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The First Round

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS / SPECIAL PULLOUT SECTION

April 11, 2000|HELENE ELLIOTT | Times Staff Writer

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 PHILADELPHIA (45-25-12-3) vs. No. 8 BUFFALO (35-36-11-4)

* Season series: Philadelphia 3-1.

* Top scorers: Philadelphia--Mark Recchi 28-63--91. Buffalo--Doug Gilmour 25-48--73.

* Team goals-against average: Philadelphia 2.14 (second). Buffalo 2.45 (eighth).

* Power play: Philadelphia 20.3% (second). Buffalo 10.5% (28th).

* Penalty killing: Philadelphia 86.7% (sixth). Buffalo 85.0% (13th).

* Keys for Flyers: The emergence of Boucher (1.91 goals-against, .918 save percentage) has been overshadowed by Neilson's illness and Lindros' strained relations with management. Don't forget Recchi's outstanding season and John LeClair's fifth consecutive season with 40 or more goals. Their special teams are good and they're big enough to stand up to the Sabres, who will try to get them off their game and into battles.

* Keys for Sabres: Their best strategy is to score once and hope Hasek works magic. They have an edge up the middle, with Michael Peca, Chris Gratton and Gilmour, and if Maxim Afinogenov can use his speed, he will plague the Flyers. The defense is average, but Hasek makes up for a lot.

* Prediction: Buffalo in seven.

* Schedule: Thursday, at Philadelphia, 4 p.m.; Friday, at Philadelphia, 4 p.m.; Sunday, at Buffalo, 4:30 p.m.; April 18, at Buffalo, 4 p.m.; April 20, x-at Philadelphia, 4:30 p.m.; April 23, x-at Buffalo, TBA; April 25, x-at Philadelphia, 4 p.m. (x-if necessary)

No. 2 WASHINGTON (44-26-12-2) vs. No. 7 PITTSBURGH (37-37-8-6)

* Season series: Pittsburgh 3-1.

* Top scorers: Washington--Adam Oates 15-56--71. Pittsburgh--Jaromir Jagr 42-54--86.

* Team goals-against average: Washington 2.33 (fourth). Pittsburgh 2.84 (20th).

* Power play: Washington 15% (21st). Pittsburgh 15.6% (20th).

* Penalty killing: Washington 86.3% (seventh). Pittsburgh 82.6% (19th).

* Keys for Capitals: Goalie Olaf Kolzig (2.24 goals-against, .917 save percentage) will get Vezina consideration as the backbone of a team that's well schooled defensively. Reformed enforcer Chris Simon had a career-high 29 goals and only 144 penalty minutes. That made up for Peter Bondra's strangely low 21 goals. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar (18 goals, 54 points) adds an offensive spark and Wilson is a terrific motivator.

* Keys for Penguins: If Jagr (late-season leg injury) is ready, he can carry them. However, rookie goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin is untested under playoff pressure and may share time with Ron Tugnutt. If Jagr, Robert Lang and Alexei Kovalev use their speed, the Penguins can generate offense. But they have little depth.

* Prediction: Capitals in five.

* Schedule: Thursday, at Washington, 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, at Pittsburgh, 11 a.m.; April 17, at Pittsburgh, 4 p.m.; April 19, at Washington, 4:30 p.m.; April 21, x-at Washington, 4 p.m.; April 23, x-at Pittsburgh, TBA; April 25, x-at Washington, 4 p.m. (x-if necessary)

No. 3 TORONTO (45-30-7-3) vs. No. 6 OTTAWA (41-30-11-2))

* Season series: Ottawa 3-1-1.

* Top scorers: Toronto--Mats Sundin 32-41--73. Ottawa--Radek Bonk 23-37--60.

* Team goals-against average: Toronto 2.67 (15th). Ottawa 2.53 (11th).

* Power play: Toronto 17.8% (sixth). Ottawa 16.8% (12th).

* Penalty killing: Toronto 82.4% (20th). Ottawa 87.5% (third).

* Keys for Maple Leafs: Their run-and-gun style isn't suited for the playoffs, when checking gets tight. Steve Thomas and Jonas Hoglund bring grit and skill; their defense will miss Bryan Berard, who lost the sight in his right eye when he was accidentally struck by a stick. Goalie Curtis Joseph (2.49 goals-against, .915 save percentage) faced almost 30 shots a game and the Maple Leafs must be careful not to let him wear down.

* Keys for Senators: They ended the season on a slide. Goalie Tom Barrasso, acquired from Pittsburgh for his playoff experience, will play despite a badly bruised index finger, and forward Shawn McEachern (broken thumb) may return if it's a long series. Without AWOL center Alexei Yashin, the Senators had eight fewer points than last season. They weren't as sharp defensively, which will be their undoing.

* Prediction: Toronto in six.

* Schedule: Wednesday, at Toronto, 4 p.m.; Saturday, at Toronto, 4 p.m.; April 17, at Ottawa, 4 p.m.; April 19, at Ottawa, 4 p.m.; April 22, x-at Toronto, 4 p.m.; April 24, x-at Ottawa, 4 p.m.; April 25, x-at Toronto, 4 p.m. (x-if necessary)

No. 4 NEW JERSEY (45-29-8-5) vs. No. 5 FLORIDA (43-33-6-6)

* Season series: New Jersey 3-1.

* Top scorers: New Jersey--Patrik Elias 35-37--72. Florida--Pavel Bure 58-36--94.

* Team goals-against average: New Jersey 2.45 (seventh). Florida 2.53 (ninth).

* Power play: New Jersey 20.1% (third). Florida 17.2% (eighth).

* Penalty killing: New Jersey 87.5% (fourth). Florida 85.4% (11th).

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