatching of the Detroit Red Wings make me rethink that opinion. There is no better netminder than Tuukka Rask. That was true in the regular season, and it was true in the first round of the playoffs. The Wings had a ton of trouble scoring on the Bruins, and Montreal is not a particularly potent offense in their own right.

Carey Price is a very good goalie too, but he was not great in round one. However, that doesn't worry me too much. He can bounce back, and he will need to. The Habs are only going to win this series in a low scoring affair, because Boston's defense and goaltending is too good to be lured into shootouts, and even then they have a lot of depth and talent on offense. I'm not going to pick against the Bruins as long as they are alive in this postseason. Their track record all season long is just too good. Bruins in six

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers: Now, this series is more up in the air to me. The Penguins got a challenge from the Blue Jackets, but that's not terribly disconcerting, because the Jackets are a good team, and in the end Pittsburgh won in six games. They did that with Sidney Crosby not scoring a single goal either, though he did have six assists. Evgeni Malkin didn't score a goal until the final game, when he broke out with a hat trick. Matt Niskanen and Paul Martin actually led the team in points in round one. That can only be encouraging, and I expect Malkin and Crosby to be fine, although this series is an even tougher challenge for them.

It took the Rangers seven games to beat the Flyers, but there's no shame in that either. Henrik Lundqvist's numbers weren't looking great until the final game, but then he played top notch and boosted his postseason save percentage to .919, and that's a small seven game sample size and doesn't mean much anyway. He's definitely the better goalie in this series, and Marc-Andre Fleury did not look great in round one. New York's questions are about offensive firepower, although both Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis had six points in round one, which is a good sign. Rick Nash is still around, too.

I don't want to read too much into these two teams' performance in round one, but I like what the Rangers did better, and they have the goaltending advantage. I expect this series to go down to the wire, and either team could win. However, I will give the edge to Lundqvist and company. I think they have just enough offense, and have less concerns overall. Rangers in seven

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