Playoff matchups

April 21, 1999

Eastern Conference

No. 1 New Jersey (47-24-11) vs. No. 8 Pittsburgh (38-30-14)

1998-99 series record: New Jersey, 4-1-0.

Outlook: Under first-year coach Robbie Ftorek, the Devils earned their third consecutive Eastern Conference title. The pressure is on after last year's disappointing, first-round loss to Ottawa, which followed a second-round exit the year before. The Devils scored 248 goals, second in the league behind Toronto. New Jersey had an NHL-record 28 road victories, and goalie Martin Brodeur (39-21-10) tied Ken Dryden's NHL record with 25 road wins. Brodeur's goals-against average went up almost one-half goal to 2.29. The Penguins exited the playoffs in the first round the past two years and have stumbled heading in this year, finishing 2-8-2 to fall to the eighth spot. Jaromir Jagr won the scoring title for the second straight year with 44 goals and a league-leading 83 assists. Darius Kasparaitis is out for the season, while German Titov (hamstring) and Neil Wilkinson are day-to-day. New Jersey in six games.

No. 2 Ottawa (44-23-15) vs. No. 7 Buffalo (37-28-17)

1998-99 series record: Ottawa, 1-0-4.

Outlook: The Senators earned their third straight playoff berth, ending up two points behind New Jersey for the conference's top spot. Ottawa owned first place heading into the final week, but struggled down the stretch, finishing with a 2-2-5 mark. Alexei Yashin (44 goals, 94 points) emerged as the offensive leader, as Daniel Alfredsson (11 goals, 22 points in 58 games) was bothered by injuries. The expected return of LW Shawn McEachern (31 goals) from a groin-muscle injury should help. Goalie Ron Tugnutt (22-10-8) had a 1.79 GAA -- just 0.02 from equaling the modern NHL record shared by Chicago's Tony Esposito and Toronto's Al Rollins. All five of the regular-season matchups went to overtime, with the last three ending 1-1. Dominik Hasek (30-18-14, nine shutouts), second to Tugnutt with a 1.87 GAA, is likely to win his third straight Vezina Trophy -- fifth in six years -- as the NHL's top goalie. Hasek is the key in this series, as the Sabres will need him to counter Ottawa's considerable edge in shots. Buffalo will also need timely scoring from Miroslav Satan (40 goals, 66 points) and Michael Peca (27 goals, eight of them game-winners) to prolong the series. Ottawa in six.

No. 3 Carolina (34-30-18) vs. No. 6 Boston (39-30-13)

1998-99 series record: Tied, 2-2-1.

Outlook: This is the Hurricanes' first postseason appearance since 1992, when the franchise was the Hartford Whalers. It's also their best season since 1989-90. Carolina finished with a four-game unbeaten streak (2-0-2). Defenseman Sean Hill (cheekbone) is out 2-4 weeks, and could see action if Carolina advances. Captain Keith Primeau (back) and RW Ray Sheppard (shoulder) are day-to-day. Primeau led the team with 30 goals and 62 points. Arturs Irbe (27-20-12, 2.22 GAA) had six shutouts. The Bruins, with the league's worst record two years ago, have become one of the league's top young teams. Boston won seven of nine to close out the season and benefits from losing the season finale to Philadelphia, thereby avoiding a better Toronto team in the first round. Byron Dafoe (32-23-11, 1.99 GAA) led the league with 10 shutouts, becoming the first Boston goalie in 60 years to achieve that feat. Jason Allison led the team in scoring (23 goals, 76 points). Boston in six.

No. 4 Toronto (45-30-7) vs. No. 5 Philadelphia (37-26-19)

1998-99 series record: Philadelphia, 3-1-0.

Outlook: The Maple Leafs, the league's highest-scoring team (268 goals), had six 20-goal scorers. Toronto returns to the postseason after a two-year absence. Leading goal-scorer Sergei Berezin (37 goals, 59 points) may miss the series after suffering a possible fractured cheekbone in a collision in the season finale. Mats Sundin (31 goals, 83 points) led the team in scoring again. Alyn McCauley (concussion) is out indefinitely; Igor Korolev (fractured finger) could be back in a couple of weeks. Curtis Joseph (35-24-7, 2.56 GAA) set a club record for victories. Eric Lindros (43 goals, 93 points) is out indefinitely for the Flyers after surgery to remove a blood clot and complications from a collapsed lung. Mark Recchi (53 points) was cleared to play. Rod Brind'Amour (24 goals, 74 points) takes over as the center on the first line, joined by Mikael Renberg (38 points) and John LeClair (43 goals, 90 points). After a midseason, 24-game unbeaten string (16-0-8), the Flyers lost 11 of the next 17. Philadelphia faces a quick exit without Lindros. Toronto in five.

Western Conference

No. 1 Dallas (51-19-12) vs. No. 8 Edmonton (33-37-12)

1998-99 series record: Dallas, 3-0-1.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.