Round 2 Preview: Caps vs. Penguins

Posted April 27, 2016

Orpik or not Orpik? (Caps Outsider)

When the NHL releases their schedule every year, I always circle the same four or five games – the ones that say Pittsburgh Penguins. I tell all my friends that I am busy and immediately try to get those tickets. This rivalry is one of the best in the league, and that only gets amplified in the playoffs.

This series features superstar talent on all ends off the ice. Up front you have of course, Sydney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but you also have Evgeni Malkin and Nicklas Backstrom, Patric Hornqvist, and TJ Oshie, Phil Kessel and Evgeny Kuznetsov. On defense you have guys like John Carlson and Krstopher Letang. In goal, you have Braden Holtby and possibly Marc-Andre Fleury.

Who plays in net is a big question for the Penguins. Fleury has been dealing with concussion symptoms, so Matt Murray might show up. If it is Murray, the Caps should be peppering him with shots. He was second  in the AHL this season with a .931 save percentage and a 2.10 goals against average.

On the Caps’ injury front, it is still unknown if Brooks Orpik will play in game 1. He missed the final three games of the Capitals’ first round series against the Philadelphia Flyers with an “upper body injury.” Another play to keep an eye on is Caps “Ironman” Karl Alzner, who was did not at practice on Tuesday or Wednesday for a “maintenance day.” The “injury” is considered “upper-body,” but he is not expected to miss game 1.

Of all the great match-ups in this series, the Oshie-Hornqvist one might make the difference. The two of them both play with their teams’ superstars in Ovechkin and Crosby. Ovechkin has his deadly shot, which also results in more space for linemates. Oshie is more accurate than people give him credit for. In this series, Oshie needs to take the shots he is given. The Penguins defense will most likely try to take away not only Ovechkins but also Backstrom’s time and space, which could leave more room for Oshie. If he makes the Penguins respect him along with Ovechkin and Backstrom, the Caps will dominate that match-up.

On the flip side, the same could be said for Hornqvist. Crosby demands the respect out of defenders and goaltenders with his passing and his backhand. Crosby is one of the best passers in the world. Defenders and goalies have to be aware of other players at all times, especially when Crosby has the puck. If someone gets caught puck-watching, Crosby will find the open man, which is usually Hornqvist. He also has a better shot than people give him credit for. He can be deadly, if the Caps forget about him.

This series will feature a ton of star power and many great match-ups. I am predicting every game be a tight one-goal game. This might be the best series of the entire playoffs. Enjoy it. I predict, Caps in 7.