Key Matchup-

The obvious matchup to keep your eyes on is between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. I don’t think many people have forgotten the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals where in Game 2 both players had hattricks. They were the first players from opposite teams to do so in a playoff game in 13 years, since Trevor Linden (Vancouver Canucks) and Joe Sakic (Colorado Avalanche) in 1996. It has only happened four times in NHL history, and it hasn’t happened since. Crosby has said “We drove each other in that game.” and Ovechkin has said “That’s two leaders showing up.” about it, and that’s why I for one love when the best players play the best at their best; it pushes the game to a level beyond. Ovechkin had eight goals and 14 points in the series; Crosby had eight goals and 13 points, and the Penguins went on to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final.

The mindset that these two have isn’t focused on each other, but instead they both have a team focus and a drive to win no matter who their opponents are. They are willing to put everything on the ice for their respective teams to win, and that includes a drive to outplay everyone on the opposing team including each other. These two men may be the most competitive in the league and their intensity is explosive whenever they face each other.

Ovechkin and Crosby have both won the Hart, Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies. Crosby has 938 points in 707 regular-season games. Ovechkin has 525 goals in 839 games. Crosby is all around skilled and consistent in how he plays; while Ovechkin is all about scoring goals and he does it with flare. Crosby has been the stronger player offensively this season, especially after Mike Sullivan took over on December 13th. If we just look at 5-on-5 play for the entire 2015-16 season, Crosby had 18 goals and 51 points in 1,209:47 of ice time, while Ovechkin had 27 goals and 40 points in 1,184:10 of ice time. Ovechkin scored 50 percent more goals while Crosby had more than 150 percent more assists. In terms of primary assists, Crosby is ahead 21-2. The amount of shots Crosby set up bridges the scoring gap between the two players. The Capitals outplayed their opponents 1,222 shot attempts to 1,074 when Ovechkin was on the ice, while the Penguins have a narrow edge of 1,290 to 1,077 with Crosby. Crosby is tied with teammates Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, and the Capitals’ John Carlson, for the playoff lead with five power-play points. Ovechkin has three power-play points. In the regular season Ovechkin and Crosby both had 24 power-play points. The only difference between their power play points is that Ovechkin contributes by scoring, while Crosby sets them up. Ovechkin is the more physical player with 225 hits ranked second on the Capitals in the regular season, behind Tom Wilson’s 253. Crosby had 90 hits, which ranked No. 8 on the Penguins. Crosby has the more established big-game reputation, having won the Stanley Cup in 2009, and the gold medal at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. These are two phenomenal players and it’s difficult to decide who has the edge, but I will give it to Sidney Crosby with his playmaking abilities and skills as an all-around player. But I will also say that I don’t believe he would have that edge if he were still playing under Mike Johnston and not Sullivan. I don’t believe either that this matchup would be taking place if the Penguins were still coached by Johnston.

Pittsburgh Penguins –

There were moments that the Penguins were outshot in Round 1 by the Rangers and that should not be ignored, but in five games, the Penguins averaged more than four goals per game which is the most of any team in the first round, and not an easy task against Henrik Lundqvist. Pittsburgh had five forwards average at least one point per game in its five-game first round series. Crosby led Pittsburgh with eight points (three goals, five assists). After missing Game 1 of the series, Evgeni Malkin returned from recovering from an upper body injury and racked up seven points, including two goals and two assists in Game 4. His first two games weren’t his best, but he picked up the pace in the final two. The Penguins’ third line of Nick Bonino, Phil Kessel, and Carl Hagelin combined for 12 points (four goals, eight assists); while the fourth line of Matt Cullen, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Bryan Rust contributed three points apiece. Patric Hornqvist had five points, including a hattrick in Game 1 against the Rangers, and he is a key component of the Penguins power play with his ability to tip pucks and screen the goalie. Pittsburgh’s star players are a match for those of the Capitals, but a key factor is the team mentality and that the Penguins’ chemistry, skill, and speed that all complement each other.

Pittsburgh scored on eight of 21 power-play opportunities against the New York Rangers in the first round. They scored at least one power-play goal in every game, including two in Game 2 and three in Game 4. The Pens penalty kill was 17-for-19. The Rangers scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal in Game 1, and a late power-play goal in Game 5. The Penguins power play unit will have a challenge against the Capitals whose penalty kill in the first round against the Flyers was 23-for-24.

