The NHL has two major selling points for it as the playoffs begin. One is Sidney Crosby and how he has a real chance to get to the Stanley Cup Finals this year. The one is the NHL’s other major young star, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, who have had a miracle run to a playoff birth. Ovechkin’s record setting scoring and the Capitals rise to the Southeast Division title made the Capitals the hottest team in the playoffs. But now that Stanley Cup playoff time is here, Ovechkin and the Capitals have to keep their run going against an equally young but more well known team, the Flyers.
The Flyers have been an up and down team all season, but they are currently on one of their hot streaks heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Martin Biron is a rare case of a Flyers goalie being an undisputed starter heading into playoff time, with two big shutouts to wrap up the season. Simon Gange is out and Daniel Briere is questionable, but Mike Richards has become a team leader for the Flyers this season. Jeff Carter, Scotty Upshall, and R.J Umberger also make up a group of promising rising stars for the Flyers. Despite the youth effort, the Flyers are still best known for their hard hitting style, which gave them a reputation as a dirty team early in the season. But with no recent suspensions or controversies, coach John Stevens seems to have settled the Flyers down.
Although the Flyers rebounded from having the worst record in the NHL last year to get back to the playoffs, the Capitals are by far the biggest comeback story. A coaching change and a last place mark in mid season seemed to doom the Capitals to another lost season. But new goaltender Cristobal Huet has won 11 out of 13 games since joining the Capitals after the trading deadline. Former NHL superstar Sergei Federov has settled into a supporting role, and Capitals defenseman Jeff Green led all defenseman with 18 goals this season. There’s also the matter of 65 goals scored by Ovechkin this season as he is poised for his first Hart Trophy.
The NHL and the playoffs in general will get a lot of attention if Ovechkin and the Capitals advance far in the post season. With Ovechkin’s tear and the Capitals storybook run, they would seem destined to go far. But the Flyers still had more points this season than the Capitals, despite being the lower seed. They are both young teams making their first real playoff run in their new eras, so it’s a question of which team rises up first. If Ovechkin handles it okay, the Capitals will continue to ride the momentum. But if the Flyers do not get into one of their slumps and actually play at the top level that they are capable of, they are more than able to end this storybook run early. Ovechkin can win one or two games in this series, but can he win four if he has to?
Predictions: Flyers in 7
Bleacher Report- “NHL Playoffs: Flyers Plan To Entertain This Year’s Cinderella” bleacherreport.com/articles/16869-NHL-Philadelphia_Flyers-Washington_Capitals-NHL_Playoffs_Flyers_Plan_To_Entertain_This_Year_s_Cinderella-080408
FOX Sports- “NHL needs Ovechkin, Crosby to shine in playoffs” msn.foxsports.com/nhl/story/8005400/NHL-needs-Ovechkin,-Crosby-to-shine-in-playoffs