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Can the Penguins Conquer the Capitals? – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Can the Penguins Conquer the Capitals?

Buckle up, ladies and gents. The thrill ride’s about to begin.

Our Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals are set to renew one of the most bitter (and one-sided) rivalries in Stanley Cup history at the Verizon Center on Thursday night.

pp0611

Dino Ciccarelli. EJ versus Schony. Frankie Leroux’s rush. The Mask.

Starting in 1991, the Pens and Caps have squared off eight times in postseason play. Incredibly, the black and gold emerged victorious in seven of those series.

In ‘92 and again in ‘95, the Pens mounted stirring comebacks from 3-games-to-1 deficits to defeat the Caps. Thanks to Petr Nedved’s seeing-eye goal and Ken Wregget’s stunning 53-save performance in relief of Tom Barrasso, the locals downed Washington in four overtimes on April 24, 1996.

More recently, Sidney Crosby outdueled “the Great Eight,” Alexander Ovechkin, in a scintillating seven-game Eastern Conference Semifinal set. The Pens proceeded to beat Jim Rutherford’s Cardiac ‘Canes and defending champ Detroit on the way to their third Cup.

Think “Ovie” and his ‘mates wouldn’t love to return the favor and knock Sid and the boys from Cup contention?

The Capitals certainly have the horses. They weren’t the runaway President’s Trophy winners for nothing. They’re an extraordinarily deep team, especially up front. Ovechkin and fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetzov—a 77-point scorer—form the hub of the NHL’s No. 2 regular-season offense. They’re aided and abetted by 20-goal men Nicklas Backstrom, Jason Chimera, T.J. Oshie, and Justin Williams. A potent blend of size, skill, experience and speed. Nasty, too.

Spearheaded by John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Dmitry Orlov and former-Pen Matt Niskanen, the Caps’ defense is accomplished and mobile.

In goal? Workhorse Braden Holtby is a tower of strength. He posted a microscopic 0.84 goals-against during the Caps’ opening-round triumph over the Flyers.

Great special teams, too.

Here’s another stat for you. Eighteen-and-three. The Penguins’ record (including the playoffs) since March 11.

Our team is for real.

Everyone contributes. From the superstars on down to the lunch-pail gang and the kids. The Pens’ blazing speed—a by-product of Mike Sullivan’s aggressive, take-no-prisoners approach and Rutherford’s shrewd maneuvers—is giving foes fits. Spreading elite talents Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel over three lines creates massive matchup problems.

When they’re “playing the right way,” to coin a pet Sullivan phrase, the Penguins are a most formidable adversary.

List Washington among their victims. In the final two regular-season meetings between the old rivals the locals shredded the defensively sound Caps for 10 goals. Nine were yielded by the usually redoubtable Holtby.

It’ll be interesting to see how Barry Trotz’s crew responds. They’ll likely try to impose their will by muscling the Pens around. Expect plenty of extracurriculars from Ovechkin and rugged Tom Wilson—at least early on. Veterans Mike Richards and ex-Pen Daniel Winnik could fill key shutdown roles.

The Rangers tried a physical approach. It failed miserably. The black and gold torched ‘em on the power play (38.1% success rate). Led by Nick Bonino and Eric Fehr, our penalty killers were just as special. They held New York to a pair of man-advantage goals in 19 tries. They’ll need to keep up the good work against the Caps.

Did I mention team defense? Harried by a ferocious Penguins forecheck, New York had trouble exiting their end and building any speed through the neutral zone. When they breached the Pens’ blue line, Kris Letang and his no-name cohorts made it difficult to sustain an attack.

“They play a real sound defensive game,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault noted.

Bottom line? It should be a great series between two terrific teams, featuring hockey’s most magnetic stars.

Again, I like our chances.

To borrow from a catchy old Eat’n Park commercial.

“CRUSH THE CAPITALS!”