The Penguins have a healthy and efficient defense with plenty of depth. Kris Letang’s five points led Pittsburgh’s defensemen against New York, and his 51.87 shot attempts percentage, and average of 27:17 of ice time were the highest on the Penguins. Olli Maatta had difficulties being effective early on against New York, but played better as the series progressed and averaged 18:27 of ice time. Trevor Daley averaged 22:41 of ice time, and had three assists in the first round and his partner, Brian Dumoulin who is one of the Penguins’ best skaters. Completing the Pittsburgh defense, Ben Lovejoy and Ian Cole lead the Pittsburgh defensemen in shorthanded time on ice.

Marc-Andre Fleury will not be in the crease in Game 1 as he is still suffering from concussion symptoms. Matt Murray will be the likely choice to start the round. He took over playoff goaltending duty in the final three games against the Rangers after missing the first two with an upper-body injury. He allowed four goals on 89 shots for a 1.33 GAA and .955 save percentage. He had a 31-save shutout in Game 4, and made 38 saves in a 6-3 win in Game 5. Jeff Zatkoff has also proven himself by making 35 saves in a 5-2 win in Game 1 against the Rangers, and will likely be Murray’s backup in Game 1.

Coaching has been an important facet of why the Penguins are in this position. They were floundering under the guidance of Mike Johnston, and when Mike Sullivan took over the position it truly showed what a difference a coach can make. Sullivan wasn’t a complete stranger to this team as he knew Sheary, Rust, Kuhnhackl, and Murray from their three months together with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. He earned the respect of the whole team by asking them to play a fast paced game which is conducive to their skill and preference, and he seems to have an open dialog with the players allowing for them to thrive rather than be dictated. Under his mentorship the Penguins were 33-16-5 in their final 54 games of the regular season.

Washington Capitals-

The Flyers were expected to be a fairly easy matchup for the Capitals, but Washington’s offensive machine seemed to have some issues during the first round. If it weren’t for Nicklas Backstrom’s Game 6 goal, the Capitals could have been pushed to seven games against the Flyers. Pittsburgh is going to be a more difficult team to beat than Philadelphia, so it will be important that the Caps produce more offensively. The Capitals only allowed six goals against in a six-game series with the spectacular talent of Braden Holtby and the Washington defense holding their ground. One of the Capitals greatest strengths is their power play boasting the fifth best power play in the league during the regular season. The Capitals scored on eight power plays of 27 against the Philadelphia Flyers in Round 1. Ovechkin scored two power-play goals. In Game 5, Ovechkin had eight shots on goal and eight hits. The two-way dominating Nicklas Backstrom had seven points (two goals, five assists). There were moments against the Flyers that Ovechkin and Backstrom couldn’t make anything happen, and the third and fourth lines weren’t helping matters in those moments. It will be crucial that the third and fourth lines start producing more in this series.

John Carlson scored three power-play goals in the first round and led Washington defensemen with six points (five on the power play) and averaged 24:58 of ice time. Matt Niskanen averaged 25:32 on the ice, while Karl Alzner averaged 22:43 minutes. Top penalty-killer, Brooks Orpik, was injured in Game 3 and it’s unclear when or if he’ll make an appearance in the second round.

The Flyers weren’t much of a test for Braden Holtby only scoring six goals in the first round against him. Five were against Holtby and one was into an empty net. The Capitals’ netminder had two shutouts, 2-0 in Game 1 and 1-0 in Game 6. Holtby leads NHL goaltenders remaining in the playoffs with a 0.84 goals-against average and .968 save percentage.

The Washington penalty kill was a key component to their success. Out of 23 tries, the Flyers scored only once on the power play. The Capitals went 5-for-9 on the power play in a 6-1 win in Game 3 and were 8-for-27 with the man-advantage in the series.

Prediction: Penguins in 6

Follow us on Twitter @TristinHuntamer and @BandBHockey

Read our analysis of the Capitals and the Penguins Round 1 matchups to learn more about these teams.

Key Matchup-

Nicklas Backstrom vs Claude Giroux; could there be a more well rounded matchup? Nicklas Backstrom is second in assists-per-game with 0.73 while Claude Giroux is fifth with 0.69. Both do the most damage while on power plays. The two players are first and second in PP assists over the last five seasons. Backstrom has a bit of  scoring edge on 5-on-5 and Giroux having a small advantage in possession, but their numbers are so close that it’s impossible to see who will edge out who. It’s rare to see such an even match.

