Penguins vs. Capitals 2nd-round preview

Pensburgh_medium Japers1_medium

The Blogs

Pensburgh vs. Japers' Rink

The Storylines

Both the Penguins and Capitals faced stiff challenges during the first round, and now the NHL's hype-meter is threatening to blow with the prospect of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin facing off in the Eastern Conference Semifinal.

The Numbers

Pittsburgh Washington
  Record 45-28-9 8th 50-24-8 5th
  Pts % .604 8th .659 4th
  Goals For/Game 3.15 6th 3.27 3rd
  Goals Against/Game 2.84 17th 2.93 19th
  5-on-5 GF/GA 1.18 5th 1.10 8th
  PP% 17.2 19th 25.2 2nd
  PK% 82.7 8th 80.6 17th
  Shots/Game 29.0 18th 33.5 2nd
  Shots Against/Game 30.3 17th 29.5 12th
  FO % 49.1 18th 51.7 7th

Overall, this is a tight matchup; Washington plays a slightly more up-tempo game in that both Goals For and Against are higher than Pittsburgh's. The Penguins are the better team at even strength, while the Caps rely on a dangerous power play.

Goaltending

Pittsburgh


GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2008 - Marc-Andre Fleury 62 3641 35 18 7 5 162 2.67 1850 1688 .912 4

Washington


GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2008 - Jose Theodore 57 3287 32 17 5 4 157 2.87 1572 1415 .900 2
2008 - Simeon Varlamov 6 329 4 0 1 0 13 2.37 159 146 .918 0

Varlamov made a name for himself in the first round, but he'll have a much harder time stopping a deep and diverse Pittsburgh attack.

Penalties

No OtF preview would be complete without a look at Penalty Plus/Minus, to see which players will head to, or send other players to, the box:

 Pittsburgh Penalties Drawn  Washington Penalties Drawn
 Player  Draws  Fouls Pen +/-  Player  Draws  Fouls Pen +/-
 Evgeni Malkin 62 39 +23  Alex Ovechkin 42 35 +7
 Sidney Crosby 43 29 +14  Brooks Laich 33 14 +19
 Matt Cooke 30 35 -5  Alex Semin 30 32 -2
 Eric Godard 29 39 -10  Donald Brashear 26 33 -7
 Jordan Staal 28 17 +11  Mike Green 25 34 -9
 Chris Kunitz 27 27 0  Matt Bradley 23 16 +7
Penalties Taken
 Evgeni Malkin 62 39 +23  Alex Ovechkin 42 35 +7
 Eric Godard 29 39 -10  Mike Green 25 34 -9
 Matt Cooke 30 35 -5  Milan Jurcina 7 34 -27
 Brooks Orpik 25 34 -9  Donald Brashear 26 33 -7
 Bill Guerin 22 30 -8  Alex Semin 30 32 -2
 Sidney Crosby 43 29 +14  Shaone Morrison 18 31 -13

Both teams have some eye-popping talent which can turn defenders inside-out, but Washington has done the better job capitalizing (pun thoroughly intended) on their power play opportunities.

The Prediction

Two factors in particular lead me to pick the Pittsburgh Penguins. First, they've been a much better team since Dan Bylsma took over behind the bench, meaning that (like Anaheim and Carolina) they're probably a better team than "The Numbers" section above indicates, since it is based on total-season results. Secondly, Washington's goaltending is likely to be exposed against a strong Penguins team.

NHL Playoffs Blog Coverage, Schedule and Scores - SB Nation

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