Like every other Caps fan (and Caps player, for that matter), the Caps’ victory over the Rangers left me salivating at the prospect of who our next opponent might be. Most fans I’ve talked to seem to agree that, despite Ryan Miller’s pair of shutouts in the first round, Buffalo would have been the luckiest draw. But in the absence of that possibility, which of the four remaining scenarios is most preferable? I’ve laid out the possible outcomes following tonight’s pair of Game 7s.
Boston and Pittsburgh advance
Without a doubt my favorite option. This would result in matchups between Boston and Philadelphia, and Washington and Pittsburgh. No self-respecting hockey fan would miss a single one of those games. It pairs a vintage rivalry (I’m talking Boston-Philly playoff rivalry from the 1970s) with the hottest rivalry in the NHL today.
Boston and Tampa Bay advance
Having the Caps play Tampa Bay would mean a little bit less public attention on our series (I mean do you see either Versus or NBC turning down a Caps-Pens game? Tampa Bay is sort of a media buzz kill by comparison.) Then again, anyone who’s played Martin St. Louis for as long as we have knows that the Lightning would give us a run for our money.
Montreal and Pittsburgh advance
The Caps play Montreal and Pittsburgh plays Philadelphia. Wow, that’s a good set of matchups, too. The Caps get their rematch against Montreal, and the so-called “Battle of the Keystone State” takes over Pennsylvania. Six-seed or not, this media-gold scenario would not be my preference — Montreal is once again proving to be an extremely capable playoff team.
Montreal and Tampa Bay advance
The Caps play Montreal and Philadelphia plays Tampa Bay. Gosh, Tampa Bay advancing just doesn’t seem to be something I’m enthusiastic about. Philadelphia advances to the conference final with a somewhat less grueling series than the one the Caps would have against Montreal.
Yes, it’s bad luck to get ahead of yourself and start envisioning conference finals, but it wasn’t until I laid out all these options that I realized the likelihood that Philly will be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. They may have needed seven games to beat Buffalo, but especially if Pronger can get back to playing well over 20 minutes per game, they’ll be a real force.
Which match-ups are you hoping for? Do you agree that Philly is likely to advance against any of their three possible opponents?