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Montreal Canadiens Vs Carolina Hurricanes

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Carolina Hurricanes (Seed 2)

Since the 2003-04 NHL season, the last one, the Hurricanes have improved by more than 30 points! In 2003-04, they were not even in the playoffs; this year they hold the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Center Eric Staal leads the team in goals, assists, points and shots on goal. With Cory Stillman and Justin Williams on left wing and right wing respectively, Carolina has an offensive line that creates opportunities. In the conference, they’re second only to Ottawa in goals scored.

Staal, who is playing in only his second NHL season, has shown dramatic improvement, going from a promising player to a premier professional. This season he ranks 6th in points and 8th in goals. Ten-year NHL veteran Cory Stillman provides a stabilizing force on this line. His playoff experience includes one Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay in 2003-04.

On defense much traveled 13-year vet Bret Hedican has had his best year ever with a plus/minus of +13, 22 assists, and 27 points. former Atlanta defenseman Frantisek Kaberle has surpassed past performances with 38 assists, 44 points, and a plus/minus of +8.

Martin Gerber, in his first full NHL season, has been solid with a 38-13-0 record, 2.76 GAA and .906 SAV%. Gerber lacks playoff experience and has never played more than 32 NHL games in a season. Although he’s a rookie, the Swiss goalie is 31 years old and may very well be in his prime. Although injured at the start of the season with a pulled hip muscle, he’s been healthy for a majority of the season.

Carolina has made amazing strides this season and has an especially solid first line. But they will need to play tougher on defense, especially their second and third lines. They’re in the middle of the conference in goals against and the third worst in this category amongst all Eastern Conference playoff teams. These facts do not bode well for the Hurricanes, especially when having to play teams that show offensive depth such as Ottawa or that possess stellar net minding such as New Jersey.

Montreal Canadiens (Seed 7)

The Habs have a tough time playing 60 minutes of hockey and that does not bode well for the consistent, premium play required in the tournament. The defense is good and will seem to be cruising along until they give away the puck in their zone or get caught transitionally by a breakout.

Veteran goalie Jose Theodore (17-15) and rookie Cristobal Huet (18-11) have shared net responsibilities, with Theodore letting in 3.46 goals per game and Huet putting in 2.20 goals a contest. Huet also has a much better save percentage-- .929 save percentage to Theodore’s .881.

This team cannot beat a team that scores 3 or more goals against them. They will be out early.

First Round Playoff Series Prediction:

Carolina over Montreal in 6 games

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