*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
 
available at TriumphBooks.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com

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19 Comments

  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    April 29, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Hey Rick,
    We lost a close one last night. Can we play better ? Absolutely. Can the Cap’s? Yes. It was not their best game either. However,I see a silver lining in the game last night moving forward.
    1. The Pen’s can play with these guys and can skate with these guys!
    2. We out shot them and out played them in the second and third period by a wide margin.
    3. Our PK can handle their power play !!!! ( This will be the difference maker in this long series).
    4. Our power play can create chances for us to score.
    5.We have balanced scoring from all our lines.
    6. Cap’s goalie is not Superman! He can be scored upon..

    Yes Murray let in a couple he would like to have back,but he also made 10 saves that should have been goals as well.MAF would have done any better !
    Maatta is being exposed by the Caps and he is seen as the weak link in our D corps. He has not looked sharp since he returned from injury. That is something the Coaching staff has to address ?
    But I believe that the Pen’s will get the next one and a take the next two in Pittsburgh.
    Great hockey.!
    Cheers.

  2. Southside Shultzie's Gravatar Southside Shultzie
    April 28, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Predictions for tonight’s game…. Look for Ovechkin to be further stymied by the Pen’s smart defensive play which will lead to him taking unnecessary runs at Pen’s players resulting in bad penalties. The last Series the Crapitals lit up a Philty PK by going 5 of 9 on the PP. This wont happen in this series because of the Penguins newly found maturity. To avoid becoming cheap shot targets the Pen’s will need the Crapitals to pay dearly by burying PP goals early and often.
    Rolling 4 good lines will show more benefits this series. Look for our 3rd and 4th lines to take advantage of a tiring Washington defense late in periods. Philadelphia allowed the Crapitals defense to rest whenever their 3rd and 4th liners were on the ice. The Pens speed and determination will leave the Crapitals reeling!
    Look for Ovechkin et al to attempt to roll into Murray. The Pens will need to protect him but can’t be stupid about taking retaliation penalties.
    This series will expose Ovechkin’s lack of team play and hustle when the Pens defense quickly turns turnovers up ice for odd man breaks (and some goals!) Rick Nash was torched early in the 1st series by playing selfish and stupid hockey. Look for Ovechkin to do the same.
    Prediction, Pens in 6!
    LET’S GO PENS!
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1341952723356&set=a.1159788169356.23944.1667361321&type=3&theater

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 30, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Hey Southside Shultzie,

      Sorry for the delayed response. Great to hear from you…and to get your take on the series.

      Wish things had gone a little better for us in the opener. It hurts to come so close, only to lose like we did in Game 1. But if there’s one thing our Pens have been under Mike Sullivan, it’s resilient. Let’s hope we can come back and win Game 2 tonight.

      I didn’t make a prediction on the length of the series. But like you and Jim, I thought the Pens would win in six (maybe seven) games. For a lot of the same reasons…especially our depth and speed.

      After Game 1, however, I’m a little worried about our defense. Especially Olli Maatta. I’m not sure what’s going on with him. His foot speed is way down…perhaps he’s dealing with the effects of a lingering injury. But he’s morphed from rock-solid to turnover machine.

      Daley and Dumoulin struggled as well. Sullivan may need to go with more balanced pairs—Daley-Cole and Dumoulin-Lovejoy.

      We’ll see how it goes. Again, great to hear from you.

  3. Southside Shultzie's Gravatar Southside Shultzie
    April 28, 2016 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Predictions for tonight’s game…. Look for Ovechkin to be further stymied by the Pen’s smart defensive play which will lead to him taking unnecessary runs at Pen’s players resulting in bad penalties. The last Series the Crapitals lit up a Philty PK by going 5 of 9 on the PP. This wont happen in this series because of the Penguins newly found maturity. To avoid becoming cheap shot targets the Pen’s will need the Crapitals to pay dearly by burying PP goals early and often.
    Rolling 4 good lines will show more benefits this series. Look for our 3rd and 4th lines to take advantage of a tiring Washington defense late in periods. Philadelphia allowed the Crapitals defense to rest whenever their 3rd and 4th liners were on the ice. The Pens speed and determination will leave the Crapitals reeling!
    Look for Ovechkin et al to attempt to roll into Murray. The Pens will need to protect him but can’t be stupid about taking retaliation penalties.
    This series will expose Ovechkin’s lack of team play and hustle when the Pens defense quickly turns turnovers up ice for odd man breaks (and some goals!) Rick Nash was torched early in the 1st series by playing selfish and stupid hockey. Look for Ovechkin to do the same.
    Prediction, Pens in 6!
    LET’S GO PENS!
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1341952723356&set=a.1159788169356.23944.1667361321&type=3&theater

