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NHL Eastern Conference Playoffs set: Quick analysis of the first-round series

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The Capitals stunned the Rangers at MSG with three first-period goals. The Panthers knew this. So they went out and took care of the Hurricanes, winning their first division title in franchise history and earning the No. 3 seed.

Meanwhile ... the Devils beat the Senators. Which means the Capitals play the Bruins. Which means the Rangers' loss earns them a first-round series against the pesky Sens. Will it come back to haunt them?

New York Rangers (1) vs. Ottawa Senators (8)

Oct. 29: Senators 5, Rangers 4 (SO)
Nov. 9: Rangers 3, Senators 2
Jan. 12: Senators 3, Rangers 0
March 8: Senators 4, Rangers 1

Quick Take: The Senators are not going to be an easy out. Deep scoring, good speed, and enough sandpaper to match the Rangers' toughness. In their games this season, the Senators have preyed on the Rangers' mistakes, and New York's been making an exorbitant amount of them recently. My concern for the Blueshirts this postseason: Their offense giving Henrik Lundqvist the support he hasn't received in recent playoffs. Their power play is zero for its last nine against Ottawa. Leaning: Rangers.

[ Related: A look at all the playoff matchups ]

Boston Bruins (2) vs. Washington Capitals (7)

Jan. 24: Capitals 5, Bruins 3
Feb. 5: Bruins 4, Capitals 1
March 10: Capitals 4, Bruins 3
March 29: Capitals 3, Bruins 2 (SO)

Quick Take: The Capitals had two statement victories in their final two games to earn a playoff berth and then the No. 7 seed. They've beaten the Bruins without Alex Ovechkin, and they've beaten them in Boston late last month in a game that saw scoring ace Jason Chimera ejected and goalie Tomas Vokoun injured. But that Feb. 5 game was a dismantling in D.C. by the Bruins and Tim Thomas. The key here for the B's: Dominate at even strength and neutralize Ovechkin, while crashing Braden Holtby like his name was Roberto. Oh, and find someone to score those big goals Nathan Horton can't score this postseason. Leaning: Bruins. (Unless Obama shows up to his first Capitals games and freaks out Timmy.)

Florida Panthers (3) vs. New Jersey Devils (6)

Nov. 21: Panthers 4, Devils 3
Dec. 13: Devils 3, Panthers 2 (SO)
Jan. 6: Devils 5, Panthers 2
Feb. 11: Panthers 3, Devils 1

Quick Take: Oh, Hockey Gods, why do you smile on us so? Pete DeBoer, who was fired by the Panthers and then hired by the Devils, faces his old organization if not his old team, which barely resembles the group DeBoer coached. Add in Scott Clemmensen, the ex-Marty Brodeur backup, who might be the Panthers' primary goalie, facing Jersey for extra drama. Perhaps the best irony of the playoffs: The Panthers will try to win this series by trapping the Devils' top scorers. Leaning: Devils.

Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (5)

Dec. 8: Flyers 3, Penguins 2
Dec. 29: Flyers 4, Peguins 2
Feb. 18: Penguins 6, Flyers 4
March 18: Flyers 3, Penguins 2
April 1: Flyers 6, Penguins 4
April 6: Penguins 4, Flyers 2

Quick Take: Throw out the regular-season series, and all the acrimony that came with it. This is war. Brutal, physical, nasty, bitching through the media war. Where the Flyers have the advantage: Scoring depth and a toughness to go with it at the forward spot. (The Briere and JVR watch is on.) Where the Penguins have the advantage: Their goalie has a Stanley Cup ring, while the Flyers' guy has flaked out in the playoffs in the last two years. Also, a guy name Sid that seems to show up in the playoffs now and again. Leaning: Flyers.

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