The Series Breakdown will take an in-depth look into each of the series in the Eastern Conference Semifinal Round action. This will include: the top players to look for, which players could be the breakout stars, and a series prediction.
1. New York Rangers vs. 4. Washington Capitals
This will be a series where, at times, you’ll wonder where the off button is on the remote. Other times you will not want to keep your eyes off of it. The Mats Zuccarello injury will be significant and Eric Fehr’s too, as he will be out for at least Game 1. Martin St. Louis will have a bigger role, and as he approaches 40 and the skills diminish, that will be a crap shoot. Rick Nash and Alex Ovechkin sound like a fun DFS battle of sorts. Then there is Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby. The two goalies actually had rather similar numbers in Round 1. Now, the Washington power play against a Ranger defense getting Kevin Klein back has a good bit of intrigue to it. There is potential, but does it get realized at all? That is the key to his series. Remember, the Rangers won four games in the last round by a 2-1 score. That does not inspire offensive confidence. Even the Capitals struggled to get to almost 2.5 goals per game in the last round. I see a trend, and it is not good. Hopefully, some offense shines through.
Players to Watch
- Rick Nash
- Martin St. Louis
- Alex Ovechkin
- Braden Holtby
Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Capitals. Once he was given a chance, Kuznetsov took advantage of it. His ice time has risen steadily, and so has his production. Kids are not expected to produce like this, and his goal in Game 7 against the Islanders was a real eye opener. Now, the Rangers are going to make it tougher on the young player, unlike what the other New York team did. However, space does open, and it does not take much for Kuznetsov. As the stakes rise, does the rookie have it in him? We will find out!
I have the Capitals over the Rangers in seven games. Feasibly, this series could tilt toward the Rangers if St. Louis steps up really well. There will be lots of subplots in this Game 1 and a few will play out. DFS users should be ready unless something dramatically changes.
2. Montreal Canadiens vs. 3. Tampa Bay Lightning
You have two goalies that are absolutely on top of their game. Carey Price shut down the Ottawa Senators with 40+ saves in a Game 6 clincher. Then Ben Bishop shut out the Detroit Red Wings which really came out of nowhere. With that, Tampa survived, winning 2-0 over Detroit in that Game 7. Meanwhile, Montreal had a few extra nights to rest, as this series starts on Friday night. The Canadiens have to get that power play going as they go up against a younger and faster Lightning team. Tampa Bay drove Montreal nuts and during the regular season, and Carey Price was ordinary with over a 3.00 GAA and a save percentage a good bit under .900. Bishop looked rather good under the circumstances. The fun part is Tampa’s record against the teams left in the playoffs is very good (actually the best overall). Hopefully, something gets Steven Stamkos going because Tampa Bay is going to need his scoring prowess to win this series. Ben Bishop is now healthy, and that has to be very encouraging.
Players to Watch
- Max Pacioretty
- Carey Price
- Tyler Johnson
- Nikita Kucherov
Here is where we go contrarian and pick Alex Killorn. His speed and hands are going to be heavily in need against a Montreal team that can create pace. His minutes have been rather good, and he has been looking great so far. Killorn provides match-up headaches for the Habs, and any kind of speed does kill. His special teams work and pairing with Steven Stamkos makes him a cheap, yet attractive alternative.
Tampa Bay will take down Montreal in seven games. It will be a heck of a series, but Carey Price is a true difference maker, where, at some point, Ben Bishop may show a few more deficiencies. The big thing is Tampa has the more efficient power play advantage. Price will be amazing, and yet, it will not be enough as the Bolts find a way to grind it out.