How they got here… Penguins- 1. 4-2 series win over PHI 2. 4-3 series win over WSH Hurricanes- 1. 4-3 series win over NJ 2. 4-3 series win over BOS Season Series… Tied 2-2 Previous Playoff Meeting… 1st Meeting Highlights of Last Meeting… 4/4 at Carolina
Tale of the Tape… Forwards- Edge: Penguins… Slight edge to Pittsburgh because of Crosby & Malkin; I really like the Canes’ group of forwards, though. Defensemen- Edge: Penguins… If Gonchar isn’t affected by his knee injury too much, the edge goes to the Pens. Goaltending- Edge: Hurricanes… Cam Ward has never lost a playoff series. Special Teams- Edge: Even… In the playoffs, they’ve pretty much been equal. Coaching- Edge: Hurricanes… Paul Maurice has more playoff experience than Dan Bylsma. Experience- Edge: Even… Both teams have good experience in the postseason. Team X-Factors… Penguins- Evgeni Malkin… ‘Geno has been off-and-on in the playoffs thus far. That has to change right now. He has good stats, but he has yet to be dominant on a regular basis. If he can consistently come close to the way he played in Game 3 vs. Washington, the Pens have a good shot in this series. If he’s the jeckyl-n-hyde player we’ve seen the last couple postseasons, other Pens will have to step up. The ‘Canes were able to contain the Devils’ and Bruins’ 2nd lines in the first 2 rounds. Malkin has to change that. Hurricanes- The blue line… It would be a good idea if Carolina’s back end would be extremely efficient in this series. Guys like Pitkanen, Corvo and Seidenberg will have to play well both ways… while the defensive-minded Tim Gleason and Niclas Wallin can’t afford to make any mistakes that result in odd-man rushes or bad turnovers in their own zone. Pittsburgh is really good at fore-checking the hell outta you. The Canes’ hopes don’t rest on the blue line, but their d-men can make or break this series. Unsung Hero Watch… Penguins- Jordan Staal & Max Talbot Hurricanes- Tuomo Ruutu & Jussi Jokinen Key Injuries… Penguins- C Mike Zigomanis (undisclosed, not expected to play in playoffs) Hurricanes- None Keys to the Series… Penguins- 1. Secondary scoring… Tyler Kennedy and Ruslan Fedotenko have provided clutch scoring in the first 2 rounds, and the Pens will have to more of those types of contributions to move on. Look for Jordan Staal to have a big series. 2. Defend the Igloo… The Hurricanes have won 2 games on the road in each series. If that happens again, the Pens might be in trouble. They have to defend home-ice and send a message early in the series. Hurricanes- 1. Win the special teams battle… With this category pretty equal between these two, the underdog ‘Canes have to make it advantageous. The power play is executing at a 10.4% rate in the playoffs… they have to get that up to the 15-20% range in this series. Plus the PK has to get the better of the Pens’ lethal man advantage. 2. Eric Staal outplay Crosby… Staal has been one of the best players in the playoffs. But now he has to out-perform the best of the best. Sidney Crosby has elevated his game to become the top player in the league right now. Staal will have to at least match his production, maybe even outdo it. Why the Penguins will win… I felt that the Pens played really well as a team when they beat Washington 4 out of 5 in the 2nd round. If that carries over, they’ll win this series. Crosby has been dominating the opposition, tallying 21 points in 13 games thus far. Malkin and Fleury have the potential to play much better than they have so far. Bylsma’s gang also has the right complimentary players to win a Cup. And if Sergei Gonchar is anywhere close to 100%, that will be a big plus for this team. Why the Hurricanes will win… Carolina will need Ward and Staal to be on top of their games. But they’ll also have to do the little things right. Win face-offs, play well on special teams, be mistake-free on the blue line, etc. Every line can strike at any moment… they have a great mix of forwards. The ‘Cardiac Canes’ are currently riding a magic carpet ride right now, and that momentum might be enough to vault them to the finals. But I have a feeling that their magic will start to run out here against the Penguins. PREDICTION… PENGUINS IN 6
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