Capitals vs. Penguins: Game 1 prediction

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If Bonino is correct and the Penguins do have a repeatable ability to win games they start slowly, it's a trait that will nearly undoubtedly come in handy in a second-round matchup with Washington. If Kris Letang was healthy, the Penguins would have 50 per cent of their salary cap - $36.5 million (U.S.) of $70 million - allocated to their top power-play unit.

So, as we break down the best battles we're going to see in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, we absolutely have to start there.

With the New York Rangers' 4-2 series win over the Montreal Canadiens, one student of Montclair State believes that the Rangers will beat the Senators in the next round and ultimately win the Stanley Cup. And for most of the 1970s, there was a best-of-three preliminary round that nobody was sure actually counted. While they've been better lately, the Penguins weren't as strong on the road as the Capitals, so holding serve at PPG Paints Arena and stealing one on the road is probably the best recipe of success for Pittsburgh once again. Plus, considering he's consistently gone against Crosby in these matchups, he knows he has a big job to complete each time he takes the ice. We'll go with the last of the group, since by 1988 it had been clearly established that the Battle of Alberta was the unofficial Stanley Cup final. The home team won all four meetings. But the Flames won the division (and the Presidents' Trophy) with a 105-point campaign. On one hand, good hockey is good hockey no matter when it takes place.

Backstrom has a bit of confidence in his team this year because he has full trust in every line. Other than a Game 7, the round offered everything from a dominating defending champion, a battle-tested top seed and a handful of shocking upsets. It seems like the extra time off did them some good, however, which could spell trouble for the upstart Oilers. Washington and Pittsburgh were the league's top two teams in the regular season and are the two top Stanley Cup contenders left playing in the final eight. Crosby's Penguins have come out victorious in two previous playoff meetings, but that should only leave Ovechkin even more determined.

Anaheim vs. Edmonton: Yes, Mom forced you to watch Anaheim-Calgary, even though the Flames, which held an open door to take either of the games in Orange County, made a decision to prove they never deserved a playoff berth so flickered out.

Perhaps the real question is: How much overtime is too much?

Fleury didn't exactly dazzle in that 2009 series, but he was key in Game 7, where he stopped an early breakaway from Ovechkin which would have put the Capitals up early. Will he become a champion, or will his team falter another time to its more accomplished rival. It was a surge reminiscent of Pittsburgh's sprint to a fourth Cup last spring. The two teams are headed in different directions at the moment.

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Washington went 2-0-2 against Pittsburgh in the regular season, outscoring the Penguins 21-14.

A record 18 overtime games spiced up the first round. But the Avalanche stormed back to win four straight, outscoring the Wings 19-7 in the process.

The Russian has led the league in goal scoring on six occasions, while Crosby has his name on the Rocket Richard trophy twice, including this season.

Also, there weren't any goalie fights. Well, Nashville is going to be tested big time in the trenches in the second round. They faced the Maple Leafs in a seven-game classic in 2002, and continued an underrated rivalry with the Flyers in 2003.

But here we go again. To get to their first Eastern Conference final in the past decade, Ovechkin and the Capitals will have to go through the Crosby and the Penguins, who have quite simply had their number in the playoffs. Though the Bruins were missing 75 percent of their top-four defensemen from most of the regular season, they did receive a pleasant surprise in Charlie McAvoy who shined in his first six National Hockey League games.

The Capitals fans are exhausted of hearing about it, but like the Chicago Cubs except on a much smaller scale, Washington's postseason failures will continue to haunt this team until they prove they can win by winning.

Will three periods be enough in these series?

Malkin (5G, 1A) and defenseman Justin Schultz (6A) each led the Pens with six points, while Crosby (1G, 4A) had five. There weren't, however, any game sevens. They finished the trilogy with another matchup in 2011, although that one came in Round 1.

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