This is the heavyweight fight hockey fans have been clamoring for since 2009. The Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have a ton of playoff history together, have both come out swinging. After two rounds, the heavyweight fight is all tied up with each team winning a game in the Verizon Center. The Capitals took Game 1, 4-3 in overtime and the Penguins responded by coming away with a 2-1 win in Game 2. The series will now shift to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4. The two teams have combined to score 10 goals, with each team scoring five.
In Game 1, T.J. Oshie finished off his first career playoff hat trick when he scored the game-winning goal in overtime. In Game 2, former Capital Eric Fehr tipped home the game-winning goal.
There are many storylines you can focus on from the first two games this series. Here’s my takeaways from what I saw in the first two games.
The superstars are being held in check
The hype behind this second round matchup in the NHL Playoffs was focused on superstars Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby going head-to-head for just the second time in their playoff careers. The marquee might read Ovechkin and Crosby, but so far, neither has been able to do much as they have combined to register just a single point. Ovechkin had an assist in the Game 1 win for the lone point between the two All-World players. This will likely change going forward, but it is a little surprising that only one point has been registered in the first two games of this series.
Brooks Orpik should be suspended
If the NHL truly cares about player safety, it should suspend Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik for at least one game. In the first period of Game 2, Orpik, a former Penguin, leveled Pittsburgh defenseman Olli Maatta with a shoulder to the head. Maatta would hit the ice and stumble around before heading to the locker room. He did not return to the game and has been suspended for three games. In the regular season, this would likely be two games, but since it’s the playoffs, a single game means so much more.
The NHL brought the hammer down on Orpik, suspending him for three games. I thought it would be one, but three isn’t outrageous. This shows the NHL is cracking down on these types of hits and are sending a strong message to the players. This could be very detrimental to the Caps chances going forward or it will make them band together and get it done without Orpik.
What happened to the power play units?
In the first round of the playoffs, the Caps and Pens combined to score 16 power play goals. So far, after the first two games of the second round, the two teams have combined to go just 1-13 on the man-advantage. The lone power play goal came at the 4:08 mark of the third period in Game 2 when Marcus Johansson of the Caps knotted the game at 1-1. The Caps have still not allowed a power play goal at home in the playoffs.
The goaltenders have kept their teams in the game
Going into this series, one of the matchups was that of the two net minders. Braden Holtby, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and Matt Murray, a 21-year old rookie have both been done their job and kept their teams in the first two games. Holtby has stopped 75 of the 80 shots he has faced while Murray has stopped 54 of 59 shots. Most people expected this out of Holtby who tied Martin Broduer’s single-season record for wins with 48, to play this well. The big question mark was surrounding Murray, who is starting in place of injured starter Marc-Andre Fleury. The youngster has come up with big saves to limit the lethal Caps offense. Of the 139 registered shots on goal from both teams, only 10 have found the back of the net.
Both of the first two games have been close and fun to watch. The remainder of the series should be just as fun, as the series now shifts to a best-of-five to determine who advances to the Eastern Conference Finals. Ovechkin and Crosby might have been held in check the first two games, but their teams have picked up the slack.
Game 3 will be Monday night at Console Energy Center in Pittsburgh with the puck dropping at 8 pm.