1 SENATORS (52-21-8-1)
8 ISLANDERS (35-34-11-2)
SEASON SERIES Ottawa 2-1-1-0
This season the Senators had a 24-game streak in which they allowed three goals or fewer, the longest such stretch in 48 years.
Ottawa is a deep club that will roll four lines and force a high-tempo game, a strategy that should exhaust a thin New York team. Senators forwards such as Marian Hossa have superior speed and finishing ability, so expect the Islanders to counter by being overly physical, a tactic that slowed Ottawa in the past (box, page 67). The Senators will pound the Islanders' defensemen on the forecheck and wear down big-minute blueliners such as Adrian Aucoin, Roman Hamrlik and Janne Niinimaa. Senators in five.
2 DEVILS (46-20-10-6)
7 BRUINS (36-31-11-4)
SEASON SERIES New Jersey 2-1-1-0
During the regular season the Devils were 33-0-5-1 when entering the third period with a lead.
Expect a—yawn—trapfest: Both teams are experts at clogging the neutral zone. Boston relies heavily on its top line of center Joe Thornton and wings Glen Murray and Mike Knuble, so expect New Jersey to match them with a five-man defensive unit led by center John Madden and blueliner Scott Stevens. If the Devils shut down that line, the Bruins are toast. New Jersey also has a huge advantage with Martin Brodeur, the best goaltender in the game. As of Sunday, Boston was unsure who would start in net. Devils in six.
3 LIGHTNING (36-25-16-5)
6 CAPITALS (39-29-8-6).
SEASON SERIES Washington 3-2-0-0
Washington's Sergei Gonchar (67 points) and Tampa's Dan Boyle (53) finished one-two in scoring among East defensemen.
This series could turn on whether Washington's Jaromir Jagr is the dominant forward he was at times during the season or the invisible player he was down the stretch. Expect the Capitals to attack goalie Nikolai Khabibulin by crashing the crease. Tampa Bay will need its big defensemen, Jassen Cullimore and Pavel Kubina, to keep that area clear. At the same time, the Lightning must stay out of the penalty box because the Washington power play, led by quarterback Gonchar, is strong. Capitals in six.
4 FLYERS (45-20-13-4)
5 MAPLE LEAFS (44-28-7-3)