Previewing Round Two
On Saturday at 1 pm the Washington Capitals will be hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins as they resume their run at advancing to the Stanley Cup finals. The second round will begin and it will put two of the game’s great young players, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, against each other. The one who shines the most will more than likely be playing for a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Capitals were able to survive a seven game series against the Rangers because their offense was in a different class than that of the Rangers. They were able to overcome defensive laps in concentration and execution as well as careless passing and untimely giveaways because they were that much better of an offensive team than the Rangers. The Capitals were third in the league in scoring while the Rangers got in more with their defense as their offense ranked 28th in the league. Because of their ability to outscore a weak Rangers team, they did not have to play their best hockey on the defensive end.
This will not be the case when the Penguins come to town. Sidney Crosby will bring his Pittsburgh Penguins to town to take on Alex Ovechkin and the second seeded Washington Capitals.
This matchup is compelling to many hockey fans; but this battle between the Capitals and Penguins is about more than just two players. Both of these teams have given their young stars plenty of support while on offense, as was evident by each team being ranked in the top six in scoring during the regular season. Both teams proved to have a potent offense with the Capitals scoring just ten more goals then the Penguins during the regular season.
Defensively they are a wash since the Caps were at a seven goal disadvantage and both teams were in the bottom half of the league. As good as these teams are offensively, this series may come down to which team can get the key defense stop when the game is on the line. It will be on the defenders to keep the opponents’ offense off of the attack and on the goaltenders to keep the pucks out of the nets when the game is on the line.
To succeed in the series, the Capitals will need to play a complete game. Their defenders will need to be aggressive and force the Penguins into an outside shooting type of game. They will need to keep the forwards for the Penguins from in front of the goal. They like to put the likes of Crosby and Malkin close to the net and create scoring for them by putting shooters around the perimeter of the scoring zone. By pushing these two players away from the goal and keeping constant contact with them should increase the chances of Varlamov to continue his stellar play in net.
Offensively, the Capitals need to be more aggressive in attacking the net. I felt as though there were times when they got too slap happy from the outside. I felt there were periods were they would settle for hard outside shots instead of taking a little more time to generate more offense around the next. I also feel as though they will need better execution in their passing game. There were periods, such as in the beginning of game seven, when their passing was not crisp and accurate. Their passes would be bouncing off the line of the intended target.
This cannot happen against the Penguins because uncontested giveaways will give the offensively explosive Penguins easy scoring opportunities. Both teams can transition to the offensive attack so quickly that any turnover could easily result in a fast break opportunity for the other. The team that commits the least amount of giveaways, thus limiting the opponents’ scoring opportunities, should come away with the victory.
In the end this matchup is so compelling because both teams match up very similarly and the one who takes care of the puck offensively and protects the zone defensively will move on to the conference finals.
I predict that Varlamov will be the key in leading the Capitals to a 4 games to 2 victory over the Penguins in this second round series.