The Orion

Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday with Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Sidney+Crosby+raises+the+Stanley+Cup+after+winning+the+final+game+of+the+2017+NHL+playoffs.+Getty+Images%2C+Photo+by%3A+Frederick+Breedon.
Sidney Crosby raises the Stanley Cup after winning the final game of the 2017 NHL playoffs. Getty Images, Photo by: Frederick Breedon.

Sidney Crosby raises the Stanley Cup after winning the final game of the 2017 NHL playoffs. Getty Images, Photo by: Frederick Breedon.

Sidney Crosby raises the Stanley Cup after winning the final game of the 2017 NHL playoffs. Getty Images, Photo by: Frederick Breedon.

Andrew Baumgartner

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs are here and that means exciting hockey is right around the corner.

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The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff bracket in round one. Photo Credit: NHL.com https://bracketchallenge.nhl.com/brackets/create?league=1&name=NHL%20League

Earlier today there was a preview for the Western Conference posted on theorion.com, now we will be looking at the Eastern Conference.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins are looking to win the Stanley Cup for the third year in a row and with the stacked roster they have, they could still do it. Offensively, this team is stacked with the likes of Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and their captain Sidney Crosby. Pittsburgh’ goaltender Matt Murray will need to return to playoff form as he has in the past, if the Penguins want another chance at the Cup.

Pittsburgh has one glaring weakness and that’s their defense. Their defense was their worst part of their game last year, but they still won the Stanley Cup, so maybe there offense will be enough to carry them.

Philadelphia Flyers

After not making the playoffs last year, the Flyers are back and ready to face their in-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers are lead by Claude Giroux who had a phenomenal year, as he was second in the league in points and tied for first in assists. If Giroux can still be a one-man wrecking crew then the Flyers will have a chance.

Philadelphia has had issues at the goaltender position this year, but they are starting Brian Elliot, who has years of experience in the playoffs. The Flyers will need to shut down the Penguins strong offense if they are going to go anywhere in these playoffs. The battle for Pennsylvania will be one of the most entertaining series.

Washington Capitals

Washington is once again in the playoffs, led again by their captain Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin led the league in goals with 49, but will this finally be the year that he leads the Capitals to the finals? The Capitals will need Braden Holtby to return to form, as he has struggled this year. The former Vezina Trophy winner can get hot and steal some games for the Capitals.

Since Ovechkin joined the Capitals 13 years ago, he has won the MVP three times, had the most goals seven times and is a surefire hall of fame candidate. All of those are nice, but Ovi has not even been to the finals. The pressure is on him yet again this year and hopefully he won’t crumble.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay has had an excellent season, taking the Atlantic Division crown by producing the best offense in the league. Led by Nikita Kucherov, who finished third in scoring and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who led the league in shutouts. The Lightning are a well-balanced team on offense and defense and will be a difficult matchup for anyone.

While the Lightning did have the best record in the Eastern Conference, they finished slow. Teams going into the playoffs with little momentum, tend to struggle and if the Lightning can’t get off to a hot start, their playoff run may be short lived.

Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins are playing some fast hockey right now. Their offense is young, balanced and quick and the same can be said for their defense. The Bruins had a tremendous second half of the season, finishing one point behind the Lightning. The Bruins are led in net by their goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has lots of playoff experience.

Their biggest wild card might just be their young roster who may have trouble adjusting to playoff hockey. A team with more veteran players can disrupt this youthful squad. If that’s the case it will be a tough go for the Bruins.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto was the second highest scoring team in the NHL this year, led by a core of young and skillful players in Mitchell Marner, Auston Matthews and William Nylander. None of those players are over the age of 22. The Leafs also added talent in the likes of veterans Patrick Marleau from the Sharks and Tomas Plekanec from the Canadians to help bring leadership to the squad.

Toronto is a fun, young team, but their goaltending has been inconsistent this year and there are question marks among their defensive core. If Toronto doesn’t get solid play from their defense and goalie Frederik Andersen, then it may be a short playoff for them.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets made a key acquisition over the offseason acquiring Artemi Panarin from the Chicago Blackhawks. Panarin then led the team in scoring in 2017-2018 seaosn, outscoring the next player on the roster by 25 points. The Blue Jackets posses an excellent goaltender with plenty of playoff experience in Sergei Bobrovsky.

Columbus does have a glaring problem and that is their goal scoring. They have the least amount of goals scored among the Eastern Conference playoff teams. Columbus will need the other players on its team to step up and score goals if they want to advance.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils didn’t make the playoffs last year. In fact, New Jersey was the worst team in its conference. The 2017-2018 season has truly has been a breakout year for the Devils and their young superstar Taylor Hall. Hall finished the sixth in scoring in the league and scored 41 more points than the next highest scoring player on the roster.

The Devils have almost the same problem as the Blue Jackets, depth scoring. New Jersey has also allowed the second most amount of goals among all playoff teams. Not to mention their goaltending has been pretty subpar. A tough matchup against Tampa Bay could stop them dead in their tracks.

The first game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins at four p.m. Wednesday with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers.

Andrew Baumgartner can be reached at [email protected] or @abaum94 on Twitter.

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Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday with Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers