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Tampa Bay Lighting VS Ottawa Senators

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Ottawa Senators (Seed 1):

The Senators entered the season as one of the most improved teams overall in the league. Trading Hossa to Atlanta for Heatley benefited both squads but especially Ottawa. With Heatley on left wing, Daniel Alfredsson on right and Jason Spezza playing center, the Senators have an efficient and dynamic scoring line. Combined they’ve notched more than 290 points!

On defense Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara have played well. Redden is +36 on the season and almost 40 assists. Chara has been a consistent defensive presence while earning his usual 16-18 goals and providing his typical 40-45 assists.

Prior to injuring his groin in the Olympics when playing for the Czech Republic, Dominik Hasek had been having a stellar season. In 43 games he was 28-10 with a 2.09 GA and a .925 SV%. In the 2003-04 season, the veteran tender had played with the Red Wings in an injury-shortened season. Along with Heatley, he was a key addition to the Senators.

With Hasek out midway through this year, Ray Emery skated into the crease and has been impressive, going 22-10 with a 2.81 GA and a .903 SV% in 39 games. In two previous years in the NHL, Emery had only started a total of 2 games while playing 6. His ability to spell the veteran has been instrumental in the Senators continued dominance of their division and conference.

Hasek is hoping to be ready for the playoffs. Sound veteran leadership at that position, as long as the net minder is healthy, could really be a big help. Other important performers this season have been centers Brian Smolinski and Mike Fisher and defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Brian Pothier.

The Senators have a good combination of new veteran blood, on-going Ottawa players, and young gamers. This team can go all the way, especially if Hasek can make a strong comeback.

Tampa Bay Lightning (Seed 8)

Well one thing is for sure; neither Jon Grahame nor Sean Burke can be considered the equal of Nikolai Khabibulin. When the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2003-04, Khabibulin played magnificently. He took his act to Chicago and although the replacement tenders have shown flashes of solid play, at times they’ve also looked lost in the crease.

Weak defense, low goal scoring and no clear-cut number one guy in the net spell an early exit for the former Stanley Cup champs.

First Round Playoff Series Prediction:

Ottawa over Tampa Bay in 5 games

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