By Steve Samek
After dispatching Columbus in five games the Pittsburgh Penguins eagerly awaited the conclusion of The Washington Capitals and Toronto. Toronto made its first time in the playoffs in a while a short one, being overmatched by the President’s trophy winner in six games.
Cue the Déjà vu. Penguins and Capitals for the past two season meeting in round two of the NHL playoffs. Pittsburgh walking away with the series victory last season in addition to winning eight of nine playoff meetings between the two.
During the season, Washington took the season series 2-0-2 during their 55-win campaign. Though the Pens earned 50 wins of their own in route to the runner up spot in the Metropolitan division. https://www.nhl.com/news/washington-capitals-pittsburgh-penguins-playoff-preview/c-289056882?tid=287345754
The Stars are display in this one. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ready to role for Pittsburgh against the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Jake Geuentzel stepped up against Columbus with five goals and is your playoff goal scoring leader. Malkin’s 11 points is tops in playoff points. http://www.nhl.com/stats/leaders?season=20162017&gameType=3
Though the possibly overlooked stars are the goaltenders. Marc-Andre Fleury is stepping up after the injury to Matt Murrary. Fleury contributed a 2.52 goals-against average and .933 save percentage against Columbus. Fleury’s has also led the Pens to an addition cup win and a finals appearance and is showing veteran leadership.
Washington has Brandon Holtby between the pipes. Holtby led the league in regular season wins with 42 and nine shutouts. He did this while contributing a .925 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average. All of these numbers put him in the top five statistically for regular season play.
Though the biggest question is can the Capitals break through and stop the trend of the Presidents trophy winner begin ousted. Can they fight back after last year’s series loss? Does the Penguin’s all-time series domination come into play. How much will the Penguin’s playoff experience and four cups matter against the Capitols?
I would say that experience should hold a small advantage, but not a big one. Anything can happen in the playoffs. Nashville told that to Chicago this season. Washington is a good team. You don’t put up the best regular season mark if you’re not a good team. Give the Caps a small advantage there and for a 2-0 season series advantage.
This one is going seven games. Anything else should be a disappointment. Two talented teams that are playing in a faux Stanly Cup as the winner of this series is being a popular pick to win it all. https://www.nhl.com/penguins/news/destiny-brings-pens-caps-together/c-28906477.
The only four times the Pittsburgh has hoisted the cup it went through Washington. Does this happen again. I think so Pens in seven games is my prediction.