Washington Capitals-

Winning Formula: 

Alex Ovechkin may be the leader by he has a great team to lead. He has a solid defense behind him and the crease is safe. Barry Trotz has brought structure and strategy to this team from the bench. Stanley Cup veterans Justin Williams and Mike Richards bring experience and confidence. Evgeny Kuznetsov doesn’t seem as if he can be stopped. The Caps have one of the best offenses in the league, a stone wall defense, and are solid on the power play and the penalty kill. This team is the favorite for the cup based on the past season’s performance.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less:  

The defense is usually strong, but sometimes they let things slip through the cracks. It’s rare, but in the second half of the season it was becoming more often. The playoffs are more pressure and harder play. Those mistakes cannot be made or they will pay for them.

Considering advanced stats, in particular Corsi, the Caps need to improve their faceoff and puck possession. In recent Stanley Cup history the champs have had strong numbers in the Corsi metric, and if the Tampa Bay Lightning doesn’t get knocked out before the Eastern Conference Final Washington will not be able to stack up of changes aren’t made.

Philadelphia Flyers-

Winning Formula:

The flyers had a strong end to the regular season. Younger memebers of the team Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, and  Shayne Gostisbehere have had a stellar year. Gostisbehere has been a revelation since he joined the team producing more than anyone could have expected. Claude Giroux has lead the team in dominating faceoffs which will certainly benefit them against the Capitals.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less: 

The Flyers lack in defense compared to other teams putting far too much pressure on Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. They get far too many penalties and their penalty kill isn’t good enough to handle it. Radko Gudas may play for the Flyers, but his tendency for making questionable and dangerous hits could make him a thorn in his own teams side.

Predictions: Capitals in 5

Follow us on Twitter @TristinHuntamer and @BandBHockey

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New York Rangers-

Winning Formula: Lundqvist will be a key component in this series and will have to play as well as he did against the Penguins as there is bound to be some scrambling in front of the net. He’ll need to remain composed during those moments. This is a fast team and they are especially great on the backend on breakouts. They need to use that speed as best they can to avoid an overly physical game, and keep the team as healthy as possible. Games can be won and lost on how a team manages at power play and the Rangers will need to focus on shooting first when they have the advantage.

Learning from Round 1: A factor in their game 2 loss against the Penguins was their power play. They need to keep shooting and not let their advantage go to waste. New York scored three power-play goals, including the game-winner in Game 1 and the goal that put them up 1-0 in Game 5. The Rangers were 3-for-20 on the power play (15 percent) and at times struggled to get shots (33 total), but they were better when they went with a unit that featured four forwards and one defenseman. The Rangers were shorthanded 13 times, fewer than three times per game. They allowed two power-play goals in Game 2, each to Pittsburgh’s second power-play unit. New York committed 15 minor penalties in the five games, and in the second round they will need to lessen that number and stay out of the penalty box as much as possible.

Washington Capitals –

Winning Formula: Holtby has proven that he isn’t just a regular season goaltender and can hold his own in the playoffs. If the Caps find the lead Holtby can hold it. Ovechkin and Backstrom ranked in the top 10 in scoring in the regular season; Backstrom has six points in the playoffs and Ovechkin has five, so it is important that the two play the way they did during the regular season. Washington will need to take advantage of their power play and not let the Rangers take advantage of them when they are on the penalty kill.

Learning from Round 1: The Capitals top power play during the regular season did not transfer over to the first round of the playoffs against the Islanders. Washington scored on two of 13 chances (15.4 percent), tied for 11th among playoff teams. Ovechkin led the League with 25 power-play goals but didn’t score one in the series. Backstrom and Carlson each had a power-play goal. They will need to generate more offense on the power play in the 2nd round. Special teams didn’t completely fizzle in the second round as the Caps had a superb PK killing all 14 shorthanded chances in the first round. In the first round Washington showed discipline only averaging two minor penalties per game.

Goalie Matchup- Lundqvist shook off speculation that the vascular injury he sustained that caused a 23 game absence during the end of the regular season would hold him back in the first round. He played deep in the crease and tracked the puck well; he also challenged on the forcheck. Lundqvist allowed eight goals on 132 shots for a .939 save percentage and 1.53 goals-against average in five games against Pittsburgh. He gave up four goals on 110 shots (.964 save percentage) in New York’s four wins, all by a 2-1 score. In Game 5, when he made 37 saves on 38 shots for the series-clinching win. Since the 2011 playoffs, Lundqvist is 32-29 with a .931 save percentage, 1.99 goals-against average and six shutouts in 62 appearances. Holtby made a League-high 73 appearances during the regular season and ranked in the top five in nearly all goaltending categories. He missed Game 2 against the Islanders with an illness, but came back and only allowed a total of seven goals in the final five games of the series. His .943 save percentage ranks second among playoff goalies, and his 1.63 goals-against average is third. Holtby made 166 saves on 176 Islanders shots, and although he faced 11 shots in Game 7, he faced more than 35 three times in the series. Holtby has a 6-8 playoff record against the Rangers, having allowed 31 goals (.924 save percentage). He allowed four-plus goals in three of the final five games of a 2013 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals loss in seven games to them.

