There will be a new Stanley Cup champion crowned in June, with sixteen NHL teams battling for hockey's ultimate trophy. Get primed for the Stanley Cup playoffs with's postseason preview of each Eastern Conference first-round series matchup.


Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators

There may not be a more magical story from the 2014-2015 NHL season than the Ottawa Senators, dead in the water six weeks ago and driving to a playoff berth on the back of third-string goaltender Andrew Hammond, who had been struggling in the AHL. But it hasn’t just been a miraculous run of goaltending; the Sens have improved their possession numbers under new head coach Dave Cameron and the development of rookie forwards Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman played a big part in Ottawa’s playoff push.

Mark Stone

The Senators were 3-1 head-to-head against Montreal this season, but the Canadiens are the higher seed after winning the Atlantic Division with 110 points. Both teams have superstar defencemen (Karlsson vs. Subban) that can control play and the one that does it better could make the difference.

The Habs have the worst possession stats of any Eastern Conference playoff team, but they have an elite goal-scorer (Pacioretty) and they’ve been able to rely on Carey Price to overcome any shot deficits; the question is whether Price’s pedigree is enough to give the Canadiens a real goaltending advantage in a seven-game series. - By Scott Cullen

Season Series


Senators won season series 3-1-0

Dec. 20 OTT 1 @ MTL 4 Price (24/25) Lehner (25/29)
Jan. 15 MTL 1 @ OTT 4 Anderson (25/26) Tokarski (31/34)
Feb. 18 MTL 2 @ OTT 4 Hammond (42/44) Tokarski (35/38)
Mar. 12 OTT 5 @ MTL 2 Hammond (27/29) Price (23/28)

Travis Yost's Analytic Storyline

Perhaps more important than Ottawa's 3-1-0 record against Montreal this year? Their 5-on-5 dominance in those games. Ottawa enjoyed 53 per cent of possession and 58 per cent of the scoring chances in their four match-ups this season.

Craig Button's Pick

With Carey Price, the Habs have the best goals against in the league and we saw how that worked for the Kings last spring. They have great success when they score first and only Washington was better in that regard. The Senators aren't about about any one player, but about a group and the momentum would seem to favour them. But the MVP is on Montreal's side and they advance.


Montreal Canadiens

  Projected Lineup  
Carey Price P.K. Subban Andrei Markov
Dustin Tokarski Jeff Petry Alexei Emelin
  Nathan Beaulieu Greg Pateryn
  Sergei Gonchar Tom Gilbert
Alex Galchenyuk Tomas Plekanec Brendan Gallagher
Max Pacioretty David Desharnais P.A. Parenteau
Jacob De La Rose Lars Eller Dale Weise
Brandon Prust Torrey Mitchell Devante Smith-Pelly
  Manny Malhotra Brian Flynn

Canadiens' Injuries: D Tom Gilbert, upper body (day-to-day), LW Max Pacioretty, upper body (day-to-day)


Ottawa Senators

  Projected Lineup  
Andrew Hammond Marc Methot Erik Karlsson
Craig Anderson Patrick Wiercioch Cody Ceci
  Mark Borowiecki Eric Gryba
  Chris Phillips Jared Cowen
Clark MacArthur Kyle Turris Mark Stone
Milan Michalek Mika Zibanejad Bobby Ryan
Erik Condra Jean-Gabriel Pageau Curtis Lazar
Mike Hoffman David Legwand Alex Chiasson
Colin Greening Zack Smith Chris Neil

Senators' Injuries: D Chris Phillips, undisclosed (indefinitely)


New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Rangers were close last season, losing to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. And they have a team that has a legitimate chance to return to the Final this season. To last year’s not-quite-ready squad, they added rookie centre Kevin Hayes and made a deadline deal for puck-moving defenceman Keith Yandle.

Crosby, Penguins celebrate

The Rangers were 3-0-1 against the Penguins this season and the Penguins are fighting an uphill battle due to injuries, especially on defence. While the Rangers could be missing Kevin Klein, the Penguins are without at least Kris Letang and Olli Maatta while Christian Ehrhoff has played just six games since the beginning of February. That personnel issue on the blueline is going to be the biggest challenge for the Penguins to overcome, but it’s not the only one, because they’re also not getting enough production from forwards aside from Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

On the plus side for the Penguins, they have better possession numbers than the Rangers, but it’s not unreasonable for the Blueshirts to expect a goaltending edge (Lundqvist vs. Fleury) to be enough to make the difference tin his series. - By Scott Cullen

Season Series


Rangers won season series 3-0-1

Nov. 11 PIT 0 @ NYR 5 Lundqvist (33/33) Fleury (30/35)
Nov. 15 NYR 2 @ PIT 3 (SO) Fleury (29/31) Lundqvist (36/38)
Dec. 8 PIT 3 @ NYR 4 (OT) Lundqvist (32/35) Fleury (25/29)
Jan. 18 NYR 5 @ PIT 2 Lundqvist (32/34) Fleury (13/17)

Travis Yost's Analytic Storyline

A classic depth vs. power battle. The Penguins enjoy about 58 per cent of the goals with their top line on the ice, but see that number slip to 49.4 per cent when he comes off. The Rangers, on the other hand, still see 54.1 per cent of the goals when their top line is off of the ice.

