NHL First Round Playoff Predictions: Eastern Conference

The NHL Playoffs are here, fans are salivating to watch all the teams duke it out for the most coveted prize in hockey, the Stanley Cup.

There are some interesting match ups in the first round that few would have expected.

Who is most likely to move on to the next round of play in the Eastern Conference? Let's get to it...

New York Rangers (1) Vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (4)

Pittsburgh barely made it through the regular season to qualify for the playoffs, after the Penguins recent collapse the consistent power house New York Rangers will look to take advantage of their struggling opponents.

The good thing about the playoffs is that every team gets a clean sweep of their mistakes from the regular season. Pittsburgh will hope that this fresh start brings new life to a team that looked to be dying.

The talented roster of the Pittsburgh Penguins cannot be dismissed. The Penguins have two of the top superstars in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and let's not forget about all the other quality players on the team as well.

A lot of the key Penguins players from their Stanley Cup win in 2009 are still on the team and they desperately want to have that feeling again.

However, the Penguins face a well oiled machine in the New York Rangers. They do have a couple of star caliber players but that is not what makes this team great. They have a system, a team chemistry, that seems untouchable. The Rangers have a lot of experienced veterans that may be the special ingredient to this team's success.

The Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals last year and hope to do the same this year, but this time they want to win, and they certainly have the potential to do so.

Prediction: New York Rangers win in 7 games

Montreal Canadiens (1) Vs. Ottawa Senators (4)

Ottawa is currently the hottest team in the NHL, they made a miraculous climb up the standings to clinch a playoff spot, finishing in the first wild card spot. If you were to ask people if they thought Ottawa had a playoff chance they would have thought you were crazy, well they do and they're ready.

This series will truly be a battle of goaltending. Montreal has easily the best goalie in the NHL in Carey Price, and Ottawa has the hottest goalie in the NHL in Andrew Hammond. Price has been in playoff situations before while Hammond will have his first real test with the Senators. 'The Hamburgler' will either live up to the hype or crumble under pressure.

This comes down to a team of consistency, the Montreal Candiens, facing off against a team on a hot streak that came on late in the season, the Ottawa Senators.

Prediction: Ottawa Senators win in 6 games

Tampa Bay Lightning (2) Vs. Detroit Red Wings (3)

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been a real powerhouse this season and look to pose a real threat in the playoffs, being a team that few want to face. With Steven Stamkos leading the team and all the up and coming stars like Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin, the Lightning are set offensively. Let's not forget about their goaltender, Ben Bishop, who has been great this season.

Few expect the Detroit Red Wings to come out of this series, but they can never be dismissed. The Wings have been the model of consistency in the NHL for over two decades now, being in the Playoffs every year for the past 23 years. Their most recent success came in 2008 when they won the Stanley Cup. Key players Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were on that cup winning team and will look for glory again.

The possible achilles heal for this Red Wings team will be their goaltending, there has been little consistency in either of their goaltenders, Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek. This is where the Bolts have the advantage and will look to light the lamp several times throughout the series.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning win in 5 games

Washington Capitals (2) Vs. New York Islanders (3)

The Washington Capitals came on strong near the end of the season, after being in a wild card spot they were able to finish in second place in the Metropolitan Division. There is no doubt who the Capitals supporters will rely on come playoff time, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The two have put on a clinic, with the great 8 scoring the goals to once again lead the league and Backstrom setting him up on nearly every attempt.

The Capitals take on a New York Islanders team who have been great this season. John Tavares was in the mix for the Art Ross trophy and Jaroslav Halak has been exceptional in net. The new addition of Johnny Boychuk in the offseason brought a real veteran presence for the Islanders blue line. The whole Islanders team has great chemistry and play a very sound game that any coach would be proud of.

The downfall for the Islanders could be their lack of experience and veterans on the team, they are a very young club that may need to wait a little bit longer for playoff glory. The Washington Capitals have their issues also, if for whatever reason Ovechkin and Backstrom can't produce points, they really don't have much to rely on except their great goalie, Braden Holtby.

This is easily the toughest match up to predict in the Eastern Conference. The two teams are so tightly matched the winner could be a toss up. One advantage that the Washington Capitals have is home ice advantage, so that could be the deciding factor.

Prediction: Washington Capitals win in 7 games

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