The most ridiculous thing I’ve read on the internet over the past 7 days is that the Washinton Capitals have a goaltending advantage over the Penguins. We’ll ignore obvious facts like “career playoff victories”, “experience”, and all the facts/figures that should jump off the page to most NHL fans. Instead we’ll just look at what we learned in Round 1.
Varlamov has a real nice Save Percentage, Goals Against Average, and posts a 4-2 record in the playoffs. Before we get too carried away it is worth mentioning that the New York Rangers posed almost no offensive threat to the Capitals during their 7 game series. The 23 shots per game that the Rangers tossed harmlessly towards Varlamov were good for LAST among NHL playoff teams and were a good 10 shots per/game below the league playoff average. This should really be no surprise since the Rangers were 3rd worst in the NHL in terms of offense/goal scoring during the regular season. Washington has never been known as a defensive juggernaut but the Rangers lack of 5-on-5 offense combined with their PowerlessPlay (2nd worst in the NHL) never really threatened the Caps and Simeon Varlamov went largely untested.
But he survived the emotional roller-coaster that is a Game 7 in the NHL Playoffs!! Well….the Rangers were only able to get 15 shots on net in that game 7 and when the game was on the line in a 1-to-1 game….Varlamov only faced 1 shot in the 3rd period. That’s a testament to the Rangers deplorable offense, not the Capitals defense.
The Penguins were 6th in the NHL in goals during the regular season (playing most of that time in a defensive scheme with coach MT)….. 5th in shots for per game during the playoffs and 5th in goals for during the playoffs.
Varlamov will be tested by the Penguins 5-on-5 offense as well as the Penguins PP. He was fortunate that he was allowed to “ease into” the NHL playoffs against a team that wasn’t capable of putting much offensive pressure on him. Things are going to be very different for him in Round 2. He may be up to the challenge but we just can’t draw any conclusions after the Rangers series.
More Special Teams
Some good news for the Caps is that they get to wave goodbye to the Rangers Penalty Kill (#1 in the NHL) and say hello to the Penguins PK Unit (#8th in the NHL). On the other side of the coin….the Caps were able to take penalties against the Rangers knowing that NY couldn’t put the puck on net with the man advantage, let alone light the lamp. In this series, the Penguins are capable of making the Caps pay for taking liberties and clutching and grabbing. The Penguins PK unit had a tough task in shutting down a very gritty and aggressive PP unit from Philly and will once again have to step up against Washington. The Flyers had more net-presence and toughness around the cage but the Caps clearly have more PP skill and goal-scoring ability from all over the ice.
The team with the best Special Teams is going to win this series. The team with the better Goaltending is going to win this series.