Favorites in the East Division?
The Washington Capitals have a roster that just looks built for the playoffs. A big, heavy hockey club that will wear the opposition down over a seven game series.
More and more, though, the Capitals look like they have a matchup problem when it comes to dealing with the Penguins. Under Peter Laviolette this looks like a Capitals coached team like it was under Todd Reirden. A good to very good team at times that has too many lulls in the attention to details.
Where as in Pittsburgh, the play away from the puck has gone to new heights.
Playing with speed can be overrated.
The Penguins right now, though, look like a Barry Trotz coached team in how structured they’ve become and there’s some signs of being an elite hockey team in how they’ve evolved into a speed/structured type team. The pace the Penguins are playing at, while still playing a responsible game has been very encouraging towards their long-term prospects in the playoffs.
That’s the biggest difference between the Penguins and Capitals right now. Doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be another 50-50 type series because it likely will, but, it’s a key difference that could sway a playoff series between the two.
Another promising sign:
There’s just something of a mental edge the Penguins seem to always have against the Capitals and it’s still there. The two game set again showed just some odd gaffes the Capitals have against Pittsburgh that ends up in the back of their own net.
— There were some enormous pieces missing again from Saturday night’s 3-0 Penguins win.
Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson, while Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Tanev for Pittsburgh.
And if your ranking both rosters combined 1-45, you’re going 1. Sidney Crosby, 2. Alex Ovechkin and then 3. John Carlson. The Capitals have that going for them…..
— No question Bryan Rust have emerged into one of the best values in the NHL but he’s also evolved into one of the best two-way wingers in the Eastern Conference. Coaches around the league think so highly of Rust.
“He is one hell of a hockey player” — Mike Sullivan on Bryan Rust
— Underrated story emerging with four games remaining:
Could Jake Guentzel (53 points) become the first Penguin not named Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby to lead the team in points since the 2003-2004 season?
Probably not as Guentzel and Crosby play together at even strength and on the power play, but Guentzel is just three points behind Crosby with four games to go. Crosby has tailed off a bit over the last week with his level of play and you could see the Penguins rest him over the final two games.
The last winger to lead the team in points was Alexei Kovalev in 2001-2002.Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"