Weekly Rant: Keys to round two

Weekly Rant
Weekly Rant

Jesse Marshall over at Faceoff-Factor was nice enough to ask me to join in on another roundtable discussion.  This time, we’re talking Eastern Conference semi-finals.

It’s a little late, being that we have already played one game, but here’s what minds from around the blogosphere think about the series.  more specifically, what it will take for the Pens to win.

Click read more to see what Jesse put together…

From one hated rival to another. The Penguins have drawn the Southeast Division Champion Washington Capitals for a heated conference semi-final match. As we did for the first round, here’s what some of the folks in the blogosphere are saying.

Chris GatesPittsburgh Puck Talk

If there’s one thing the Penguins need to do, it’s continue to be physical. For the most part, the Pens were the more physical team against Philadelphia — something few of us thought would be the case. By continuing the same kind of play in the second round against Washington, Pittsburgh can expose a rather soft Capitals team. The Pens have better two-way forwards than the Caps do. They also have a more rugged corps of defensemen. I believe an aggressive forecheck can force Washington into problems they didn’t run in to against the Rangers. Let’s be honest, New York was a mediocre hockey team and it took the Caps seven game to beat them. They didn’t test rookie goaltender Simeon Varlamov like the Pens can. By taking the action to Washington, the Penguins can be successful in this series. This series is the perfect time to showcase how well-rounded of a team Pittsburgh is.

Our next stop takes us to Tony Ferrante’s The Confluence

The Penguins’ fortunes in their series vs. the Capitals all revolves around one entity, and that’s Alex Ovechkin. Sure, I could say goaltending. I think Varlamov’s 15 minutes of fame are about to be over. I could say the powerplay, but I’m tired of complaining about that, frankly it’s too obvious. But what anyone who has watched the Caps since Ovechkin’s arrival could surmise is that the entire team revolves around him. If the opposition contains him, the Caps have a hard time winning. But if Ovechkin starts getting on a roll, you can see how much the other players levitate towards him. As I recently opined in my blog, the Pens need to really target Ovechkin and check him at every opportunity. Get him off his game, and the wins will get much easier.

Next we visit with Sean Leahy of Puck Daddy

The Penguins need to get to Simeon Varlamov early. My biggest fear in this series is that he turns into Cam Ward of 2006 as the rookie goaltender, who replaces the team’s starter, and then gets hot at the right time. I think if they can pepper him with shots, get traffic in the crease, and get on top early, they should prevail. On the topic of the Penguins offense, the power-play is vital as well. They need to wake up with the extra man (can’t get much worse).

Our last stop takes us to Brian Metzer at Hockeybuzz

The Penguins showed a ton of heart and resiliency in getting past the Philadelphia Flyers. You could say that they did it in spite of themselves in a couple of the games, but none of that matters now, as they have a date with the Washington Capitals. Though the Penguins have history on their side in this series, it is worth noting that this incarnation of the Capitals packs a lot more fire power. The Penguins have their share of high end talent as well, but I think that this series comes down to two things – secondary scoring and goaltending. Though Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby were leading the playoff scoring race after one round, the team still managed to get goals from 9 different players, including tallies from Rob Scuderi and Mark Eaton. That has got to continue; in fact they will need even more production from the likes of Ruslan Fedotenko, Chris Kunitz, Bill Guerin and Miro Satan/Petr Sykora. The Capitals picked up goals from 10 different players in their opening round series and Sergei Fedorov looks to be heating up. The gray bearded Russian will be a great compliment to Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin. The team that gets the additional secondary scoring will most likely have gotten the upper hand in the goaltending department. I feel that the Penguins have the edge in this category coming into the series, as Marc-Andre Fleury is making his third appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while Simeon Varlamov is just a rookie. That isn’t to take away from the numbers Varlamov was able to post in the first round, but he faced an average of just over 23 shots per game. I believe that the Penguins will get a lot more rubber on the rookie, making his life a lot more difficult. It will be the difference in the series.

Jesse’s Take:

The Penguins defense is grossly underrated. These two teams match-up fairly evenly on offense, but defense is where the disparity grows. Mark Eaton had more goals than Jeff Carter last series, Sergei Gonchar continued to get better, Rob Scuderi showed the NHL that he’s better at killing penalties with one arm than most guys are with two, and Brooks Orpik continued his reign of terror over the opposition. Combine all that with the fact that Marc-Andre Fleury looked solid in net, absolutely stealing two games from the Flyers, and it could be a rough go for Simeon Varlamov and the Capitals.

Chris | PPT

“Avenge 6-4-08”

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