All right so there’s probably not going to be any Sidney Crosby and there definitely won’t be Evgeni Malkin, but the Penguins have Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury still and they did nearly win the Atlantic Division. They’ll be matched up against the phenomenal Steve Stamkos, diminutive star Martin St. Louis, and the venerable Vincent Lecavalier in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
With Fleury matching up against Dwayne Roloson for Tampa Bay and the Lightning bringing the bulk of the star power in this series, we’re left wondering just who you’ve got in this series. Here’s how we’re looking at things.
The Penguins have been impressive and resilient this season, but I just don’t know if they can grind out four wins against the Lightning. Only the Vancouver Canucks scored more power play goals than the Lightning in 2010-11 while Pittsburgh is all the way in 19th place. My guess is that the Bolts will get some crucial “easy” goals on the man advantage and will use their superior scoring depth against the star-starved Penguins.
Is Marc-Andre Fleury so superior to Dwayne Roloson that Pittsburgh can overcome those disparities? I’ll guess that the answer is “No.”
It’s the Lightning in 6, while Martin St. Louis stands up and asks, “So why exactly don’t I get Hart Trophy attention? Are voters Heightists or something?”
In one corner we have a team that has been through the battles—on the other, we have a team that has two players who have won a cup and a line-up full of youngsters. I’m a big believer in the idea that a team has to learn how to play in the playoffs and this looks like it could be a learning experience for a lot of the guys in Tampa Bay. The Penguins went to the Cup Finals two seasons in a row until last season—when a weak defensive corps couldn’t hang when the games got tougher in the playoffs. Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek should fix that; the Pens will be able to sneak by on the strength of their defensive game this time.
The Lightning will learn lessons for next year, but Penguins in 5.
Tampa has the dangerous offense and the streaky goalie. Pittsburgh has the stingy, rugged defense and the playoff-tested lights out goalie. I like a lot of what Tampa Bay has but I don’t know that they can hang with the Penguins in what should be a knockdown, drag-out series. Penguins in 7.
What say you faithful PHT readers? Think we’re playing favorites with the Pens or downplaying the Lightning? Vote in our poll and let us know.
Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers
WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.
Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.
Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.
Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.
A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.
Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.
“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”
Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash
The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.
In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.
Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.
But they responded with three unanswered goals, including this beauty from Sean Couturier.
Philadelphia took over for a 3-1 victory, with Mason making 24 saves on 25 shots, as Minnesota’s struggles continue. The Wild still sit second in the Central Division but have only two wins in their last 10 games and were unable to secure a playoff spot Thursday.