  4. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    April 28, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Hey ” Other Rick”
    Only game we need to win is the last one !
    Very true….. Now that the Kings and Hawks are gone….You may just get
    your wish ! I really like our chances now.
    In my opinion,the only way the Cap’s win this series is if they take out Letang
    and Daley… Then Houston, we have a problem..
    Not going to happen. Pen’s in six !
    Cheers,

    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      April 28, 2016 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      I agree the Pens do have a solid chance of winning this series. In fact, like Vegas, I think this series really should be the Cup finals rather than a divisional final (Washington is Vegas’s favorite to win it all with the Pens just a fraction behind) and with the Caps history of choking in big games that is just one more reason to believe in a serious Cup run this year.

      But as you alluded, injuries can really upset an apple-cart. Injuries to Letang or Murray (at least until MAF is healthy) could give Washington a big advantage.

  5. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    April 28, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    Can the Pens beat the Caps?

    The sad part about that question is that the 2-best teams in the East are playing each other in the divisional rather than the conference finals. However, one more point to consider is the psychology of it. I have a friend who is originally from Cap country and he has some interesting thoughts on the subject. He has told me that the Caps fans are poised to turn on their team. Not only have the Pens spoiled many a Cap parades but the Rangers and many other teams have piled disappointment after disappointment on the Cap franchise.

    Althought the Caps are considered to be the better team on paper by all the talking heads, even if they really have more talent, should the Caps run into a rough start or the Pens get a couple of quick goals, the monkey of many years of disappointment will climb on the backs of Washington’s favorite sons and their fans who are expecting the worst will turn on them.

    Furthermore, Caps management and brain trust may also have the same fear and pressure on them so much so that should the team be caught in a dog fight, rather than giving the players room to find their legs, they just may turn up the heat even more.

    As I recently noted, momentum is a fickled lady and could just as easily side with the Caps in much the same way she lifted the Pens past their old nemisis King Henryk. However, I am hoping that in this case, history repeats itself and the Pens continue the Capitals run of disappointment.

    As long as the Pens win their last game this season, I am going to be smiling like a butchers dog!

  6. April 28, 2016 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Fingers crossed for quite a while.

  7. April 28, 2016 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Should be interesting but… YES!!!

  8. April 28, 2016 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    Repeat is coming for the Penguins

  9. April 28, 2016 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Hell yeah! Go Pens!

  10. April 27, 2016 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    yes they can and yes they will

  11. April 27, 2016 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Yep!

  12. April 27, 2016 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Always

  13. April 27, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Is that really a question! Duh is the answer!

  14. April 27, 2016 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Fuck yeah, we can!!!

  15. April 27, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    GO PENS

  16. JIM's Gravatar JIM
    April 27, 2016 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,
    Pen’s in six ! There were times in the Flyers / Caps series that Washington looked average. Greatly surprised me. I think if we play 4 line hockey for a full 60minutes,watch the turn overs and try to stay out of the Penalty box the better team will win.
    I feel better about this series than I did the Ranger’s. If we skate hard, their bottom two lines can not match ours,and while we may get bruised up with their size advantage, the longer this series goes,the more tired the Cap’s will be and the advantage goes to us. Pen’s in 6 !
    Cheers !

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 28, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      Hey Jim,

      I like our chances, too. Again, barring a catastrophic run of injuries to key personnel, I think our combination of speed and skill will prove too much for the Caps to handle.

      I do worry about them wearing us down, physically. They’re a pretty rugged team and there’s no doubt they plan to pound us. I just hope our guys don’t break down in the process.

      Heaven forbid should anything happen to Murray. It doesn’t sound like Fleury’s close to returning.


            

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