Salary cap changes dynamic of playoffs

Many upsets could be in the making during the 2009 NHL Eastern Conference playoffs. Fans can thank the salary cap for leveling the playing field and adding increased parity to the game.

The top-seeded Boston Bruins will take on the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens in a battle of original-six franchises that have a long, storied rivalry. The Canadiens’ offensive flare will have to withstand the physicality of a tougher, bigger Bruins team.

Is goaltender Carey Price the second coming of Patrick Roy in Montreal? Can Tim Thomas turn the Bruins’ cinderella season success into postseason glory? Prediction: Bruins in six games.

New York Rangers All-Star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will have to be at his all-time best to stop the No. 2 seed Washington Capitals. Lundqvist must contend with the best player in the world, Alex Ovechkin, to give his team a chance to win this series.

Washington is far from a one-man team, as Alex Semin, Mike Greene and Nicklas Backstom will add to Lundqvist’s woes. The No. 7-seeded Rangers will need gritty play from guys such as Sean Avery and defenseman Marc Staal to throw Washington’s offense off its game. Prediction: Rangers in seven.

The No. 3 seed New Jersey Devils versus the sixth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes should also be a close affair. Carolina has surprised everyone this season and will have to continue playing spoiler if it hopes to contend with a veteran-savvy New Jersey squad. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur is also rested after missing most of the second half of the season with an injury. Prediction: Devils in six.

The battle for Pennsylvania will be waged in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as the Pittsburg Penguins will once again face their cross-state rival, Philadelphia. The Flyers will hold the upper hand when it comes to toughness, but will also need breakout sniper Jeff Carter to continue his scoring ways.

Flyers’ captain Mike Richards is one of the best two-way players in the game and will be looked upon to shut down Pittsburgh’s best players: Sidney Crosby, Evegni Malkin and Bill Guerin. Prediction: Penguins in seven.

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