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NHL Playoff Predictions: SB Nation Hockey Writers Make Eastern Conference Picks

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The 2011 NHL playoffs begin on Wednesday night, and like everybody else on the Web, we here at SB Nation have put together our not-so-expert picks. We begin with the Eastern Conference, selecting winners in each of the four Quarterfinal series. 

No. 1 Washington Capitals vs. No. 8 New York Rangers

Travis Hughes: The Rangers have played well against the Capitals this season and will surely give them fits in a series that will be long and grueling. Henrik Lundqvist will be a horse for the Rangers and will give them a chance, but ultimately, Marian Gaborik and Chris Drury won't be able to make up for what New York lost when Ryan Callahan went down. Caps in seven. 

Mike ChenDespite the 1-8 matchup, this one is much closer than people might think. The Rangers will block a ton of shots and Henrik Lundqvist will steal at least one game, but Washington's talent -- dormant in the regular season -- overcomes the Blueshirts' gritty style. Caps in seven.

Steve LeporeHenrik Lundqvist is terrific, but not enough to steal this series. The Caps will get enough goaltending and defense to move on. Caps in six.

Zachary ZielonkaThe Washington Capitals have changed themselves from when they Presidents Trophy last year. The fact that they are defensive minded will help them, plus the motivation of getting bounced in the first round last year as well. Caps in six.

No. 2 Philadelphia Flyers vs. No. 7 Buffalo Sabres

TH: Chris Pronger might not be back in time for Game 1, but he'll almost certainly be back shortly there after. His return will be the only boost the Flyers need to dispatch the Sabres. Flyers in six. 

MC: The Jekyl-and-Hyde play from the Flyers levels out, especially with a still-hurt Chris Pronger coming back into the fold. Philly's forward depth and toughness are too much for the Sabres, and Ryan Miller fails to steal the series for Buffalo. Flyers in six.

SL: Buffalo is surprisingly deep at forward, though not as deep as Philly. Despite it, Flyers continue to fall apart, and Miller stands on his head. Sabres in five.

ZZ: The Buffalo Sabres are on a roll coming into the playoffs while the Philadelphia Flyers are not, but the return of Chris Pronger is going to be the spark the Flyers need to flip the switch for the playoffs. Flyers in seven.

No. 3 Boston Bruins vs. No. 6 Montreal Canadiens

TH: At the end of the day, the Bruins are just too much for the Canadiens to handle. They're my pick to go all the way in the East, and while the Habs will turn this into an emotional roller coaster that will level the playing field a bit, it won't be enough to overcome the B's overall depth. Bruins in six. 

MC: Boston's secondary scoring (Nathan Horton, Michael Ryder, Brad Marchand) comes through and give the Bruins the advantage in a war of attrition, despite some gutsy performances by Carey Price. Bruins in six.

SL: An amazing, ridiculous, violent, emotional series ends with Patrice Bergeron crawling over the zombiefied remains of the rest of both teams and beating Carey Price on a break-away to win it in Game 7. Bruins in seven.

ZZ: The Bruins and Canadiens really hate each other, but the Canadiens are going to be the ones looking for justice in this series. That, along with the fact that the Bruins are probably the most consistent team in the Eastern Conference is going to make this an easy series. Bruins in five. 

No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay Lightning

TH: In the course of a seven game series, the firepower of the Lightning will overcome the solid team defense of the Penguins. If Tampa Bay gets a lead at any point in the game (especially in the latter 30 minutes of the game), they'll be able to shut it down effectively and limit the Pens chances. They'll score first in at least four games. Lightning in seven.

MC: Even with a potential Sidney Crosby return, his timing and conditioning can't be in regular-season form. Injuries rob the Penguins of what might have been a deep run, and Dwayne Roloson prevails in Tampa's net despite one or two shaky starts. Lightning in six. 

SL: Pittsburgh's lack of offense will probably catch up to them in later rounds, but for now, their system is the perfect antidote to the Lightning's run and gun. Penguins in five.

ZZ: The Pittsburgh Penguins have been rolling even without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Lightning  are just a speed bump in the way at the moment. Penguins in four.