Scouting the rest of the playoffs
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Streaking: Washington was 16-3-1 in its final 20 regular-season games, partly because LW Alex Ovechkin scored seven goals in 12 games. Rangers C Vinny Prospal put up 20 points in the final 21 games.
Difference-makers: Capitals RW Alexander Semin is one of the NHL's top talents but doesn't have a goal in his past 14 playoff games. Losing RW Ryan Callahan (broken leg) is a devastating blow to the Rangers. If New York is to have any chance, G Henrik Lundqvist must be at his best.
Special teams: Washington's power play has underachieved, although its penalty-killing is improved. New York runs hot-and-cold with the extra man, but is fairly strong when short-handed.
Intangibles: Washington is trying to shed its reputation for wilting in the playoffs and to prove it can play championship-caliber defense. The Rangers barely slipped into the final spot in the East, so they should be free of overblown expectations.
Who will win: Capitals in 5.
Streaking: Philadelphia RW Claude Giroux was on a point-per-game roll the past 17 games. The Sabres got into the playoffs with a 16-4-4 closing kick, and LW Thomas Vanek played a large role with seven goals in his final seven games.
Difference-makers: Philadelphia won Cups in 1974 and '75, largely on the strength of G Bernie Parent's brilliance. Even so, the Flyers routinely enter the postseason with unproven or suspect goaltending and will do it again this spring, with rookie Sergei Bobrovsky. Buffalo's hopes will fall largely on the shoulders of Ryan Miller, who hasn't played at the all-world level he reached a year ago but still could steal a series.
Special teams: Neither team has a power play or penalty-killing unit that's anything special, but the Flyers have a knack for scoring short-handed goals, and the Sabres have a penchant for giving them up.
Intangibles: The Sabres are a popular choice to pull an upset after their late-season surge. The Flyers can expect at least part of the home crowd to turn on them the moment they don't perform to expectations, and that has to make it tough to relax and just play.
Who will win: Flyers in 6.
Streaking: Bruins G Tim Thomas, the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy, went 6-1-1 in his final eight regular-season starts. Canadiens C Tomas Plekanec scored just three goals in the past 22 games.
Difference-makers: Remember what G Jaroslav Halak did for the Canadiens last spring? Carey Price, coming off a strong regular season, will have to at least match that to get past the Bruins. Dealing with Boston's size and muscle up front could be tough, and the Canadiens' biggest challenge might be trying to neutralize 6-foot-4, 220-pound LW Milan Lucic, a 30-goal scorer.
Special teams: The Canadiens are decidedly worse than average when playing five-on-five, but a good power play and penalty-killing unit somewhat make up for that. Boston's power play and penalty-killers are ordinary, at best.
Intangibles: The Canadiens have won 24 of the 32 series between these rivals. Of course, there's relentless pressure to win in Montreal, where every shift is subject to excruciating analysis in Canada.
Who will win: Bruins in 6.
Streaking: Canucks LW Daniel Sedin, the NHL scoring champion, scored just one of his 41 goals in the final eight games. RW Marian Hossa put up four points in the Blackhawks' final three.
Difference-makers: Canucks G Roberto Luongo has a history of great regular-season play but hasn't come close to winning a championship, and the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel, are a 1-2 punch with few equals. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews is one of the league's great two-way players and leaders.
Special teams: Both teams possess lethal power plays; the big difference is in penalty-killing. The Canucks are almost as effective at killing penalties as they are at capitalizing on those taken by other teams, but Chicago's work short-handed ranks among the worst in the NHL.
Intangibles: Chicago is the defending Stanley Cup champion and knocked the Canucks out of the playoffs in each of the past two springs. Then again, the Blackhawks are lucky just to be in the playoffs; Vancouver was dominant for most of the season.
Who will win: Canucks in 6.
Sharks - Kings
Streaking: C Joe Pavelski might be the hottest Shark, with six goals in the past 10 games. Although the Kings acquired RW Dustin Penner from Edmonton at the trade deadline to add some punch to their offense, he scored just twice in 19 games.
Difference-makers: San Jose forwards such as C Joe Thornton, RW Dany Heatley and LW Patrick Marleau have the talent to take over a game, and Dan Boyle is an excellent offensive defenseman. Los Angeles' greatest asset is its defense corps, but C Anze Kopitar has an ankle injury and will miss the playoffs.
Special teams: The matchup between the Shark's outstanding power play and the Kings' high-ranked penalty-killing won't necessarily be as good as it looks on paper, because Kopitar played a key role when Los Angeles was short-handed.
Intangibles: San Jose is coming off another excellent regular season. What the Sharks don't want to repeat is the playoff stumble that has become part of their routine. The Kings should be able to play with the looseness that comes with being a heavy underdog.
Who will win: Sharks in 5.
Streaking: Detroit doesn't have anyone who is particularly hot or stuck in a troubling slump. Phoenix defenseman Adrian Aucoin has good offensive skills but just one point in the past 15 games.
Difference-makers: Detroit LW Henrik Zetterberg apparently won't be available for the start of the series because of an injury. If he's out very long, it could tilt the series in the Coyotes' favor. Phoenix captain Shane Doan was the only Coyote to score 20 goals this season, and six were game-winners.
Special teams: Detroit's power play might prove to be too much for Phoenix, and the Coyotes power play isn't likely to cause problems for the Red Wings.
Intangibles: The Red Wings, more than any team in the league, just seem to know how to elevate their game when it matters most and win. That's something the Coyotes still haven't proved they've learned. They haven't won a playoff series since relocating from Winnipeg.
Who will win: Red Wings in 7.
Streaking: No one finished the regular season stronger than Ducks RW Corey Perry, who had 19 goals in the final 16 games. LW Sergei Kostitsyn had an 11-game scoring streak for Nashville before being shut out in the finale.
Difference-makers: Kind of hard to ignore Perry, who almost single-handedly hoisted Anaheim into the postseason. Nashville doesn't have any game-breaking forwards, but D Shea Weber is a force all over the ice and a Norris Trophy candidate.
Special teams: Things -- usually goals -- tend to happen when Anaheim's power play is on the ice. The same is true of its penalty-killing, although Nashville's woeful power play might be that unit's equal, in a perverse sort of way. And the Predators' stingy penalty-killing won't be easy for the Ducks to solve.
Intangibles: Predators coach Barry Trotz gets the most out of his team every regular season, but playoff success has been another matter. His players have to feel some urgency to change that.
Who will win: Predators in 6.
First Published April 13, 2011 12:00 am