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ECF PREVIEW — CANES/PENS

 
 
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We will be attempting to break down this ECF battle.
 
Analysts everywhere are trying to do the same thing while
trying to hide the fact that they can't name more than two of Carolina's D-men.
 
We've been able to at least know what was going on for most of these playoffs,
as the Pens have gone against bitter rivals Philadelphia and Washington.
 
The Hurricanes are an enigma to us.
We're not gonna pretend like we know their strengths and weaknesses.
 
We will just delve into the world of statistics and our well of hockey knowledge
to at least lay out a blueprint of what may transpire.
 
If you want an example of a series preview written by someone
who is just pretending to know what is going on, go read THIS.
 

For the Penguins, defensive scoring is crucial. Mark Eaton already has four goals and is an incredible +6, yet has just five points, and Sergei Gonchar (often mistaken for a forward) and Kris Letang have combined for five goals, 14 assists, and 19 points together on the top line.

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However, it's worth noting that Brooks Orpik has yet to find the back of the net (4 pts. though), Rob Scuderi has just three points, and Hal Gill is a dreadful 0 goals-1 assist.

 
Obviously, if the Pens have any chance, Orpik needs to start lighting the lamp.
"Rob Scuderi has just 3 points, and Hal Gill is a dreadful 0 goals-1 assist."
 
That may be the idiot quote of the playoffs.
And we even read PUCK DADDY every day. hoooo
 
 
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Like anything else on television, an intriguing plotline is what will draw somewhat casual viewers to tune in.
That's why Caroline in the City failed. Nobody cares about a borderline lesbian living in New York City.
 
Eric Staal and Jordan Staal are not lesbians. Even on a Penguin blog, we subconsciously put Eric's name first in the previous sentence because he has, by far, a bigger presence in the NHL. These playoffs, Jordan Staal's line has routinely been pitted against what coach Dan Bylsma perceives to be the opponent's top line. He shut down Jeff Carter's line completely. Ovechkin never uses his teammates, so it's hard for a center to shut down a line where a winger is cherry-picking in the neutral zone every shift.
 
Eric Staal has 9 goals this season. He averages 4 shots per game. The Hurricanes are 6-0 when he scores. This is nothing but an arbitrary stat. If anyone has a notion that Eric Staal scoring a goal all of a sudden tells the opponent that they have no chance of winning the game, you are a moron. This is a stat you'll be hearing in this series for as long as Versus needs to show a stat after an icing call.
 
– ADVANTAGE: PUSH CITY.
"Solid defensive shifts" is not a statistical column on the scoresheet.
 
"Faceoff wins," however, shows up on the sheet every night.
Jordan's 51.2% will be going up against Eric's 42.5%.
 
Eric Staal's line producing a goal a game will be considered a success by Carolina.
Conversely, no one knows if Bylsma would consider that a success, as well.
 
Jordan Staal may have the slight edge since Pens fans PUCK HUFFERS created the Official Staal-v-Staal Drink Game.
 
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Eric Staal (9-4-13) and Jussi Jokinen (6-4-10) are leading the charge. Carolina's forwards have chipped in with 31 of Carolina's 33 goals this post-season. They have gotten scoring from 10 different forwards. If you wanted to know part of the equation as to why Carolina is in the ECF, that last sentence is tell-tale. Getting tertiary scoring from some pluggers is huge, but not as big as the goals themselves sometimes.
See: Scott Walker's one goal in these playoffs being the series-winner against Boston. The tenaciousness tenacity of their forwards and
Scott Walker's huge nose are things the Pens have not seen in these playoffs, and it may catch the Pens off guard for a while.

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As far as the Pens are concerned, Crosby and Malkin are leading the way. Everyone is saying Malkin has disappeared. What a mistake. Let everyone keep thinking that. Malkin averaged 1.37 points per game during the regular season. During the playoffs, he is clicking at 1.46. If you still need to complain about it, go ahead.

Nine different Penguin forwards have scored goals in this post-season. The Penguins fowards have scored 35 of the Pens' 45 goals. The fact that the forwards have scored only 77% of the Pens' goals is astonishing in itself, but what's more puzzling is that Chris Kunitz is not on the board yet. The night-in/night-out presence of Ruslan Fedotenko has been a pleasant surprise.

– ADVANTAGE: PENGUINS.

