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Capitals-Penguins preview - 5-1-09

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

(2) Capitals vs. (4) Penguins

Capitals Leading Playoff Scorer: Alexander Semin, eight points (five goals, three assists).

Penguins Leading Playoff Scorer: Evgeni Malkin, nine points (four goals, five assists).

Capitals Statistics

Penguins Statistics

Capitals with Stanley Cup bling: Sergei Fedorov (3).

Penguins with Stanley Cup bling: Craig Adams, Chris Kunitz, Ruslan Fedotenko, Bill Guerin, Petr Sykora.

Something worthwhile about the Capitals: With two shutouts in the first round against the Rangers, Capitals goaltender Simeon Varlamov (right) already is tied for second place on Washington's all-time list of career playoff shutouts. Olaf Kolzig recorded six while Don Beaupre had two.

Something worthwhile about the Penguins: At 55.7 percent, the Penguins have the league's best faceoff winning percentage in the postseason.

Something useless about the Capitals that is vaguely connected to the Penguins: Two one-time Penguins, Kevin Hatcher (16) and Sergei Gonchar (13) have the two highest career playoff goal totals among Capitals defensemen.

Something useless about the Penguins that is vaguely connected to the Capitals: Four of the Capitals' top six scorers from the 2002-03 season have played for the Penguins at one time or another. No. 1 Jaromir Jagr (77 points), No. 2 Robert Lang (69), No. 3 Sergei Gonchar (67) and No. 6 Kip Miller (50).

Former Penguins on the Capitals: Matt Bradley, RW.

Former Capitals on the Penguins: Matt Cooke, LW; Sergei Gonchar, D.

Who needs to be the difference for the Capitals: Simeon Varlamov. There might not be a more important or key player to the course of any series in the second round. Was he really that good in the first round agains the Rangers or did he just face a team with a poor offense? Was he running off adrenaline and if so, will that wear off with a few days off between rounds? There are so many questions surrounding this young talent and he is facing a pretty big challenge with two MVP-caliber players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Who needs to be the difference for the Penguins: Sidney Crosby (right, above), Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins' power play was a dismal 4-for-32 (12.5 percent) in the first round. It needs to do better and those three players are the most important gears in that machine. The Capitals are going to score goals. There's no doubt about that. The Penguins need to combat Washington's offense with some scores of their own. And with a rookie goaltender, they need to take advantage of their chances.

Best Capitals YouTube Video We Could Find: This isn't exactly a good video from the Capitals' standpoint, but Luc Robitaille scoring an overtime goal against Washington in the 1995 playoffs:

(Francois Leroux's celebration at the 0:15 mark always makes us laugh.)

Best Penguins YouTube Video We Could Find: Kevin Stevens getting a overtime goal (off a nice set-up from Ron Francis) against the Capitals in the 1991 playoffs:

EN Prediction: Penguins 4-2. We're not sold on Varlamov. Yet. We want to see him against a team with a legit offense. He faced 15 shots from the Rangers in Game 7 of their first round series. And New York could only muster only one in the third period. One. All due respect to the Capitals' defense, but they're never going to be confused with 1994-95 Devils. The Rangers' offensive problems were created mostly out of their own malfunctions. Varlamov is still a big question mark to us. If he can outplay Marc-Andre Fleury, the Capitals will win. But we have a hard time imagining him continuing his run against an offense like the one Penguins will throw at him.

(Photos: Varlamov-Bruce Bennett/Getty Images; Crosby-Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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