NHL Playoff Preview: Devils emerge in the East

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Martin Brodeur

CALL ME A JERK; JUST DON'T CALL ME "MARTYPANTS." Future MVP goalie Martin Brodeur plans on leading his New Jersey Devils deep into the NHL postseason yet again.

BUFFALO SABRES (1) vs. NEW YORK ISLANDERS (8)
Dubie, Dubie Doo will be sung by the New York Islanders, who rode two brilliant shootout poke-checks by goalie Wade Dubielewicz against the Devils to secure their first playoff berth since 2004.

The Sabres’ four 30-goal scorers will test an inexperienced netminder in Dubielewicz, who has become a fan favorite since Rick DiPietro went down with a head injury.

In Buffalo’s net is Ryan Miller, who recently beat Don Edwards’ franchise record for most wins in a season. Despite this year’s hype surrounding the coveted eighth playoff spot, the Islanders’ momentum won’t be enough to topple a dynamite Sabres squad. The series will come down to goaltending, and Miller will shine unless his hair catches in the mesh.

Prediction: Sabres in six.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS (2) vs. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (7)
The Lightning boast one of the league’s deadliest scoring combinations in Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, while the Devils have the conference’s undisputed top pressure and iron-man goaltender in Marty Brodeur. Tampa’s fearsome twosome will take its combined 207 points on the road against the league’s leader in wins, starts and shutouts.

Look for Devils general manager and interim bench boss Lou Lamoriello to tighten the reins on an already stingy neutral-zone trap defence, which was considered obsolete by the new rules. Apparently not " the Devils tied for second in the league with a stingy 191 goals allowed this season.

Prediction: Devils in five.

ATLANTA THRASHERS (3) vs. NEW YORK RANGERS (6)
The Thrashers clinched their first ever playoff berth in impressive fashion, finishing third in the East after just missing out last season.

After being benched for the entire third period last Wednesday, Ilya Kovalchuk answered by scoring in his final two games. The Rangers will need to lean on a weak Atlanta penalty kill " 26th in the NHL " with their potent power play, which scored at an 18.6 per cent clip, good for ninth in the league.

Watch out for a sizzling Henrik Lundqvist, who finished the season strong after winning seven straight starts last month.

Prediction: Rangers in seven.

OTTAWA SENATORS (4) vs. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (5)
This four-five matchup is one of the most anticipated in the league, as Sidney Crosby makes his playoff debut. In addition to losing his playoff virginity, Sid the Kid gets to take his shot at an Ottawa Senators team which has folded like origami in the playoffs in recent years despite being a perennial offensive dynamo.

Ray Emery will start in net for the Sens after the Martin Gerber experiment failed. Emery can steal games and will have to avoid the backbreaking goals which characterized Patrick Lalime’s tenure in the nation’s capital.

The teams had a fiery meeting last Thursday, with Pittsburgh edging the Sens 3-2 in Ottawa, so expect fireworks with Tuomo Ruutu and Georges Laraque matched against a tough Sens squad.

Prediction: Penguins in seven.

FUTURE ROUNDS
After accidentally showing up in the Wings dressing room, Brendan Shanahan returns to his teammates at Madison Square Garden only to get shelled by the Sabres in four. Kevin Garnett forgets to deliver Sidney Crosby’s Gatorade AM on time, causing Sid to miss the first game of the series. The Pens get pummeled and the Devils glide into the conference final, where they prevail in seven games.

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