Panthers vs. Capitals: Stanley Cup playoff collection preview and choose


Florida Panthers: 1st Atlantic Division, Presidents’ Trophy, 122 factors
Washington Capitals: Wild Card #2, 100 factors

Schedule

Tuesday, Could 3, 7:30 p.m.: Washington at Florida (Bally Sports activities Florida, ESPN2, SN360, TVA Sports activities)
Thursday, Could 5, 7:30 p.m.: Washington at Florida (Bally Sports activities Florida, TBS, SN360, TVA Sports activities)
Saturday, Could 7, 1 p.m.: Florida at Washington (Bally Sports activities Florida, ESPN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports activities)
Monday, Could 9, 7 p.m.: Florida at Washington (Bally Sports activities Florida, TBS, SN1, TVA Sports activities)
*Wednesday, Could 11, TBD: Washington at Florida (TBD)
*Thursday, Could 12, TBD: Florida at Washington (TBD)
*Saturday, Could 14, TBD:  Washington at Florida (TBD)

The Skinny

It’s a playoff matchup as previous as time. The much less skilled workforce coming off a red-hot common season up in opposition to the veteran workforce on its final limbs. The Panthers could have made the postseason for the third straight season (together with a play-in loss in 2020), however they nonetheless haven’t gained a collection since their run to the Stanley Cup ultimate in 1995-96. This could possibly be the 12 months to do it, as they face off in opposition to a Caps workforce that may be a shadow of its former self, seeking to win its first playoff collection since successful the Stanley Cup in 2018. Because the Cup contender on this state of affairs, all of the strain is on the Panthers, particularly with their playoff win drought, whereas the Caps are the underdog that is aware of the way to win.

Head to Head

Florida 2-1-0

Washington 1-1-1

It’s best to in all probability take these common season video games with a grain of salt as a result of all three happened in November. We’re utterly totally different groups now at this level of the season. If there’s one huge takeaway from this season collection, it’s that every one three video games have been shut, one-goal video games. The Panthers gained each of their video games 5-4, one coming in OT, whereas the Caps gained their recreation 4-3. They have been additionally comparatively high-scoring, in order that is perhaps an indication of issues to come back as effectively.

High 5 Scorers

Florida

Jonathan Huberdeau: 115 factors
Alexander Barkov: 88 factors (67 GP)
Sam Reinhart: 82 factors
Anthony Duclair: 58 factors
Aaron Ekblad: 57 factors (61 GP)

Washington

Alexander Ovechkin: 90 factors
Evgeny Kuznetsov: 78 factors
John Carlson: 71 factors
Tom Wilson: 52 factors
Conor Sheary: 43 factors

X-Issue

Contemplating the mismatch up entrance, the most important benefit for the Panthers goes to be that third line. Clearly, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov will probably be greater than able to holding their very own and sure successful the matchups in opposition to the Capitals’ prime six, however having 82-point-scorer in Sam Reinhart in opposition to a comparatively weak Capitals backside six will probably be an enormous benefit for the Panthers. It is going to be key for him to actually excel in that matchup and blow the collection extensive open.

As for the Capitals, their physicality and expertise are going to be their largest benefits on this collection. The Panthers are not any slouches in that class, however ensuring they don’t have any room to generate offense and making their lives tougher within the course of is perhaps the place the Capitals discover an edge. They need to stroll the road rigorously although, as a result of in the event that they get too soiled (I’m you Tom Wilson) they run the danger of giving the Panthers power-play alternatives.

Offense

It’s loopy to say that the Caps aren’t even near the offensive ranges of their opponents after they averaged 3.29 targets this season, however in opposition to the Panthers, that’s the case. 

The Panthers not solely common greater than 4 targets a recreation, they set a cap period report for many targets in a season. They boast high-end scoring expertise on all three strains, one thing that almost all groups will wrestle to match. On the highest line, they’ve two-way phenom Aleksander Barkov centering deadline addition Claude Giroux and final 12 months’s largest breakout Carter Verhaeghe. On the second line, it’s Hart candidate Jonathan Huberdeau, with two extra of the Panthers’ hidden gems from final season in Sam Bennett and Anthony Duclair. If you happen to thought that was scary, the third line boasts Sam Reinhart, one in every of this 12 months’s largest breakout gamers, with underrated rookie heart Anton Lundell and Mason Marchment, who’s been scoring at a charge no one anticipated him to. And if they will’t get that to work, they will additionally run out some mixture of Patric Hornqvist, Ryan Lomberg, Joe Thornton, Eetu Luostarinen, Noel Acciari, amongst many others, to make for an excellent fourth line as effectively.

