2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: The only two remaining teams in the playoffs that are #1 and #2 seeds, (2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (1) Washington Capitals. The most highly anticipated matchup of the playoffs. The Capitals “year” winning back to back President’s trophy against the former Stanley Cup winners. Crosby vs Ovechkin, Malkin vs Backstrom. The matchup we’ve all been waiting for.
2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Where do I even dive in with this match up, the two have met four times(five now) over the last eighteen years. Capitals have lost all four meetings with the Penguins. Over the regular season the two combined to score 35 goals, the two split the regular season series meetings two and two. While Washington outscored Pittsburgh 21-14 in the four meetings. Pittsburgh’s most recent Stanley cup wins, they had to go through Washington. If history repeats itself, are we looking at another Pittsburgh Stanley Cup? Maybe, maybe not, we’ll see.
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The Penguins led all playoff team with 4.2 goals per game in the 1st round over fives games, while Washington averaged 3.0 goals per game. Washington managed 35.2 shots per game, while Pittsburgh had 34.2. Pittsburgh has four players in the top 10 for points during the 1st round, while Washington has two. Now the reason Pittsburgh gets the edge here is because of three reasons, depth scoring Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin‘s points/game since 2012-2013 statistic. Malkin leads all active players with.97 points since 2012-2013(minimum of 50 games). That’s an outstanding number and proves Malkin’s efficiency in the playoffs. Along with players like Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, Nick Bonino all chipping doing their part helped Pittsburgh stomp over Columbus. Not to even mention Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel as well, this Pittsburgh offense led all teams during the regular season in goals for(278) and continue to fire on all cylinders. Despite Ovechkin’s lack of offensive production against the Maple Leafs, you can guarantee Ovi will rise to the occasion against Crosby and the Penguins.
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Washington let up the fewest goals during the regular season among all NHL teams(177) and the 7th ranked penalty kill(83.8), also while giving up the fourth fewest shots on goal during the regular season. While Karl Alzner recently went down with an injury Washington will be without the veteran defense until he returns, and as Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang is out for the remainder of the playoffs the Penguins defense will have a difficult time with Washington’s depth across the lineup. Washington faced an explosive, young Toronto team that took them into five overtime meetings, with Pittsburgh speed and talent up front Washington also won’t have an easy time handling the stardom of Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, and Evgeni Malkin.
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With Pittsburgh’s Matthew Murray still battling a lower body injury, veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stepped into the fill the void. While Fleury pushed away 184 shots out of 191 against, while posting 2.52 goals against and .933 save percentage. Fleury’s real test will come against Washington’s depth across the lineup. With Braden Holtby‘s recent Vezina finalist nomination and outstanding regular season run, the 27-year-old starter faced some challenges against the young Toronto Maple Leafs. In the 1st round, Holtby posted 2.36 goals against and a .925 save percentage, unlikely for the star-studded goaltender who was thought to handle the Maple Leafs with ease. Despite Holtby’s first round mishap, and track record against the Penguins in the past, Holtby’s regular season track record gives him the upper hand in this situation.