Round two of the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs will soon be here, we’ve already previewed both match-ups in the Western Conference, now it’s time we turned our attention to the east! The first series to be decided in the east will be played between the perennially disappointing Washington Capitals, and the current Cup holders, Pittsburgh.
How did we get here?
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, the Washington Capitals won the Metropolitan division, but only managed the same points as the Toronto Maple Leafs (105). History tells us that the Caps aren’t good in the playoffs, and the Columbus Blue Jackets took advantage of that in the first round, winning games one and two. Carl’s ex-bit-on-the-side Washington rallied and despite needing two periods of overtime in game three, won a game and never looked back.
It wasn’t easy for Alex Ovechkin and his friends. Games four and six were both won with three-goal margins, but three and five couldn’t find a regulation winner and OT was needed. Games one and two both needed OT, so expect the Caps to have a little more mileage on the clock than their division opponent. The aforementioned Ovi found the net more times than anyone else but #HiSticking favourite John Carlson leads the teams in points.
The Pittsburgh/Philadelphia series looked to be business as usual for the Pens when they thrashed their opponents 7-0 in game one, but their Pennsylvanian neighbours had other ideas and beat the current cup holders 5-1 in game two before the Pens mirrored that scoreline for game three.
Unfortunately for the Flyers, the injuries were mounting and the Brian Elliott/Michal Neuvirth/Petr Mrazek goalie experiment didn’t work out. Pittsburgh shut out Philly in game four to find themselves just one win from progressing. The Flyers won the next game 4-2 to give some hope, but the Pens aren’t the champions for nothing.
Game six saw Sean Couturier score a hat-trick of goals and two assists while skating on a with a torn MCL, those heroics weren’t enough to win the game though, Jake Guentzal’s four goal barrage along with goals by Sidney Crosby, Carl Hagelin and Brian Rust broke the Flyers and won the Pens the series.
So what should we expect in the second round?
As rivals in the Metropolitan Division, the Pens and Caps met four times in the regular season, with both teams winning two each.
10/11/17: PIT 3 – 2 WSH
11/10/17: WSH 4 – 1 PIT
02/02/18: PIT 7 – 4 WSH
04/01/18: WSH 3 – 1 PIT
If you tally up the overtime from the first series, the Caps have played about 419 minutes of hockey, compared to the Pens’ 360. That’s almost an entire extra game. This may well be a deciding factor as Washington doesn’t have the roster depth that Pittsburgh does.
On paper, the Pens score more, and concede less than the Caps, as well as having the stronger penalty kill:
I’ve omitted Grubauer’s stats as they’re incomplete, his GAA is 5.88 though so if he starts for the Caps, they’re gonna lose the series in four games. Despite the odd goal that he’d really like to take back, Holtby is the stronger of the two starting goalies in almost every metric.
Crosby, Guentzel, Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom are the usual suspects you want to watch, although if you’re looking for #HiSticking tips, T.J. Oshie and Evgeni Malkin might see you right, but nobody in this series has more than one game winning goal. So best of luck with that.
Washington have a knack of pulling a win out of their shorts when you least expect it, but the Pens are no doubt the stronger team and are capable of finding goals on every line. This writer’s humble prediction is that the current champs will take the series in six games.
Which team do you think will progress? Comment below or join in the conversation on Twitter! Stats from NHL.com and Corisca.hockey.
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