Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Penguin-Capital series living up to the hype

Last night was a magnificent display by the league's premier talents. How often will you see the best two players in the league match each other by each scoring hat tricks? However, this series is just about nearly decided. With Alex Ovechkin in overdrive, it's hard to see how the Penguins can win 4 out of 5 games in order to take the series from the Penguins. Still Washington was able to come back from a similar deficit in the last round. And they did it the hard way by losing the first two games at home.

The Penguins have really failed to slow down Ovechkin who had 12 shots on net and is responsible for 1 out of every 3 shots taken by the Capitals this series. Those shots are not just coming on the powerplay. Eight shots last night were taken while even strength. Pittsburgh needs to prevent him from getting the puck or separating him from the puck before he gets a shot away.

It doesn't help that Pittsburgh hasn't not been able to win very many faceoffs in their own end. Washington operates a puck control offense so allowing them to take control of the puck after most faceoffs is going to lead to trouble. One of Ovechkin's goals was scored right off an offensive zone faceoff.

Sidney Crosby has also been outstanding but has been overshadowed by the extroverted Russian. Those goals he scored close in were just as marvelous as the rockets fired by Ovechkin. He didn't help his cause by asking the officials to announcement that fans should stop throwing hats on the ice following Ovechkin's hat trick. Crosby has a reputation as a whiner and this episode which was quickly picked up by the media will only reinforce that perception.

Crosby has not had much support from his teammates. Malkin has disappeared in the playoffs as he did a year ago. If he becomes a Russian version of Joe Thornton (i.e., big numbers in the regular season but little to show during post-season) then the Penguins may need to consider whether they can afford to carry both big salaries. Replacing Malkin with proven playoff performers may get them more bang for their bucks.

Lets hope this series stays close because I can't get enough of this kind of hockey.