In March – I provided a capsule 1st round match-up synopsis of my thoughts between the Caps and Pens and basically things are about the same except the change in the Capitals goal. Simeon Varlamov has played more playoff games than regular season games. His first playoff series and he comes up a winner with a 1.17 GAA, 2 shutouts, and a .952 SV%. Not too shabby even though that was against the offensively challenged New York Rangers who only averaged 24 SOG per game… many of which were not too quality.
How the Capitals can beat the Penguins: First off…
any “hot” goaltender can take over any series and Varlamov is pretty much a mystery at this time. The Capitals are a large team, possibly the largest in the NHL, and they have overall speed. Backstrom, Semin, Green and Ovechkin are the core players and provide most all of the offense. And, even though we get on Ovechkin he’s a player who can single-handedly dominate a game.
How the Capitals could lose: This is where things change a little bit from the earlier review. In March, I stated that the weak link on the Capitals was Jose Theodore and I do believe that if Theodore was in goal they would not make it through round 1. Bruce Boudreau made a major move sitting Theodore after the first game. But, trust me, the Rangers never gave Varlamov much of a threat and so the jury is still out on how he’ll perform with solid forechecking (like the Rangers did in Game 7) but with forwards and defensemen that are scoring threats. The Capitals also remain a team that can’t stop taking really dumb and very untimely penalties. It’s been that way all season. Semin, Green, and Erskine are the main offenders. Some really boneheaded penalties! It sounds like Boudreau could get that problem fixed but it hasn’t happened so far. While Ovechkin is a player who can single-handedly dominate a game it’s more that he attempts to take over every game and do it all alone. If this becomes the AO SHOW then I think the Capitals lose. If he is running around all over the ice like a chicken without a head, it will play a major factor in the game. This guy although very talented also plays very undisciplined. Their defense, supposedly was built to have puck movement skills yet has major problems doing so. The Rangers discovered (in Game 7) that a hard forecheck confused them more. The Rangers had the puck in their zone 80% of the first 2 periods. IMHO, Boudreau has to find a way to fix that problem, or combined with untimely penalities this could be a very short series.
How the Penguins could lose: IMO, the Capitals won’t fix the problem they have taking penalties and therefore our power play has to click better than what it has. It’s that simple. If the PP conversion rate isn’t increased this series could go seven games. Mike Yeo the coaching staff needs to stepped it up.
Why the Penguins will win the series: I believe the regular season stats get thrown out the window. What helps the Penguins are two things… The first is the deadline deals which resulted in moving Dupuis, Kennedy, and Cooke to the 3rd and 4th lines. We now have 4 lines that can control puck possession and are all capable of turning the red-light on. That’s major. The second, and very important one is the Penguins are in the Washington Capitals’ heads, and have been for decades. From their owner, Ted Leonsis to every last Capital fan sitting at home and turning on the TV to watch the game… they feel it. It’s like magic. When you have an owner who blocks area codes (412 & 724) from purchasing tickets and creates ticket purchase plans to keep the Flightless Birdie fans out of the Phone Booth… and fans who have witnessed the Capitals blowing it… it’s very clear that they all feel that some way – some how – no matter what the score – they know the Capitals will come up short.
Penguins in 7 games…. But it could be 4!
This is DR Hook… carry on.