The NHL regular season wrapped things up this past Saturday and now the real season gets underway as the top eight teams in each conference begin their quest for a coveted Stanley Cup title.
The following is a brief look at each of the four best-of-seven opening-round matchups in the Eastern Conference along with a few key facts and figures to help handicap the games.
No.8 Ottawa Senators vs. No.1 New York Rangers
Ottawa fell to the eighth seed in the East with a three-game losing streak to close-out the regular season. It actually lost eight of its last 13 games with a 2-2 record in overtime. The Senators were 20-17-4 at home this season and 21-14-6 on the road. They had a +1129 return on the money line and a 47-35 record against the puck line.
New York was at the top of the conference for a good part of the second half of the season and held off a late charge by Pittsburgh to post the most points in the East with 109. The Rangers were 27-12-2 at home and an impressive 24-12-5 on the road in the regular season but had a 38-44 record against the puck line. Their return on the money line was +676.
The Senators won the season series 3-1 and have won six of the last 10 meetings going back to the 2010 regular season. The total has stayed ‘under’ in three of the last five meetings. Both teams have done a good job at putting the puck in the net this season, but New York has the edge defensively with the third-best goals-against-average in the league at 2.22.
No.7 Washington Capitals vs. No.2 Boston Bruins
Washington had to battle its way into the postseason with four crucial wins in its last five games. It finished with 92 overall points and a record of 42-32-8. The Capitals are 26-11-4 at home this year but just 16-21-4 on the road. They are 35-47 against the puck line and have a -816 return on the money line.
The defending champions locked-up the Northeast Division title and the second-seed with 102 points. Boston comes into the playoffs in good form with a 7-2-1 record to close-out the season. It is 24-14-3 at home and 25-15-1 on the road. The Bruins are also 35-47 against the puck line, but they have a +654 return on the money line.
The Capitals won three of four from Boston this year including two straight road wins as steep underdogs. Washington is now 5-2 in its last seven trips to Boston and the total has stayed ‘under’ in five of the last six meetings there.
No.6 New Jersey Devils vs. No.3 Florida Panthers
New Jersey quietly strung together six straight victories to finish the regular season with 102 points and an overall record of 48-28-6. The Devils are 24-13-4 at home this year while they are 24-15-2 on the road overall, they are just 4-4 in their last eight road games. New Jersey is 44-38 against the puck line but has a -712 return on the money line.
It went down to the final game of the season, but the Panthers held off Washington for the Southeast Division title with a record of 38-26-18 and 94 points. They were 21-9-11 at home but and even 17-17-7 on the road. Florida is 42-40 against the puck line and a costly -1057 on the money line.
The season series was tied 2-2 with each team winning once at home and once on the road. The total went 2-1-1 in the four games. Both teams were ranked in the top half of the league in average goals allowed, but the Panthers were ranked 27th out of 30 in scoring with a goals-per-game average of 2.40.
No.5 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No.4 Pittsburgh Penguins
Philadelphia stumbled down the stretch with just three wins in its last seven games, but held onto the fifth spot in the East with 103 points. It was 22-13-6 at home and 24-13-7 on the road. The Flyers have the worst return on the money line of any of the 16 playoff teams at -1825 and are 29-53 against the puck line.
The Penguins come into the playoffs with a head of steam after posting the second-most points in the East with 108. The return of Sidney Crosby has provided a spark that helped carry Pittsburgh to the conference’s best record at home at 29-10-2. It is 43-39 against the puck line and has the highest return in the NHL on the money line at +2767.
There is no love lost between these two teams as Philadelphia brawled its way to a 4-2 series lead this season. It won two of three on the road and the total went ‘over’ in three of the last five meetings. The Flyers are now 5-1 in their last six trips to Pittsburgh.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.