Eastern Conference Breakdown
Posted: Thursday May 06, 1999 01:11 PM
We've enlisted the help of SI's Kostya Kennedy to break down the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. His thoughts and predictions follow. To take a look at his preview for the second round in the Western Conference, click here.
Toronto Maple Leafs (4) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (8)
As the Pens proved against the Devils, the Penguins can score even without league MVP Jaromir Jagr . Alexei Kovalev is playing very well, as is Martin Straka and now that Jagr is over his groin injury he gives Pittsburgh unparalleled game-breaking potential. Of course in the Philadelphia series the Leafs showed they can be outplayed and still win, in part because they have offensive minded players -- both forwards and defensemen -- who are excellent at capitalizing on small defensive mistakes. They also have star goalie Curtis Joseph , who thrives most when he's tested. Pittsburgh will test him plenty.
The Maple Leafs will win if: CuJo bars the door ... Jagr gets another groin injury ... their young players don't get unnerved as the pressure mounts ... Tie Domi makes some Penguins feel afraid.
Boston Bruins (6) vs. Buffalo Sabres (7)
The Bruins will look to exploit the Sabres' thin defense with forwards like Jason Allison , Anson Carter and Dimitri Khristich . The maturation of Joe Thornton is being sped up in this postseason, and he has played well.
The Sabres made such easy work out of Ottawa in part because they have so many gritty, two-way forwards ( Michael Peca , Vaclav Varada , Dixon Ward ). They also have Dominik Hasek , who needs only a Stanley Cup ring to lay a claim to the title Greatest Goalie Ever.
The Bruins will win if: Underrated goalie Byron Dafoe has a couple of great games ... they get a four-goal output against Hasek early in the series, and thus gain confidence against him ... Sergei Samsonov handles the puck a lot.
The Sabres will win if: They don't make many defensive gaffes ... Miroslav Satan has a devil of a series ... they split or better in the first two games in Boston.
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.