The Capitals had a very difficult Round 1 against the upstart Maple Leafs, with five of six tilts going to overtime. In the end, though, the Capitals may benefit from having faced such a stiff challenge.
Offensively, both clubs have depth.
For Washington, Justin Williams is the epitome of clutch, having scored in overtime in Round 1 and set up Marcus Johansson’s series winner. Williams, Ovechkin, TJ Oshie and upstart Tom Wilson had three apiece vs. Toronto.
Pittsburgh scored 21 goals for in five games, with Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Sid Crosby netting two apiece, while rookie Jake Guentzel scored five and playoff go-to-guy Bryan Rust potted four. Pittsburgh dispensed with a tough Blue Jackets team in short order, going up 3-0 before winning in five.
Last year against the Capitals in the second round, the Penguins won the series 4-2 (the Pens also toppled Ovechkin’s Caps in 2009). This time, the Capitals will have Brooks Orpik full-time on defense (he was suspended for three games last playoffs) and have added Kevin Shattenkirk (from STL) for extra punch.
Justin Schultz, Olli Maatta, Trevor Daley, Ian Cole, Ron Hainsey (from Carolina) and Brian Dumoulin will help the Penguins recover from the season-ending injury to top D-man Kris Letang.
Braden Holtby was outdueled by Penguins netminder Matt Murray last year, and wants to prove that he can backstop the Caps to the promised land. He’ll face Marc-Andre Fleury, who was excellent against the Blue Jackets while Murray continues to recover from an injury that kept him out of Round 1.
Washington clears another big hurdle in 6.
Ovechkin / Backstrom / Oshie
Johansson / Kuznetsov / Williams
Burakovsky / Eller / Wilson
Winnik / Beagle / Connolly
Schmidt / Carlson
Orlov / Niskanen
Orpik / Shattenkirk
Guentzel / Crosby / Sheary
Rust / Malkin / Kessel
Wilson / Bonino / Hornqvist
Rowney / Cullen / Kuhnhackl
Cole / Schultz
Maatta / Daley
Dumoulin / Hainsey