This wouldn't have been the case before Shero started wheeling and dealing. He brought in ring bearers Bill Guerin, Chris Kunitz, and former Cane Craig Adams. Don't let the fact that Cam Ward looms between the pipes cloud your judgment when you look at the forwards up and down both of these teams' roster. How amazing is it that the Pens get the advantage in forwards going into this series when they've only been rolling 11 a game since Game 5 against Washington?

Speaking of which, the Pens will eventually have to move back to the 12-6 lineup. The playoffs are too demanding.
Or maybe not. Who knows.

 
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Quick. You have 6 seconds to name three Hurricane defensemen.
Doesn't really matter. Devils and Bruins fans couldn't do it, either.
It's safe to assume that they can name six defensemen now.

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From all accounts, here are the Canes' most-used defensive pairings:
Joe Corvo — Tim Gleason
SeidenbergPitkanen
WallinKaberleBabchuk
 

Looking at those names above, there isn't a name or combination of names that remotely gives you a "Hey, we should be careful there" feeling. Then again, Tom Poti, Pothier, and Jurcina didn't make you blink, either. Carolina D-men have scored 2 goals in these playoffs.

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The Pens, on the other hand, have seen their blue-liners chip in with 10 goals in these playoffs; 23% of the team total. That really isn't by accident. Sergei Gonchar is Sergei Gonchar. Kris Letang is still developing. And Mark Eaton has a knack for knowing the exact moment when to step up into the rush, and it's been most prevalent since Disco Dan and his aggressive style came onto the scene.

– ADVANTAGE: PENGUINS.
They get the advantage simply because the defense is chipping in with offensive production.

 
Even with the Penguins' wide-open, bring-the-pain playing style, they are still yielding less than 30 shots per game.
While the Hurricanes, who look like a defense-first team, are making Cam Ward face 30-plus shots every night.

It is kind of fitting that everything up to this point in this breakdown will lead into the next category…

which will undoubtedly make or break the Stanley Cup hopes of these two teams.
 
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In years passed (years past?), you've routinely see a team go deep into the playoffs while not possessing loads of marquee talent. Those teams had a terrific game plan, an intelligent coach, and able-bodied players who know said system in and out. And a better-than-solid goaltender between the pipes is always in that equation.  A suffocating PK comes up huge, as well.

Enter Cam Ward. If he's done nothing else in these playoffs, he has proven that the Canes' Cup in 2006 was no fluke.

He brings a .927 SV% and 2.22 GAA into this ECF.
And he has never lost a playoff series.  He's 6-0.  Didn't look up this stat.  Hope we're right in that regard.

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Taking off your Penguin-colored glasses is always a tough bridge to cross. An easier bridge to cross is to go to your Firefox browser and read what national analysts and journalists near and far are saying. And they are saying Marc-Andre Fleury has a little bit of shakiness to his game. Fleury is definitely a quirky goaltender, we'll give him that, but any goaltender who just faced Ovechkin for 7 straight game will have his weaknesses exposed. And that's what is the fresh memory in everyone's minds.
 
Fleury's stats in these playoffs:
 
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Six games:
.922%, 2.38 GAA
 
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Seven games:
.887% caps, 3.05 GAA

This all evens out to a .901 SV% and a 2.72 GAA.

Compared to Ward's Ovechkin-less .942% and 2.22 GAA.
 
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Cam Ward's stats against Ovechkin's Caps in three games this season?
.914% and 2.99 GAA.
Do with those statistics as you may.


– ADVANTAGE: HURRICANES.
If you thought Simeon Varlamov frustrated the hell out of you, what do you think a 25-year-old who has already won the Stanley Cup will do? He is consistent night in and night out, knowing that a soft goal or two will decide the game for his team.

Conversely, MAF has let in some weak goals in these playoffs and he is right in assuming that his offense will provide him some cushion every night. If MAF is off and Cam Ward is stonewalling the Pens, that is Carolin's formula for a win or two.

But don't bank on Fleury vomiting on himself in the ECF.

The only wild card is whether or not Fleury is oozing of confidence after getting his team out of that dangerous Washington series.
He had gotten used to expecting a shot from anywhere at anytime, and hopefully he keeps that same mind-set going into the ECF.

This goaltending battle is going to be the matchup to watch.
Just imagine if they were brothers.

 
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Carolina's special-teams stats are staggering at both ends of the spectrum.
They are 5 for 48 in the playoffs, which is at 10.4%.