The Caps don’t have fairly the identical ranges of depth because the Panthers do. Clearly, you could have Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie, and Anthony Mantha to make up a reasonably good prime six, however past that there aren’t lots of needle movers to match up in opposition to the Panthers’ ahead group. And even with that prime six, you’re asking for lots from a bunch that’s finest days are within the rearview mirror. It’s a reasonably uneven matchup, even for a Presidents’ Trophy winner versus an eight seed, so if the Caps are going to win with this ahead group, it’s going to be by feeding Ovechkin targets and being the extra bodily workforce.

Protection

On the blueline it’s not as a lot of a mismatch between the Panthers and Caps, as each groups have relied extra on their offense than their protection. The Panthers actually boast extra of the elite expertise and do a greater job of defending by retaining the puck within the offensive zone. Aaron Ekblad has turned himself into one of many higher defenders within the league these previous few seasons, and it’s helped that he’s had MacKenzie Weegar to work with, who’s come out of nowhere to additionally develop into one of many higher defenders within the league. Gustav Forsling is went from being a replacement-level defender in Chicago to a robust top-four defender in Florida, albeit in a lot simpler minutes than Ekblad or Weegar. After that, the depth drops off somewhat bit, with Radko Gudas and Ben Chiarot being your prototypical bodily playoff defenseman sorts. Brandon Montour has rotated his profession as effectively after beginning to seem like a bust in Anaheim and Buffalo.

The Caps are a bit extra effectively rounded on the again finish, even when they don’t have anybody fairly on the stage as Florida’s prime pair. John Carlson has been a robust offensive defenseman for a number of seasons now, whereas the second protection pair of Dmitry Orlov and Nick Jensen is a strong shutdown unit for the workforce. Justin Schultz and Trevor van Riemsdyk spherical out the depth very effectively, whereas Martin Fehervary has discovered himself a house subsequent to Carlson. It’s actually extra evenly matched between the 2 groups right here, however the Caps protection will probably be in for a bit extra of an journey up in opposition to the Panthers ahead core.

Goaltending

Lots of the main target will probably be on each of the workforce’s stars on this collection, however the largest distinction maker will probably be which workforce’s goaltender reveals up this collection. The Capitals and Panthers each had inconsistencies in that division this season, as they ranked 18th and 19th, respectively in 5-on-5 save share, with just one playoff workforce rating decrease than them within the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Sergei Bobrovsky had his finest season since signing with the Panthers, however at only a .913 save share, it nonetheless isn’t the type of goaltending you need within the playoffs. Rookie goalie Spencer Knight had the anticipated inconsistencies in his first NHL season, together with a stint within the minors, so he’s extra of a wild card in internet at this level in his profession. He did end the season sizzling, nonetheless, successful NHL rookie of the month for April.

For the Caps, it hasn’t been all that good in internet since they moved on from Braden Holtby in 2020. Ilya Samsonov was anticipated to take the reigns, however has struggled mightily, particularly this season with a .896 save share. That’s led the Caps to depend on Vitek Vanecek extra, however he is posted only a .908 save share. He received the beginning in Recreation 1 final season earlier than getting injured, so neither him or Samsonov have a lot expertise within the playoffs.

Accidents

The Panthers have a pair query marks well being sensible on the blue line, notably with Ekblad, who’s been out since March 18. There’s an opportunity he could possibly be again for Recreation 1, as he practiced on Sunday, but it surely’s not confirmed as of but. The Caps have been additionally lacking a giant identify, as Ovechkin has been day-to-day since struggling an upper-body damage final week in opposition to Toronto, however he’s nearly assured to swimsuit up for Recreation 1.

Intangibles

It looks like the Panthers’ largest enemy on this collection may simply be themselves. They’re staring a 24-year drought within the mirror going into this collection, and because the Presidents’ Trophy winners, all of the strain is on them to not be upset within the first spherical. The Caps are the underdogs, however that’s to not say they don’t have any strain both. With their huge stars on the improper aspect of 30, annually could possibly be the final likelihood at one other Cup with this group.

CONSENSUS SERIES PREDICTION

Florida will really feel some strain, however this workforce is just too deep to fail, particularly in opposition to a Caps workforce with main query marks in internet. The powerful, skilled Caps gained’t go quietly, nonetheless. 

Panthers in 6.



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