Friday’s Penguins Buzz
When the Washington Capitals were steam rolling through the regular season last spring, they could not have imagined that the Pittsburgh Penguins would once again be standing in their way.
A 14-2 run by the Penguins to end the regular season changed all of that and the rest is history on how things played out in the post-season.
In what’s been a constant struggle for the Capitals franchise over the years, any time both franchises are on the same Championship caliber level, the Penguins almost always make one more play than the Capitals.
With both clubs having another three to four year window, all season for the Capitals it’s going to be about getting over the ‘speed’ bump again that is the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Thursday’s season opener had a similar feel to what played out when these two teams got together in the second round last May.
It was close to a 50/50 game, though, I thought Washington was slightly better, and the analytics also point to that. Both teams carried the play in spurts but never for long stretches.
Different goaltender for Pittsburgh, same results as last spring.
Washington couldn’t beat a hot goaltender in Marc Andre Fleury as the Caps best players like T.J. Oshie missed glorious chances in OT in shooting the puck in Fleury’s chest, to Washington’s most common problem from last year’s second round series popping up again — an egregious turnover from Dmitri Orlov ending up in the Capitals back of the net.–
It was just game 1 of 82 and nothing more than a 3-2 shootout win but the Penguins mental edge over the Capitals isn’t going away until Washington gets over the hump of knocking the Penguins out in the post-season which is a long ways to go.
The new playoff format instituted a few years ago increases the chances of these two clubs being on a collision course to meet each other again.
— Mike Sullivan used the HBK line as the Penguins top matchup line throughout the game and Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel were the Penguins only line that was at or just below 50% in driving possession at even strength.
At somepoint the Penguins are going to do some experimenting with the lines when everyone is fully healthy, though, the coaching staff is strongly committed to keeping the HBK line in tact and there’s intrigue about giving them more top line matchups to open things up for Sidney Crosby.
— One takeaway out of last night’s win, Washington’s bottom-6 still needs to get quicker. A big development, though, for them in the top-6 is going to be the progression of Andre Burakovsky who scored twice last night and can fly.
— If there’s a storyline for the Penguins out of the win that has long-term questions is the sustainability of the Olli Maatta – Trevor Daley pairing. The pairing was downright bad last post-season and there’s a reason the coaches have been getting Derrick Pouliot practice reps with Daley.
As bad as Maatta’s looked in Thursday’s opener, he’s looked even worse in Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"