This is probably the most anticipated second round match up this year in the Stanley Cup playoffs. A rematch from last year saw the Pens win the series 4-2. Will the Pens be able to duplicate their success, or will the Caps finally get over the second round hump and move on to a Eastern Conference Final?

 

Home Ice Advantage: Tie

I’d say this is a draw. Both buildings are extremely hard to play in for visiting teams. The fans get into the game before it starts and they don’t really quite down ever through out the game. Stealing one on the road then, will be crucial to winning this series for either┬áteam

 

Forwards: Tie

Again you could call this a draw. I could also see someone picking the pens over the caps in this category or the other way around. The reason I’m going with a tie is because it really just comes down to who shows up. Both teams have all-star goal scorers such as Sydney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin and excellent play makers as well. For the Pens to win, they need Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel to show up and score big goals at big times. The Caps need Ovi, Oshie, Backstrom, and Williams to do the same. Both teams are so talented on the offensive side of the puck it’s really hard to tell who has the advantage on paper. Even secondary scoring from the 3rd and 4th lines are too close to tell. Make no mistake, these big players need to show up in order for their teams to have success in this series.

 

Defense: Caps

I think the Caps have a stronger defensive core than the Pens do. Guys like Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, John Carlson, and newly acquired Kevin Shattenkirk are the reason why I’m giving the Caps the edge here. Orpik needs to be physical and just a menace to play against. He should try to get Crosby and Malkin off their game as much as possible, even if that means being a bit dirty when the refs aren’t watching. The other three need to be menaces as well physically and with good stick work. Also, these guys have pretty solid shots from the blue line so getting pucks through traffic is key as well. If they can get the puck on net, guys like Oshie and Williams can clean up the garbage and get easy goals. I know the Pens have great defensemen in Trevor Daley and Justin Shultz but I just think the overall core of the Caps is greater than that of the Pens. That being said, the Pens defensemen are very good at stick work and poke checks and they really aren’t afraid to be offensive and join the rush. Another reason for me giving the edge to the Caps here is because Kris Letang is out and that’s a huge piece for them to be missing at this point and against this opponent.

 

Goaltending: Caps

If Matt Murray was in net, I’d call this a draw. Since he’s not, I’d give it to Braden Holtby. He is the backbone of the Caps defensive end and of the entire team. When he plays well, the rest of the team plays with a confidence that is hard to rival. Holtby will be greatly challenged this series since the Pens have so much offensive depth. He is going to have to make big saves in key moments in order for the Caps to be successful here. I have no doubt he will be up to the challenge. As for Fleury; he’ll have to recapture the magic he had in his earlier years to be successful. If he plays out of his mind, stand on your head goaltending, the Pens are going to be hard to beat. In recent years though, Fleury has not been this. He’ll make fantastic saves, but then he’ll also let a couple weak goals go in. In a series against an offensively charged Caps team, this cannot happen. I think Fleury will come out strong but then mentally wear down over the length of the series. When this happens, the Caps will take advantage.

 

Series Prediction: Caps in 7

Regardless of how my prediction goes, I’m so excited for this series. I believe this and the Ducks/Oilers series will be the most entertaining in this second round. I also believe that whoever wins this series, will go on to win the Cup. I don’t think it really matters who the Caps or Pens play in the last two rounds, I think they’re better than all the teams in pretty much every single way. Turn your TVs on to this series because this is something you really aren’t going to want to miss.