Craig Button's Pick

The Rangers are the only team in the NHL that is Top 3 in goals for and goals against. Meanwhile, the Penguins limp into the playoffs having gone 3-5-2 in their last ten games and their penalty killing and save percentage were near the bottom as well. The Rangers are just too much for the Penguins.


New York Rangers

  Projected Lineup  
Henrik Lundqvist Ryan McDonagh Dan Girardi
Cam Talbot Marc Staal Dan Boyle
  Keith Yandle Matt Hunwick
  Chris Summers Kevin Klein
Rick Nash Derick Brassard Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider Derek Stepan J.T. Miller
Carl Hagelin Kevin Hayes Martin St. Louis
Tanner Glass Dominic Moore James Sheppard
    Jesper Fast

Rangers' Injuries: D Kevin Klein, arm (day-to-day)


Pittsburgh Penguins

  Projected Lineup  
Marc-Andre Fleury Paul Martin Ben Lovejoy
Thomas Greiss Rob Scuderi Ian Cole
  Derrick Pouliot Taylor Chorney
  Christian Ehrhoff Brian Dumoulin
  Scott Harrington  
Daniel Winnik Sidney Crosby Patric Hornqvist
Chris Kunitz Evgeni Malkin David Perron
Beau Bennett Brandon Sutter Steve Downie
Nick Spaling Maxim Lapierre Blake Comeau
    Craig Adams

Penguins' Injuries: LW Pascal Dupuis, blood clots (out), D Olli Maatta, shoulder (out), D Christian Ehrhoff, upper body (day-to-day), D Kris Letang, concussion (out), D Derrick Pouliot, upper body (day-to-day)


Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings legend and Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman gets to have his current team face the team for which he starred as a player. Tampa Bay was 3-1 against Detroit this season, with a shootout win included. Both teams have strong possession stats, over 53 per cent of shot attempts at 5-on-5, though both slipped some late in the season.

Steven Stamkos Ben Bishop

The Lightning’s Triplets (second-year forwards Palat, Johnson and Kucherov) have proven to be daunting matchup for opponents, and it gives the Lightning some flexibility in how they use Steven Stamkos’ line. A more pressing concern for Tampa Bay has been getting healthy on the blueline. They could start the playoffs without Jason Garrison and Andrej Sustr, but Braydon Coburn is set to return after getting hurt in his fourth game after he was acquired from the Flyers at the deadline.

Detroit is in the playoffs for the 24th straight year and they have enough talent that they could cause the Lightning problems. Veterans Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg remain productive and Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist are emerging offensive talents, so they may be able to score enough to keep pace. Goaltending (Bishop vs. Howard) will likely make a difference and it’s not inconceivable that the backups (Vasilevskiy vs. Mrazek) could be required at some point in the series. - By Scott Cullen

Season Series


Lightning won season series 3-1-0

Nov. 9 TB 4 @ DET 3 (SO) Bishop (17/20) Howard (27/30)
Jan. 29 DET 1 @ TB 5 Bishop (27/28) Mrazek (10/15)
Mar. 20 DET 1 @ TB 3 Bishop (30/31) Howard (29/31)
Mar. 28 TB 0 @ DET 4 Mrazek (23/23) Bishop (19/22)

Travis Yost's Analytic Storyline

Tampa Bay comes into the postseason with perhaps the league's most dominant even-strength offense (first in goals at 2.75 per 60; eighth in shot attempts at 55.9/60). If there's one team that can slow this relentless attack down, it's perhaps Detroit. The Red Wings finished the year tops in the league at shot-suppression, conceding just 45.9 attempts per game.

Craig Button's Pick

The Lightning were the highest scoring team in the NHL and Ben Bishop begins the playoffs healthy. Detroit were a .500 team for most of the second half with some inconsistent goaltending. A healthy Steven Stamkos and Bishop and the presence of one of the NHL's best lines in Palat, Johnson and Kucherov is too much for the Winged Wheel.


