They Meet Again… Clash of The Titans

 

For a second consecutive season, the Pens will faceoff against the Caps in a 2nd round matchup that is set to impress. I think ESPN is awful at reporting hockey apart from a few good eggs (s/o Buccimane), but their latest hockey rankings have the Pens @ #1 and the Caps @ #5. The Caps improved in the rankings from a previous mark @ #7 while the Pens maintain their number one spot.

Series by the Numbers:

  • Pens are 8-1 all-time in playoff series against the Caps
    • Only loss was 1994
  • Pittsburgh has only won a Stanley Cup after beating Washington in the Playoffs
  • Season series was split 2-2

Matchup Preview:

  • D-Core:
    • Remember a guy by the name of Brooks Orpik? How about Matt Niskanen? These two former Pens finished the regular season at +32 and +20 respectively. Toss a point getting defenseman like Orlov (+30, 33pts) in the mix and newly acquired Shattenkirk to round out a “strong on paper” defensive team. Toronto proved that these guys can be beat with speed and quick breakouts though, an essential piece of the Pens game plan.
  • Goaltending
    • Braden Holtby is the man between the pipes for Washington, a 2015-2016 Vezina Trophy winner. His stats this season reflect another strong regular season with 42 wins (6 less than last season), but 6 more shutouts for a total of 9 on the season. He also boasts a .925 save percentage and a 2.07 GAA. Same story here as it was against the Jackets, when he isn’t the best player out there I see the Pens being successful.
    • One other note here, what’s that thing that Pens goalies have that he doesn’t?…A CUP RING
  • Offense
    • I was not impressed by the Caps offense in the Toronto series so I’m not gonna talk them up. The obvious names to note from the regular season by the stat sheet:
      • Backstrom (23G, 63A, 86 Pts)
      • Ovechkin (33G, 36A, 69 Pts)
      • Kuznetsov (19G, 40A, 59 Pts)
      • Johansson (24G, 34A, 58 Pts)
      • Oshie (33G, 23A, 56 Pts)
    • Oshie, Williams, & Backstrom have been their prominent point getters for the first series, while Ovechkin only has 3 points and the 5th highest average time on ice among Capitals’ forwards.

My Prediction:

As much as my inner Pittsburgh homer wants me to tweet #PensIn4 until my thumbs fall off, I think the Pens finish this in 6. With the rest they have had now and the return of Carl Hagelin, I think they add his speed and work through the Caps. Crucial to their success this series will be taking away wins in Washington. Starting out 0-2 will be a series lost in my opinion, but I think the Pens take game 1.

One other note, we get to enjoy national broadcasts for their remainder of the playoff run. Not really sure if this upsets anyone, but just something to recognize.

Around the League:

  • NSH vs. STL
    • I can’t pick against the team that just upset the favorite in the West, so let’s go with NSH in 6.
  • ANA vs. EDM
    • Quack, Quack! Ducks fly together and advance passed EDM in my bracket in 6 games.
  • NYR vs. OTT
    • I really don’t think it matters who wins this one, but lets go with OTT in 7.  Heartbreaker for NYR, but OTT will get smoked by winner of Pens/Caps aka the Pens.

Photo Credit (Dave Sandford/NHLI/Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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