Tuesday Roundup

Just about a year ago at this time, a young team that hadn't been in the playoffs in a while was gearing up for a first round date with a pretty evenly matched opponent. Led by their Ross (and eventual Hart) Trophy winner, prized rookies, high-scoring blueliner and a veteran forward and some sandpaper picked up at the trade deadline, they promptly got trounced (ok, beaten handily) in the first round.

That team, of course, was the Pittsburgh Penguins, a 105-point squad whose inexperience showed against a more battle-tested Ottawa team, but the reasons Pittsburgh lost went beyond youth.

Will this year's Caps team suffer a similar fate? Let's take a look at some differences (and similarities) between this year's Caps/Flyers series and last year's Pens/Sens match-up.
  • Goaltending. Heading into last year's playoffs, Pens' netminder Marc-Andre Fleury hadn't played in a single NHL playoff game, and he got lit up to the tune of 1-4/3.76/.880 (though, to be fair, Pitt's offense went and hid after Game 2). He was outplayed by Ray Emery, who had 10 games of playoff experience the prior year.

    Cristobal Huet, on the other hand, has a playoff series under his belt (2-4/2.33/.929) already, and it's Martin Biron who will be making his debut on the game's biggest stage.

  • Offense. Pittsburgh was the third-highest scoring team in the regular season last year... but Ottawa was second. Despite the Pens' lethal power-play, the Sens' far superior five-on-five scoring predictably (due to the reduced number of penalties called in the postseason) provided them with an edge.

    Like their Pennsylvania brethren last season, the Flyers had a great power play during the regular season, but the Caps were the better team five-on-five (and, of course, those are season-long, not post-Hanlon numbers).

  • Defense. The Sens gave up fewer goals and had a better penalty kill than the Pens last season.

    This season, the post-Hanlon Caps had a better GAA than the Flyers' season-long mark, but the Flyers had the better penalty kill (which they'll likely need - they were the most penalized team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season).

  • The home stretch. Finally, the Pens finished up the 2006-07 regular season with a 6-3-1 record. The Sens put a wrap on their season with a 6-2-2 mark.

    The Flyers ended this season 7-2-1, and the Caps, well, you know what they did - 9-1-0.
On paper, and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it's easy to see that the Pens had their work cut out for them last year, despite having the same number of points as Ottawa over the 82-game regular season. The Caps simply don't have the same match-up disadvantages in their first-round series with Philly (and they have home-ice, which the Pens did not). That's not to say that they don't face a significant challenge - of course they do. But chalking up Pittsburgh's loss to Ottawa last year to inexperience is a little shallow, analytically, and assuming that the Caps will fold because of their collective youth is just silly.

I will, however, point out this fact: Sergei Fedorov has played in 162 NHL playoff games. The rest of the skaters on the roster? 155 (Donald Brashear 49, Matt Cooke 32, Chris Clark 26, Tom Poti 24, Viktor Kozlov 14, Matt Bradley 10).

Then again, maybe experience is everything. What do I know?

Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:

The news is coming fast and furious, so be sure to check back with the "What We're Reading" sidebar often for all the latest.... Mike Green is an unsung hero.... Eric Fehr is Hockey's Future's 47th-best prospect, and Karl Alzner is #12 on the list.... The Caps are up to sixth in CBS's power rankings. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to Ovie.... Pierre LeBrun says Caps in seven.... Scott Burnside doesn't think it'll take that long.... Neither does David Bastl (whoever he is).... A video game says Flyers in seven.... How nice was it not to give a crap about the Draft Lottery last night?... Vote for Huet's mask.... A great read on faceoffs from the WSJ? WTF?... On this date back in 1993, Sylvain Cote scored his 20th goal of the season making the Caps the first team in NHL history to have three 20-goal scoring blueliners in a season (CoCo would end up with 21 goals, joining Kevin Hatcher (34) and Al Iafrate (25) as 20-goal rearguards).... Also on this date back in 1989, Kelly Miller's overtime goal gave the Caps a 4-3 win and a 2-1 series lead over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3 of the Patrick Division Semifinals and on this date back in 1987, Mike Ridley's game-winner gave the Caps a 4-3 win over the Isles in Game 1 of the Patrick Division Semis.... Finally, one year ago today we lamented an individual statistic (yawn) and thanked you guys for coming out and partying with us (awww).

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