Tampa Bay Lightning

  Projected Lineup  
Ben Bishop Victor Hedman Anton Stralman
Andrei Vasilevskiy Matt Carle Braydon Coburn
  Nikita Nesterov Mark Barberio
  Jason Garrison Luke Witkowski
Alex Killorn Steven Stamkos Ryan Callahan
Ondrej Palat Tyler Johnson Nikita Kucherov
Vladislav Namestnikov Valtteri Filppula Cedric Paquette
Jonathan Drouin Brian Boyle J.T. Brown
Brenden Morrow    

Lightning Injuries: D Jason Garrison, upper body (not ready for start of playoffs), D Andrej Sustr, upper body (day-to-day)


Detroit Red Wings

  Projected Lineup  
Peter Mrazek Jonathan Ericsson Niklas Kronwall
Jimmy Howard Kyle Quincey Danny DeKeyser
Jonas Gustavsson Brendan Smith Marek Zidlicky
  Jakub Kindl Alexei Marchenko
Henrik Zetterberg Pavel Datsyuk Darren Helm
Tomas Tatar Riley Sheahan Gustav Nyquist
Drew Miller Luke Glendening Tomas Jurco
Stephen Weiss Joakim Anderson Teemu Pulkkinen
Justin Abdelkader Landon Ferraro Dan Cleary

Red Wings' Injuries: RW Johan Franzen, concussion (out), LW Erik Cole, spinal cord (out), LW Justin Abdelkader, hand (day-to-day)


Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders

The Capitals' underwhelming playoff record has led to a series of coaching changes and vociferous criticism of Alexander Ovechkin despite one of the better scoring records in playoff history. That's why Barry Trotz was brought in - to transform the Capitals into a team that could win in the playoffs and Ovechkin into a responsible player. Trotz has accomplished the latter (for the most part), but can he accomplish the second starting with the Capitals' first round showdown with the Islanders?

Alex Ovechkin

Washington was 2-0-2 vs. the Islanders during the regular season. Their series represents the only match-up of teams who both missed the playoffs last season and one of the closest match-ups on paper.

To be determined is how it plays out on ice. Washington has the edge in goaltending (Holtby vs. Halak) while the two teams are virtually even steven in superstars (Ovi vs. Tavares), 5-on-5 scoring and possession. The Caps have a definitive edge on the power play – scoring on a league-high one out of every four chances - and the Islanders wield a similar edge. Both teams are among the league's most improved possession teams, each upgrading to the 52-53 per cent range. So, what could the difference be between a pair of teams separated by overtime goals and a shootout goal in three of their regular season meetings? - By Scott Cullen

Season Series


Capitals won season series 2-0-2

Nov. 26 WAS 2 @ NYI 3 (OT) Halak (25/27) Holtby (32/35)
Nov. 28 NYI 2 @ WAS 5 Holtby (26/28) Johnson (22/26)
Dec. 29 WAS 3 @ NYI 4 (OT) Halak (23/26) Holtby (35/39)
Feb. 21 NYI 2 @ WAS 3 (SO) Holtby (30/32) Johnson (25/27)

Travis Yost's Analytic Storyline

The Capitals and Islanders are trending in different directions in shot suppression: The Caps improved marginally from 28 shots per 60 minutes in the first half of the season to 27, while the Islanders have gone from an average of 26 shots against to 29 (but remain in the top half of the league).

Craig Button's Pick

The Islanders generate opportunities, don't take a lot of penalties and Jaroslave Halak has been a key to their turnaround. Braden Holtby is the forgotten goalie this season with the second-most wins, Top 5 in goals against and Top 10 in save percentage. Holtby should be the difference in this series as the Caps advance.


Washington Captials

  Projected Lineup  
Braden Holtby Brooks Orpik John Carlson
Justin Peters Karl Alzner Matt Niskanen
  Tim Gleason Mike Green
  Dmitry Orlov  
Alex Ovechkin Evgeny Kuznetsov Joel Ward
Marcus Johansson Niklas Backstrom Troy Brouwer
Brooks Laich Eric Fehr Jay Beagle
Curtis Glencross Michael Latta Jason Chimera
  Andre Burakovsky Tom Wilson

Capitals' Injuries: RW Tom Wilson, head (day-to-day)


New York Islanders

  Projected Lineup  
Jaroslav Halak Nick Leddy Johnny Boychuk
Michal Neuvirth Brian Strait Calvin de Haan
  Thomas Hickey Lubomir Visnovsky
  Matt Donovan Travis Hamonic
Nikolay Kulemin John Tavares Ryan Strome
Josh Bailey Frans Nielsen Kyle Okposo
Anders Lee Brock Nelson Michael Grabner
Matt Martin Casey Cizikas Cal Clutterbuck
Tyler Kennedy Mikhail Grabovski Colin McDonald

Islanders' Injuries: C Mikhail Grabovski, concussion (day-to-day), D Travis Hamonic, lower body (indefinitely)