Follow @TristinHuntamer on Twitter

Read our pre-series analysis from Round 1 for the Rangers and the Capitals.

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Head-to-Head Season Stats
Stats
Capitals
Islanders
Record 2-0-2 2-1-1
Goals 12 11
Shot Attempts 186 211

 

Season Stats
 
Capitals
Islanders
Rank
Stats
Rank
Stats
Shot Attempts For/60 16 53.5 1 60.5
Shot Attempts Against/60 6 49.6 18 52.7
Shot Attempt % 12 51.9 5 53.5
Goals For/60 16 2.26 4 2.55
Goals Against/60 13 2.06 21 2.36
Goal % 11 52.3 12 52.0
Shooting % 10 8.1 14 7.8
Save % 14 92.4 27 91.4
Powerplay 1 25.3 16 18.7
Penalty Kill 14 81.2 26 78.0

 Key Matchup-

Alex Ovechkin vs. John Tavares: Two of the league’s best offensive players are matched up in this series. The two match evenly when it comes to possession, but Tavares has the upper hand in actually out-scoring the other team. Tavares holds the edge at 5-on-5; while Ovechkin does most of his damage on the power play.

NY Islanders-

Winning Formula: They are one of the best possession teams in the NHL, and the past three Stanley Cup winners have all ranked top-three in unblocked shot attempts which give this team confidence in their run. This team has what is now called the “best fourth line in hockey” in Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck. Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy (Cup winners with Boston and Chicago) have brought leadership and skill to this team while team captain, Tavares, plays phenomenal offensive hockey. Be on the lookout for Kyle Okposo whose value in stats has been eclipsed by the time he missed. He was posting about a point-per-game before his eye injury and is back on a line with John Tavares for the playoffs.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less:  If the Islanders relax gaps develop in their defense leaving the goalie to fend off pucks that should have never made it that close to the crease. Jaroslav Halak may have been amazing five years ago when he lifted the Canadiens to the finals, but he has played just 201 minutes of NHL playoff hockey. Backup Michal Neuvirth is even less tried, with just nine games four years ago in Washington. They don’t tend to draw penalties, but if they do they are in trouble as they have one of the worst kill rates in the NHL.

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Washington Capitals-

Winning Formula: Coach Barry Trotz beefed up the blueline over the summer with Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskan and it has produced great results. Washington is now a top-10 team defensively, jumping up from the bottom third last year, and the team’s possession numbers are better as well. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom together and apart are amazing. Evgeny Kuznetsov and trade deadline acquisition Curtis Glencross should not be overlooked. The Capitals have a strong powerplay. Improvements have been made in the crease with goalie Braden Holtby learning from new goaltender coach Mitch Korn how to use his athleticism more judiciously and has improved his positioning in the last year.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less:  Never underestimate the power of a great coach. Trotz has changed the way this team plays and if they play the way they did before Trotz came into the picture they will find the puck coming dangerously close to their own net. When the Caps get down they have a difficult time bouncing back. This team takes a lot of penalties which is all the more troubling as their penalty kill although not bad isn’t especially good either.

Follow me at @TristinHuntamer

 