Carolina's PK, however, is crushing at a 90.9% success rate.
They have killed all but 5 of 55 shorthanded situations.

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Conspiracy theorists, it's your lucky day.
 
The Penguins have had 66 power-play opportunities in these playoffs, far and beyond the total of any other team.
The Pens' power play is hitting at 19.7%, which seems like light-years away from what it was all season.

The Penguins' PK has stopped all 39 of 49 shorthanded situations, which is a 81.6% rate.

 
There's really nothing else to look at in these percentages other than the stats themselves.

– ADVANTAGE: HURRICANES.
The Penguins have scored 28% of their 45 goals in the post-season on the powerplay.
They average one power play goal a game.
The Hurricanes average 3 or 4 penalties a game.

The Canes' PK unit obviously has the potential to shut down the Pens powerplay.
Goals may be few and far between in this series, and the Penguins rely on their power play to connect.

All the while, the Canes have come this far with an anemic PP unit, timely scoring, and unreal PK.
 
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How about this fact?
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Carolina coach Paul Maurice actually coached the Hartford Whalers for two years.
 
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What a tie.
 
You don't even have to read the rest of this. Carolina gets the coaching advantage.
Paul Maurice led his 2001-2002 Carolina team to the Cup Finals.
He coached two seasons in belly of the beast in Toronto, which translates to six years.
 

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When you compare Disco's résumé to Paul Maurice, you might as well pee on it.
Disco has nothing in his corner to prove that he gives this Pens team an advantage from behind the bench.
We shall see.
 
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Current Cane Scott Walker once jobbed him in his playing days.
 
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We've been lurking on Canes message boards and blogs the last couple days to see what's going on. That's where we found that Bylsma Ducks pic above. We were quickly being reminded that there are solid fanbases out there. You go through a couple of series against Philly and Washington, you get used to retards, and you want the hatred to continue. But there really is none in this upcoming series.
Then again, we checked all this stuff on Sunday. There was probably a big NASCAR race on.
 
Can't find a reason to hate Carolina fans, other than the crying about Erik Cole.
That's what he gets for playing the game at a breakneck pace. hoooooo
 
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The Hurricanes average 2.3 goals per game.
The Penguins average 3.5 goals per game.

The Hurricanes yield 32 shots per game.
The Pens yield 29.

The Hurricanes average 33 shots a game.
The Pens average 35 shots a game.

Three Canes — Jokinen, Brind-Amour, and Cullen — are winning more than 50%.
Crosby and Staal are the only Pens above 50%.
 
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Tom Barrasso and Ron Francis will be in the shadows all series.
 
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Lurking in the shadows is better than him being on the ice.
If he suits up, it's Canes in 3.
 
CANES COUNTRY did an unreal job of finding more connections between these two teams.
 
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Will the Pens break out the powder blues on the second-biggest stage of the season?
The Pens' choice to not wear them in these playoffs is eyebrow-raising.
Unless they, too, believe the powders are jinxed.
 
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Revenge Factor.
 
Eddie Johnston was a head coach and GM for the Pens from 1980 to 1988.
He left Pittsburgh to become the GM of the Whalers from 1989 to when he was released in 1992.
He rejoined the Penguins in 1993.
 
What happened between 1989 and 1992?
Johnston traded Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson, and Grant Jennings to Pittsburgh for Zarley Zalapski and John Cullen.
 
You look at the timeline of all these events, and you have a conspiracy theory in the works.
Whalers/Canes fans have cried foul for the past two decades.
 
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If you're underestimating the Hurricanes, you'll have to pay a membership fee to join the Devils' and Bruins' club.

We still live in the '90s, and we can't help but draw comparisons between this series and the 1996 Panthers-Penguins series.

All the ingredients are there: a team of relative no-names, a solid system, and a shutdown goaltender against some superstars.

But the game back then suited the Florida Panthers, tackling the Penguins' offensive stars off of every face-off. The same kind of tactic will simply not work in this series, and the relentless barrage that Cam Ward sees on a nightly basis will begin to take its toll. The beginning of this series is gonna be unrealistically tight, but the Pens will eventually rise above.

– Pens in 6.
So are we saying the Pens will win Game 5 of a series tied at two games a piece as a precursor to Game 6?
Or will the Pens be up 3 games to 1 and lose Game 5 at home?

 
go pens
 
 
 
 
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