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WASHINGTON CAPITALS vs. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
The first-place Capitals had the Philadelphia Flyers on the ropes with a 3-0 series lead, but Michal Neuvirth made it interesting by stealing a couple of victories and prolonging the first round to six games. Washington eliminated the Flyers with a 1-0 victory last Sunday afternoon. Vezina Trophy favorite Braden Holtby picked up two shutouts in the series, while posting a marvelous 0.84 goals-against average and a nearly impenetrable .968 save percentage. He allowed just six goals in six games.
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn't get number one goalie Marc-Andre Fleury back from a concussion in Round 1, but Matt Murray returned to action and guided the team to three straight victories to knock out the New York Rangers in five games. The 21-year-old netminder registered a 1.33 goals-against average and a .955 save percentage, so there won't be any rush to get Fleury back in the crease.
The Capitals struggled to score in the final three games of the series during the opening round. The team found the back of the net just two times as Neuvirth turned aside a whopping 103 shots. Washington didn't get much scoring beyond the top line in the series and eight of their 14 goals came on the power play.
Pittsburgh had plenty of depth scoring against the Rangers and their best players were their best players. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were great in Round 1, while Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Nick Bonino provided great secondary support.
Pittsburgh and Washington haven't met in the postseason since 2009 when the Penguins won their second-round matchup in seven games. The Pens went on to win the Stanley Cup that year. Crosby and Ovechkin had hat tricks in the same game during that series and while I don't think that will happen again, I do believe the superstar captains will try to outdo each other and it will be another hotly-contested series. I think the Penguins' depth will serve them well here and they will win in six games.
Backstrom led the Capitals in scoring in Round 1 with seven points in eight games. Most of his production came in the first three games of the series when he accounted for one goal and five helpers, but he scored a big goal in Game 6 to send Washington into the semifinals of the Eastern Conference. John Carlson and Marcus Johansson were just behind him with six points apiece. Carlson co-led the Caps in goal scoring in Round 1 with Alex Ovechkin. Carlson scored all of his goals on the power play, while two of Ovechkin's three markers came on the man advantage.
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his first goal since Mar. 1 in Game 3. That was the only point he registered during the six-game series versus Philadelphia. Justin Williams didn't score a goal in six outings in Round 1 of the postseason. He contributed two assists in a 6-1 victory in Game 3, but that was the only time he reached the scoresheet. Andre Burakovsky didn't have a point in six straight games.
Alex Ovechkin didn't record a point in five games against Pittsburgh during the regular season. The only other team he didn't get at least one point against in 2015-16 were the Anaheim Ducks, but he played them just one time.
Brooks Orpik suffered an upper-body injury during Game 3 back on Apr. 18. He is listed as day-to-day and it's unclear when he will be available to return.
Washington has posted a 29.6 power play percentage in the postseason. That ranks them third overall going into Round 2. Carlson paced the team with five points, while Backstrom and Johansson had four each.
The Capitals were also excellent on the penalty kill with a 95.8 percent success rate. They allowed just one goal on 24 opportunities by the Flyers.
Sidney Crosby topped the Penguins in scoring in Round 1 against the Rangers with eight points in five contests. He finished the series with two goals and three helpers over a three-game point streak. Evgeni Malkin got back into the lineup in the second game of the series and he notched two goals and five assists during a four-game scoring spree. Phil Kessel tied Crosby and Patric Hornqvist for the goal lead on Pittsburgh with three each. Kessel also added three assists.
Carl Hagelin picked up one goal in the opening round of the postseason, which is a bit surprising considering how hot his linemates were (Kessel had six points and Nick Bonino amassed five assists). Chris Kunitz was dropped from Crosby's line and despite moving to a combination with Malkin, he didn't record a point in five consecutive contests.
Marc-Andre Fleury is still suffering from concussion symptoms and the Penguins won't rush him back into the lineup even though he has looked close on some days.
Beau Bennett remains on the shelf with an undisclosed ailment. He was limited to just 33 outings during the regular season and he hasn't played since Apr. 5. Bennett was on the ice for an optional session on Monday, but his status is uncertain for Round 2.
Pittsburgh is first in the playoffs with 4.20 goals for per game heading into the semifinal round. They racked up 21 goals in just five games.
The Penguins own the top power play in the postseason at 38.1 percent. They posted eight goals on 21 chances. Crosby, Malkin and Kessel were the leaders with five points apiece.
