How they got here…
4-3 series win over NYR
4-2 series win over PHI
Previous Playoff Meeting…
2001 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals (4-2 Penguins)
RLD ‘Playoff Formula’…
RLD ‘Playoff Formula’ Predicts…
Capitals in 6 or 7
Tale of the Tape…
Edge: Even… Ovechkin vs. Crosby, Semin vs. Malkin. Yeah, I’d say it’s close.
Edge: Penguins… They’ve got guys who will rough you up: Orpik, Gill, and Scuderi.
Edge: Penguins… Although Varlamov is hot, Fleury led the Pens to the finals last spring.
Edge: Capitals… Everything is about even, but the Caps’ power play came on late against the Rangers.
Edge: Even… This is the first 2nd round appearance for both Boudreau & Bylsma.
Edge: Penguins… Even the ones who didn’t go the finals with them last year (Guerin, Kunitz, Fedotenko, and Cooke) all have good playoff experience.
Nicklas Backstrom… The former 4th overall pick from Sweden has been extremely consistent. He’s picked up points in 29 of the last 35 games. But he’s gotta take some pressure off the two Alex’s and score more. Backstrom has a nice scoring touch; he just has to use it. He has good numbers lifetime against Pittsburgh (0 G, 13 A in 8 GP). Goals won’t come easy, so I think he has to step his game up to another level.
Marc-Andre Fleury… I think Fleury’s going to play well; all he’s done is win in the playoffs since last year. But you can’t overlook his numbers against the Caps this season… he was awful, going 1-3 with a GAA of 4.73, and a save percentage of .862. If he plays like that, the Pens have no chance. If he plays like he has in the playoffs the last couple years, Pittsburgh will move on.
LW Donald Brashear (suspended, out for first 5 games of series)
D Jeff Schultz (upper body, status for series unknown)
F Quintin Laing (spleen, done for season)
G Brent Johnson (hip, could return during playoffs)
F Mike Zigomanis (undisclosed, likely won’t return in playoffs)
Keys to the Series…
1. Cool Varlamov… Sergei Fedorov said it best after Game 7: “He’s just having fun… it’s nice to be young and not know how much pressure’s going on.” Well he’s going to be facing a team with much more talent and scoring ability, contrary to the Rangers. Varlamov’s gonna have to fend off the nerves for Washington to win this series.
2. Checking lines chip in… The bottom 2 lines of Laich/Steckel/Gordon and Clark/Bradley/Fehr will be crucial for the Caps. You saw what this team did in Games 5 and 6 when they got contributions from these 2 lines. All of the skilled forwards might off-set each other, so unsung heroes will need to step up.
1. Stop the Caps’ PP… The PK for Pittsburgh could win this series. You saw what New York’s aggressive PK did to Washington for most of the series. The Pens have an aggressive PK as well, and can even strike short-handed. When you look back at this series, this matchup could be the tipping point.
2. Send a message… Ovechkin & company will be pumped up after their first round comeback. The Pens could go to the sea of red in DC and shut ‘em up. I guarantee you the Caps wouldn’t come back from a 2-0 series deficit against this team.
Why the Capitals will win…
Washington will win this series by contributions from players other than Ovie & Semin. Those two can’t and won’t win this series alone. Like I said above… some unsung heroes will have to show up. Also, the Varlamov factor is a big one; it’ll be interesting to see if he feels any pressure in this series. They’ll have to get much better defensively, too. They won’t get away with so many breakdowns against the high-powered Pens. This is still a very winnable series for the Caps, though.
Why the Penguins will win…
Pittsburgh will win this series because of the little things and solid goaltending. The PK can be great at times. Crosby is becoming an elite face-off man. Fleury is making big saves left and right so far in the playoffs. I think if the bottom 2 lines outplay Washington’s, this team will advance. And in the end, I think Crosby, Malkin & company will get by the Caps. It won’t be easy, but I can also see the NHL’s ‘dream series’ not going as long as it should. In the highest TV rating series since the lockout (other than the finals), Pittsburgh prevails.
PREDICTION… PENGUINS IN 5
It's the best time of year!
Posted by Ryan Porth
at 8:15 PM
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