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Pens v. Caps More than Sidney v. Ovie

Posted by Webster Washington on 4/27/2016 3:59:55 AM

It's billed as the showdown between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. But the second-round playoff series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals is much more. It's the top team against the hot team; the stable goalkeeping vs. the unsure keeping; and the offensive juggernaut facing the team with scoring struggles.

Round 1

The Penguins found a potent attack and some surprising goalkeeping in disposing of the New York Rangers in five games. The Pens had 10 players find the back of the net in the series and wrapped it up scoring 11 goals in the final two games – against Henrik Lundqvist. Their special teams were just that; the power play was 38 percent and penalty killing stopped the Rangers 19 of 21 times. With star goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury out and No. 2 Jeff Zatkoff shell shocked in Game 2, the Pens turned to Matt Murray who carried them home with a healthy .953 save percentage.

The Capitals had a surprisingly tough time – six games - dispatching a Philadelphia team that barely made the postseason. The team that amassed the league-high 120 points looked awkward and off balance at times after gaining a 3-0 lead in the series. They scored only two goals in the last three games. But Braden Holtby gave them enough in goal to get by. He had 26 saves and a shutout in the clinching game and emerged from the series with a crack 0.84 goals against average and .968 save percentage. And they do have two of hockey's most powerful scorers in Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Round 2

These Metropolitan Division rivals played five times in the regular season with Pittsburgh winning three. The last of those came April 7 when the Pens won a 4-3 overtime thriller as they were still jockeying for playoff position and Washington had things wrapped up. But the Pens have won 18 of their last 21 games and have played superbly all year under coach Mike Sullivan. The Capitals are an excellent team with great defense and goaltending. But you have to wonder about them allowing an impotent Philly team to hang around so long. Are they seeing the ghosts of playoffs past? Or will Ovechkin and company somehow get to Murray? I'm seeing a close series with close games. Look for plus figures for now, and proceed accordingly.

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