Pittsburgh placed fifth among playoff teams on the penalty kill after Round 1. They allowed two goals on 19 opportunities from the Rangers and scored one shorthanded marker of their own from Tom Kuhnhackl.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING VS. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
The Tampa Bay Lightning dispatched the Detroit Red Wings in five games in their first-round series, while the Islanders eliminated the Florida Panthers in six contests thanks to a couple of double overtime victories. The Isles won three times in the series in games that went beyond regulation time on goals by Thomas Hickey, Alan Quine and John Tavares.
Tavares was a force all series for the Islanders and he scored the series-clinching winner in Game 6 during the second overtime session. The next best player on the Isles was goaltender Thomas Greiss, who backstopped the club with an impressive 1.79 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage versus the Panthers. He was brilliant between the pipes in his first NHL playoff series as a starter. Greiss' previous postseason experience consisted of part of a game for San Jose back in 2010.
The Lightning also received a virtuoso performance from their goaltender in Round 1. Ben Bishop continued his outstanding play in 2015-16 with a remarkable 1.61 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage. He blanked the Red Wings in Game 5 with 34 saves to send Tampa Bay into the semifinals.
As expected, the Lightning had enough offensive punch to defeat Detroit despite the absence of Steven Stamkos. Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn and Jonathan Drouin provided Tampa Bay with a jolt in what was a chippy series most of the time.
The Islanders won their first postseason series since 1993, but I believe this is as far as they will go in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tampa Bay made Detroit look like they were standing still at times due to their speed and they should be able to do that again against New York. Containing Tavares will be crucial to their success, but more importantly I envision them getting to the net harder than the Panthers did and making life more difficult for Greiss. Lightning in six games.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Nikita Kucherov led the Bolts in scoring with five goals and eight points in five matches. He has accounted for 16 goals 31 points in 33 playoff appearances. Tyler Johnson finished with seven points in the series. He produced six of those points (two goals, four assists) in the first two games before he was stricken with a flu bug. Alex Killorn was second on the club with three goals and he picked up five points in five contests. Jonathan Drouin played a feisty game and he generated four assists in Round 1. Going back to the end of the regular season, he has two goals and six points in seven games since returning from AHL/suspension limbo.
Ondrej Palat tallied his only point of the series in Game 4 when he scored his first goal since Tampa Bay's regular-season finale on Apr. 9. Victor Hedman was quiet offensively in Round 1 with one assist in five games.
Steven Stamkos took part in Tuesday's practice in a no-contact role. It was his first session since he had successful vascular surgery earlier this month.
Cooper was less optimistic about J.T. Brown, who sustained an upper-body injury in Game 2 versus Detroit. He is out indefinitely with the ailment.
Tampa Bay's power play scored four goals on 23 opportunities in the opening round. It got off to a sluggish start, but Kucherov was dangerous with three goals and a team-leading four points. Drouin provided a spark with three assists on the man advantage.
The Lightning killed 24 of Detroit's 25 power plays in Round 1. Their 96.0 percent success rate on the kill is best in the postseason.
Tampa Bay allowed just eight goals in five games. The team has a 1.60 goals against per game, which ranks them second overall.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
John Tavares tallied five goals and nine points in six games to carry the Islanders into Round 2. He was held scoreless in just one contest in the series and he recorded three multi-point performances. Kyle Okposo had one goal and five helpers in six outings. He found the back of the net in Game 1, but didn't score a goal for the rest of the series. Frans Nielsen was second on the team in goal scoring with three goals in Round 1. He also added an assist to give him four points in six matches.
Ryan Strome had a goal and an assist in Game 1, but he didn't have a point in the next three and was scratched for Games 5 and 6. Josh Bailey notched one assist and a minus-4 rating in six games against Florida.
The Islanders moved Ryan Poluck to injured reserve on Monday, but he could be available at some point in Round 2. He is expected to miss the beginning of the series, though.
Mikhail Grabovski isn't skating yet because of an upper-body injury. He hasn't played since Mar. 15 with what is believed to be a concussion. Anders Lee is still sidelined with a broken left fibula, which he sustained on Apr. 7.
The Islanders scored five power-play goals on 21 attempts in Round 1 against the Panthers. That placed him sixth overall with a 23.8 percentage. Tavares topped the team with four points and Nielsen scored two of the goals to lead the club.
New York was short a man just 15 times in the opening round and they allowed two goals for an 86.7 penalty kill percentage.