Eastern Conference

An inside look at the rock 'em, sock 'em matchups in what shapes up to be a tightly contested first round
April 19, 2009

1 Bruins vs. 8 Canadiens

BOSTON HAS the physical edge, led by defenseman Zdeno Chara, a Norris Trophy candidate and the Bruins' tone-setter. Also look for left wing Milan Lucic (6'4", 220 pounds) to confront Montreal right defenseman Mike Komisarek (6'5", 240) in what could be the most physically intense one-on-one matchup of the playoffs. The Canadiens need their middling power play to produce, or there'll be daunting pressure on forwards Alexei Kovalev, Saku Koivu and Alex Tanguay to score at even strength.

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Bruins in Six

2 Capitals vs. 7 Rangers

THE CHALLENGE for New York is to shut down Washington's core of offensively gifted forwards: Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Viktor Kozlov. The Rangers need their steady defense pairing of Dan Girardi and Marc Staal to elevate their play, and they will also use the speed of wingers Nikolai Zherdev and Ryan Callahan to force the Caps' top forwards to play defense. New York pest Sean Avery has to play right on the edge; if he draws too many penalties, his team's in trouble.

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Capitals in Six

3 Devils vs. 6 Hurricanes

CAN CAROLINA'S defense weather New Jersey's forecheck? The Hurricanes like to play a flow game, keeping the puck away from the side boards. The Devils also emphasize speed and skill—expect a big series from 45-goal scorer Zach Parise—though they'll add a dash of smashmouth hockey too. Carolina has to get forwards Eric Staal and Erik Cole going early in the series, but New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur, who missed four months with a biceps injury, could dominate; fatigue is not an issue.

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Devils in Five

4 Penguins vs. 5 Flyers

WELCOME TO a whole lot of nasty. This series will be about Philadelphia center Mike Richards crashing into Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby, about Pittsburgh center Jordan Staal crashing into Philly center Jeff Carter, and about Pittsburgh power forward Bill Guerin grappling with Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen, the Flyers' on-ice leader. Penguins' goalie Marc-André Fleury needs to stand up to a potent power play (third in the East) that's led by Carter and Daniel Bri√®re.

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Penguins in Seven

PHOTOLOU CAPOZZOLAZdeno Chara PHOTOLOU CAPOZZOLANicklas Backstrom PHOTOLOU CAPOZZOLAZach Parise PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO (FLEURY)Marc-André Fleury FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)