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EASTERN CONFERENCE FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS
SERIES A – A1 vs. W1 TIME (ET) Ottawa-Montreal NETWORKS
Wednesday, April 15 7 p.m. Ottawa at Montreal CBC, TVA Sports, NHL Network
Friday, April 17  7 p.m. Ottawa at Montreal CBC, TVA Sports, CNBC
Sunday, April 19 7 p.m. Montreal at Ottawa CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN
Wednesday, April 22 7 p.m. Montreal at Ottawa CBC, TVA Sports, USA
*Friday, April 24  TBD Ottawa at Montreal CBC
*Sunday, April 26  TBD Montreal at Ottawa CBC
*Tuesday, April 28  TBD Ottawa at Montreal CBC
SERIES B – A2 vs. A3 TIME (ET) Detroit-Tampa Bay NETWORKS
Thursday, April 16 7:30 p.m. Detroit at Tampa Bay CNBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Saturday, April 18 3 p.m. Detroit at Tampa Bay NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Tuesday, April 21 7 p.m. Tampa Bay at Detroit NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Thursday, April 23 7 p.m. Tampa Bay at Detroit NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Saturday, April 25 TBD Detroit at Tampa Bay TBD
*Monday, April 27 TBD Tampa Bay at Detroit TBD
*Wednesday, April 29 TBD Detroit at Tampa Bay TBD
SERIES C – M1 vs. W2 TIME (ET) Pittsburgh-NY Rangers NETWORKS
Thursday, April 16 7 p.m. Pittsburgh at NY Rangers NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Saturday, April 18 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at NY Rangers NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Monday, April 20 7 p.m. NY Rangers at Pittsburgh NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Wednesday, April 22 7 p.m. NY Rangers at Pittsburgh NBCSN, SN 360, TVA Sports
*Friday, April 24 TBD Pittsburgh at NY Rangers TBD
*Sunday, April 26 TBD NY Rangers at Pittsburgh TBD
*Tuesday, April 28 TBD Pittsburgh at NY Rangers TBD
SERIES D – M2 vs. M3 TIME (ET) NY Islanders- Washington NETWORKS
Wednesday, April 15 7 p.m. NY Islanders at Washington USA, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Friday, April 17 7 p.m. NY Islanders at Washington NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Sunday, April 19 Noon Washington at NY Islanders NBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Tuesday, April 21 7:30 p.m. Washington at NY Islanders USA, SN 360, TVA Sports
*Thursday, April 23 TBD NY Islanders at Washington TBD
*Saturday, April 25 TBD Washington at NY Islanders TBD
*Monday, April 27 TBD NY Islanders at Washington TBD
WESTERN CONFERENCE FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS
SERIES E – C1 vs. W1 TIME (ET) Minnesota-St. Louis NETWORKS
Thursday, April 16 9:30 p.m. Minnesota at St. Louis NBCSN, SN 360, TVA Sports
Saturday, April 18 3 p.m. Minnesota at St. Louis NBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Monday, April 20 8 p.m. St. Louis at Minnesota CNBC, SN1, TVA Sports
Wednesday, April 22 9:30 p.m. St. Louis at Minnesota NBCSN, SN 360, TVA Sports
*Friday, April 24 TBD Minnesota at St. Louis TBD
*Sunday, April 26 TBD St. Louis at Minnesota TBD
*Wednesday, April 29 TBD Minnesota at St. Louis TBD
SERIES F – C2 vs. C3 TIME (ET) Chicago-Nashville NETWORKS
Wednesday, April 15 8:30 p.m. Chicago at Nashville NBCSN, SN 360, TVA Sports
Friday, April 17 9:30 p.m. Chicago at Nashville NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Sunday, April 19 3 p.m. Nashville at Chicago NBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Tuesday, April 21 9:30 p.m. Nashville at Chicago NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
*Thursday, April 23 TBD Chicago at Nashville TBD
*Saturday, April 25 TBD Nashville at Chicago TBD
*Monday, April 27 TBD Chicago at Nashville TBD
SERIES G – P1 vs. W2 TIME (ET) Winnipeg-Anaheim NETWORKS
Thursday, April 16 10:30 p.m. Winnipeg at Anaheim CNBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Saturday, April 18 10:30 p.m. Winnipeg at Anaheim NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Monday, April 20 9 p.m. Anaheim at Winnipeg Sportsnet, TVA Sports, NBCSN
Wednesday, April 22 9:30 p.m. Anaheim at Winnipeg Sportsnet, TVA Sports, USA
*Friday, April 24 TBD Winnipeg at Anaheim Sportsnet
*Sunday, April 26 TBD Anaheim at Winnipeg Sportsnet
*Tuesday, April 28 TBD Winnipeg at Anaheim Sportsnet
SERIES H – P2 vs. P3 TIME (ET) Calgary-Vancouver NETWORKS
Wednesday, April 15 10 p.m. Calgary at Vancouver CBC, TVA Sports, USA
Friday, April 17 10 p.m. Calgary at Vancouver CBC, TVA Sports, CNBC
Sunday, April 19 10 p.m. Vancouver at Calgary CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN
Tuesday, April 21 10 p.m. Vancouver at Calgary CBC, TVA Sports, USA
*Thursday, April 23 TBD Calgary at Vancouver CBC
*Saturday, April 25 TBD Vancouver at Calgary CBC
*Monday, April 27 TBD Calgary at Vancouver CBC

* – if necessary TBD – To be determined (JIP) – joined in progress

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