2012 NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Vegas Odds, Series Prices and Expert Picks: First-Round Series Predictions: With the 2012 NHL regular season officially in the books, it is time begin one of the greatest postseasons in professional sports. Upsets happen with regularity, and instead of deciding games by a shootout, teams have to endure overtime after overtime if that’s what it takes. This year’s Eastern Conference matchups are particularly interesting. Of the four series, three of the lower-seeded teams actually one the regular season series and tied the higher seed in the remaining matchup. Again, upsets happen on a regular basis in the NHL playoffs, and there is a good chance the Easter Conference will produce a couple in the first round.

2012 NHL Playoffs 1st Round: No. 1 New York Rangers vs. No. 8 Ottawa Senators

While the Rangers had the best record in the Eastern Conference (51-24-7), they did lose three of the four meetings with Ottawa this season. New York has lived and died with goalie Henrik Lundqvist most of the year, and since Lundqvist posted the third-best save percentage in the NHL, the Rangers enjoyed plenty of success. However, the Senators actually scored more goals during the season and managed at least three goals in three of the four meetings with New York in the regular season. Ottawa has a balanced scoring attack, while the Rangers lean heavily on 41-goal scorer Marian Gaborik. If the Senators can limit Gaborik and Lundqvist isn’t brilliant, Ottawa could spring the upset. Given the regular season results, the Rangers have to be worried.

Prediction: Ottawa Senators Win in 7 Games

2012 NHL Playoffs 1st Round: No. 2 Boston Bruins vs. No. 7 Washington Capitals

After winning the Stanley Cup last season, Boston’s attempt at a repeat started by dominating the Northeast Division and grabbing the No. 2 seed. However, a matchup with Washington in the first-round is very dangerous, especially after the Capitals took three out of four from the Bruins during the regular season. Boston goalie Tim Thomas struggled against Washington in the two of the meetings, but after his incredible run through last year’s playoffs, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. More importantly, the Bruins should have a huge advantage when the two sides are at even strength. After all, the top five players in the NHL in terms of plus-minus this year, all play for Boston. Alexander Ovechkin and Jason Chimera will keep the Capitals in the mix, but Thomas and the defending champs should find a way to advance.

Prediction: Boston Bruins Win in 7 Games

2012 NHL Playoffs 1st Round: No. 3 Florida Panthers vs. No. 6 New Jersey Devils

Sometimes, seeding can be very misleading. Florida grabbed the No. 3 seed by winning the Southeast Division, but the Panthers’ 94 points were just the sixth-most in the Eastern Conference and eight less than New Jersey’s 102. In fact, Florida’s opponents scored more points than the Panthers did during the regular season. The edge in momentum definitely goes to the Devils. New Jersey went 7-2-1 in its final 10 games, while the Panthers went 2-3-5 in their final 10 games. Throw in the fact that New Jersey has a pair of 30-plus goal scorers in Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk and a Hall of Fame goalie in Martin Brodeur, and the Devils should take care of business.

Prediction: New Jersey Devils Win in 6 Games

2012 NHL Playoffs 1st Round: No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Philadelphia Flyers

Hockey fans have to love this matchup between two Atlantic Division rivals that plain hate each other. It should be physical, intense and downright ugly. Both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have powerful offenses, but the Penguins finished the season with an NHL-leading 282 goals. They also posted the second-best record in the Eastern Conference but ended up as the No. 4 seed because the top-seeded Rangers also happen to be in the Atlantic Division. After tiling 65 assists during the regular season, the Flyers need center Claude Giroux to continue to keep their well-balanced offense rolling. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh will lean on 40-goal scorer James Neal and 50-goal scorer Evgeni Malkin, as well as the currently-healthy Sidney Crosby. The tipping point could be the in the net, where the Penguins have former Stanley Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury, while Philadelphia has seen its goaltending collapse in back-to-back postseasons.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins Win in 7 Games

Get expert NHL handicapping picks, tips and predictions daily from World Champion Handicapper Sonny LaFouchi(aka The LEGEND) only on NSAwins.com! Plus check out daily updated odds to win the 2012 Stanley Cup!

2012 Vegas Odds to Win NHL Eastern Conference
Pittsburgh Penguins +200
New York Rangers +200
Boston Bruins +465
Philadelphia Flyers +700
New Jersey Devils +1200
Washington Capitals +1400
Florida Panthers +2200
Ottawa Senators +2400

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