Turning your clocks back to 2009, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin last met to combine for 27 points in a seven games series that was quite the thriller. Well, they haven’t met in the playoffs since then but the excitement is back. With the Western Conference nearly gone to shit, the Eastern Conference has the two best match ups in the second round and this is one of them once again.
The Washington Capitals will need to find their scoring abilities once again as they only scored twice in their final three games of the series against the Philadelphia Flyers. On the bright side, they did score eight power play goals in the series so this gives them potential to score often if Pittsburgh does get into penalty trouble. Braden Holtby who had a stellar GAA under 1 in the first round series will look to stay solid when the Penguins fly through. With Washingtons scoring troubles, Holtby gives them hope in net that they won’t need much offense to win the series. However, Pittsburgh lit Rangers net minder Henrik Lundqvist up like a Christmas tree posing a great threat to another top tier goalie in Holtby between the pipes.
Pittsburgh has been running on all cylinders lately and I don’t think they will stop. Their power play is running at a rate twice as efficient as any other team in the league at 38.1%.
In the five game series, they sent Lundqvist to the bench in games four and five. Washington is going to have to be deep in a sense that everyone on Pittsburgh’s bench can put the puck in the net whether it’s Crosby or one of the three new guys; Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, and Tom Kuhnhackl, that have recently found themselves in the lineup. However, one thing that might be of worry is who will be in net for the Penguins.
Marc Andre Fleury is still on the bench recovering from a concussion. Both Jeff Zatkoff and Matt Murray have been solid in the crease, Zatkoff splitting the first two games of last series and Murray winning his first three career playoff games to put Pittsburgh into the second round. The Penguins have had a great ability to kill the power play as well. They let up just two goals in 19 tries in the first round.
Making a case for Washington, they will need to work. And by work I mean step up to a hot team. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the playoffs? But seriously, one of their top defenseman Brooks Orpik is still sidelined after skating off the ice after a big hit from Philadelphia’s Ryan White.
This series will in fact be long taking at least six games and his absence will be greatly missed. Ovechkin will have to step up with his game play to make up for Pittsburgh’s depth in their lineup. As to the offense, they will have to take advantage of whoever the Penguins have in net to put up enough points to put them ahead and hope Holtby stays solid in net on the other end.
For Pittsburgh, just keep doing what you’re doing. They’ve won their past three games and 18 or their past 21. Use the depth in the lineup to give the older guys some rest for the long road ahead. They’ve been hot lately and don’t plan on them stopping anytime soon.
In a rematch in the playoffs that may be one of the highest regarded, I believe Pittsburgh takes it home to play the Islanders in the Conference finals in 6 games.
Here’s the throwback hype