Penguins: Storm the Capital(s)

The Pittsburgh Penguins square off against the Washington Capitals in round 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals starting on Thursday at 8:00 pm (NBCSN, TVA Sports) at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

This will be the second playoff meeting between these two teams since 2009,  the last time the Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy.  The Penguins are 7-1 all-time record against their division rivals in the playoffs.

This season, however, the Penguins are 3-2 against the Capitals.  Under the Sullivan era, they are 2-2 and split the four games at one apiece in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

By the Numbers in the Playoffs

Goals for – Pittsburgh (21), Washington (14)

Goals For/Game – Pittsburgh (4.20,), Washington (2.33)

Goals Against – Pittsburgh (10), Washington (Six)

Goals Against/Game – Pittsburgh (2.00), Washington (1.00)

Power Play Percentage – Pittsburgh (38.1), Washington (29.6)

Penalty Kill Percentage – Pittsburgh (89.5), Washington (95.8)

Shots For/Game – Pittsburgh (30.6), Washington (31)

Face-off Win Percentage – Pittsburgh (47.2), Washington (48.2)

For more stats regarding advanced analytics, here is the link.

Injury and Assorted Notes – Washington Capitals

After suffering an upper-body injury that forced him to miss the remainder of the first round, defenseman Brooks Orpik is practicing with the team for the second straight day today, according to Capitals Beat Writer Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post.  According to Opik, he is still waiting for clearance by the medical staff to play.

However, fellow blue liner Karl Alzner has missed two straight practices due to maintenance days.  Head coach Barry Trotz told reporters yesterday that Alzner was deserving of the maintenance day because of “playing hard minutes and blocking a lot of shots.”

In practice yesterday, the Capitals tweaked their forward lines to create more offense for the second line. Here are what the forward lines and defensive pairings will look like come game one:

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – TJ Oshie

Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams

Jason Chimera – Mike Richards – Andre Burakovsky

Daniel Winnik – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson

Brooks Opik – John Carlson

Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen

Dmitry Orlov – Nate Schmidt

Braden Holtby

Phillip Grubauer

Injury and Assorted Notes – Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins practiced today, and everyone was there except rookie forward Conor Sheary.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is still experiencing concussion symptoms, and his timetable to return is still unknown.  That means net minder Matt Murray will try to continue his good play.

Barring any changes, here’s what the lines are expected to look like:

Conor Sheary – Sidney Crosby – Patric Hornqvist

Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin – Eric Fehr

Carl Hagelin – Nick Bonino – Phil Kessel

Tom Kuhnhackl – Matt Cullen – Bryan Rust

Olli Maatta – Kris Letang

Brian Dumoulin – Trevor Daley

Ian Cole – Ben Lovejoy

Matt Murray

Jeff Zatkoff

Players To Watch

Marcus Johansson

Johansson is tied for second on the team with six points (one goal, five assists) through one round of the playoffs.  The second line was slumping during their series against the Philadelphia Flyers, and his promotion to that line will help boost their offense.

Phil Kessel

Kessel had a down year in the regular season, but it seems that he may have found his stride.  He posted six points (three goals, three assists) and all of his goals came on the power play.  The power play has clicked, and Kessel has benefitted up to this point.

Capitals win if….

they bait the Penguins to try to match their physicality, have better depth scoring, keep the game at even strength, and continue to get stellar goaltending from Braden Holtby.  The Capitals are a fast, physical team and the Penguins need to prepare as though this series will be a bruiser.  They are very deep at every position and are way better than what they were in 2009.

Penguins win if…

they force the Capitals to be undisciplined, continue to get hot hands throughout the lineup, and if Murray exceeds Holtby’s play in net.  The Penguins could not have asked for a better time to get rolling, and they will be a force to be reckoned with.  Murray was good last series against the Rangers, but he needs to tighten up in net against the Capitals.  He let in some soft goals, and that cannot happen this series.  The third line of Hagelin, Bonino, and Kessel has been their best line by far, which can create matchup problems for the Capitals.