Stanley Cup Playoffs 2015: Eastern Conference Preview

April may bring a lot of rain showers but it also brings one of the best times in sports: playoff hockey. On Wednesday, April 15, the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs will commence once again. Sixteen teams from the National Hockey League will give it everything they’ve got to win the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. Here’s the breakdown of what to expect out of the Eastern Conference this year:

Ottawa Senators vs. Montreal Canadians: Two Canadian teams such as Montreal and Ottawa playing each other can mean only one thing: excitement. Montreal has been a powerful team this whole season. They finished second in the East and clinched the top spot in the Atlantic Division. Goaltender Carey Price has been red hot all year and will look to continue his stellar play in the postseason. Montreal may have their hands full with the “pesky” Senators though. Ottawa has been a surprise team this season as they have clawed their way into the playoffs. Goaltender Andrew Hammond has gone from an unknown AHL goalie to an incredible NHL goalie. Hammond and Price could be the x-factors for each team depending on how they play. Ottawa is the top wild card seed in the East but they are eager to make their mark in the postseason. This series could very well go seven exciting games

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings: Both of these teams can be offensive juggernauts. Tampa Bay boasts Steven Stamkos, the second-leading goal scorer in the NHL this season, while the Red Wings have the “Magic Man” himself, Pavel Datsyuk. Besides those two stars, each team has lots of depth. Goaltenders will also be a huge factor in this series. Ben Bishop of Tampa Bay is one of the NHL’s elite goalies and is most likely going to start the series for the Lightning. On the other hand, Detroit may have a teeter totter situation in net. Both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek have been sharing games this season for Detroit and that may be the team’s biggest downfall. Star players and goalies will play a great role in this series.

New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: The Rangers are the team to beat this season. They’ve won the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s top team, finished atop the Eastern Conference, and placed first in the Metropolitan Division as well. Pittsburgh on the other hand had a late season collapse. They were near the top of the conference for so many weeks and then took a nose dive towards the bottom. It took them until their last game of the regular season to clinch the last wild card spot in the East. Sidney Crosby and the Penguins will have their work cut out for them. It could be an easy series for the Rangers unless the Penguins can turn things around.

Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders: Washington has always been a good regular season team, yet they have had their struggles making it far into the postseason. Now, they will face the New York Islanders in a playoff series for the first time in 22 years. Washington captain Alex Ovechkin and Islanders captain John Tavares will have all eyes on them as they try to outdo each other. Both teams are very talented and have surprised people this season, but the Islanders may have the edge. They are a young, very skilled team and will look to oust the Capitals early in the playoffs once again.