The Carolina Hurricanes meet the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight for game 1 of the Eastern Conference Championship series and once again the team from Tobacco Road is a heavy underdog. The Canes defeated the top seed in the East as well as the third seed, yet they still get very little respect around the league or from the world of media in general. Most sportswriters are picking the Pens to win this series, totally disregarding some obvious advantages for the Canes.
While Pittsburgh has the best two scorers in the NHL and a very strong supporting cast, the Hurricanes have the best goalie in the postseason at this time. What normally triumphs at playoff time, great goaltending or fancy scoring?
Here is a note for Penguin fans: You are not going to be watching a rookie goalie who is still wet behind his ears like you did in the last series against Washington. (see game 7 in DC) Cam Ward has a Conn Smythe on his trophy case, has his name on the Cup, and has yet to lose an NHL playoff series.
While Marc-Andre Fleury is usually pretty solid, he has yet to win the big one and has not proven himself to be totally reliable when things get tight.
Here are both goalies playoff stats-
- Ward- GAA 2.22 SV% .927 with 2 shutouts
- Fleury- GAA 2.72 SV% .901 with zero shutouts
The Penguins will be relying on their shut-down guy, Jordan Staal to go up against his older brother Eric. But the older brother has pretty much owned his little brother since their days of playing in the backyard rink, what makes anyone think that Jordan is going to stop him now? Secondly, Eric just finished going up against Norris favorite, Zdeno Chara, all 6 foot 9 inches of him. The elder Staal had success against Chara, it's doubtful he will be intimidated by facing Jordan.
As mentioned previously on the blog, the Hurricanes coaching staff has years and years of successful playoff experience to draw from. The Penguins coaching staff.... not so much.
So while the Penguins do have two of the best skaters in the league on their side, let's not hand them the Prince of Wales Trophy just yet. When they prove that they can solve Ward, stop the older Staal, and outsmart Paul Maurice and Ron Francis, then Caniacs can start to sweat.
The Canes leading scorers in the postseason are as follows-
- Staal 9G 4A 13
- Jokinen 6G 4A 10
- Whitney 3G 6A 9
- LaRose 2G 7A 9
The usual suspects lead the Pens-
- Crosby 12g 9A 21
- Malkin 6G 13A 19
- Gonchar 2G 8A 10
The Hurricane lines should start out like this-
According to PensBurgh, the Penguin lines are as follows-
- Adams- Dupuis-Satan/Talbot
Will the Hurricanes start out flat tonight, like they did in the previous two rounds when they lost both opening contests by a 4-1 score? They should have had enough time off to get over the emotional drain of their game 7 win on Friday night in Boston.
All games in this series will be carried on the Versus network. Play-by-play man Joe Beninati will call the action while Daryl “Razor” Reaugh will provide analysis and Christine Simpson will report from ice level. (No John Forslund and Tripp Tracy to kick around anymore.)
Game time is 7:30.