Round one of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs has concluded, and the Washington Capitals defeated the young Toronto Maple Leafs in a hard-fought 6-game series. The Capitals did not play some of their best hockey against the Leafs, but the series provided a good test for them. The Capitals dug in and fought through some adversity to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With the Leafs now in the rear-view mirror, the Capitals must turn their attention to the Pittsburgh Penguins. This is a rematch of last year’s second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Game 1 is on Thursday night at 7:30 PM ET.
The Penguins are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and they have kept a pretty identical roster in one year’s time.
The Penguins are coming off a 5-game round one series win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Leading the way for the Penguins is Evgeni Malkin who recorded 2 goals and 11 points in the series versus the Blue Jackets. Malkin recorded 33 goals and 72 points during the regular season with only Sidney Crosby ahead of him in the Penguins scoring race.
Things will be a little bit different for the Penguins in this year’s playoffs. They are without the services of defenseman Kris Letang who suffered a season ending injury. Forward Carl Hagelin has not played for the Penguins since March 10 and there is no word on his return from injury. Goaltender Matt Murray suffered a groin injury and has not played for the Penguins since April 6. Veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury filled in for Murray in the Columbus series and performed very well.
The Penguins have been banged up, but they have still been able to win games and playoff series. This Penguins club will not be a pushover for the Capitals in a series that is expected to go the distance.
During the 1st round of the playoffs, the Penguins powerplay was very good. It was 33.3% effective versus Columbus. Their penalty kill was also very good as it was 83.3% effective.
SHOTS FOR AND SHOTS AGAINST
The Penguins averaged 34.2 shots per game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Penguins surrendered 38.8 shots per game against the Jackets.
PENGUINS SKATERS AND GOALIE STATS THROUGH ROUND ONE
The Capitals were hit hard by the Maple Leafs and even cheapshotted during the series, but they prevailed and advanced to round two of the playoffs.
The Capitals now have a chance at redemption as they face the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second straight year in the playoffs. It is safe to assume that the winner of this series will likely end up in the Stanley Cup Final.
Marcus Johansson was the series finisher in Game 6 against the Leafs as he netted both goals for the Capitals in their 2-1 overtime victory. The Capitals second line got stronger as the series progressed and the Leafs had no answer for them in the final few contests. Justin Williams was the hero in Game 5 and he recorded 3 goals in the series.
While the Capitals top-6 forward group performed well, there were times that the bottom-6 forward group looked a bit shaky. All of the lines will need to perform better in the games against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Karl Alzner’s timeline is still up in the air for return. While Alzner was on the shelf for a few games against Toronto, Nate Schmidt came into the lineup and performed very well against the speedy Leafs. It was a bright spot for the Capitals and should give them time to rest Karl for as long as he needs it.
During the 1st round of the playoffs the Capitals powerplay was solid. It was 29.4% effective against the Leafs. The Capitals penalty kill was also solid as it was 83.3% effective.
SHOTS FOR AND SHOTS AGAINST
The Capitals averaged 35.2 shots per game against the Maple Leafs. They surrendered 35.5 shots per game against the Maple Leafs.
CAPITALS SKATERS AND GOALIE STATS THROUGH ROUND ONE
OTHER SERIES NOTES
-The Capitals and Penguins squared off against each other 4 times during the regular season. The Capitals went 2-0-2 against the Penguins. Each team was victorious twice at home in the season series.
-The Capitals and Penguins last faced each other on January 16 in Pittsburgh. The Penguins claimed an 8-7 overtime victory.
-Jake Guentzel is leading the Penguins goal scoring race in the playoffs with 5 goals.
-The Capitals have 4 players that recorded 3 goals in the series against the Leafs – T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Alex Ovechkin, and Tom Wilson.
By: George Foussekis