It was a bit hairy, but the Washington Capitals advanced past the Philadelphia Flyers in six games and are now set to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup playoffs' Eastern Conference semifinals. The series begins in D.C. at 8 p.m. April 28.
PressBoxDC.com caught up with former nine-time NHL All-Star and current NBC Sports Network analyst Jeremy Roenick to preview the matchup.
Obviously, all of the talk going into the series is about the matchup between Caps star Alex Ovechkin and Penguins star Sidney Crosby, but is it safe to say the series is going to be so much more than just that?
Jeremy Roenick: Oh absolutely, especially with the teams that they now have. Ovechkin has a lot of support; Sidney Crosby has gotten a lot of support from a lot of different guys. And they have two good goaltenders. This is going to be a long series. If Washington struggled with Philly (at times), they're really going to struggle with Pittsburgh. They have to up their game tremendously from how they played against Philly.
Speaking of those struggles, what went wrong in the final three games of that series that they need to correct for the Pittsburgh series (including the Capitals scoring just two goals in the final three games)?
JR: I think they took Philly for granted a little bit, and I think they have to bear down a bit harder, especially on their [offensive] chances. Granted, [Flyers goalie Michal] Neuvirth played very, very well. But there has to be a point where they won't be denied. They're going to have to go after a young goaltender in Matt Murray. Murray's played very, very well, and the team's played well in front of him. They're going to have their work cut out for them.
How much pressure is there on Ovechkin, considering he's never made it past the conference semifinal round of the playoffs?
JR: It's huge. A lot of peoples' legacy is related to how far they get in the playoffs and how they play in the playoffs. If he's not able to make that [Stanley Cup] final -- or at least make the semifinal, a lot of people are going to question the playoff performances -- and that's always going to be an asterisk in your career. He's going to go down as one of the best goal scorers ever -- nobody is going to deny that. But everything is kind of related to playoffs and championships, and I think he knows that.
Do you think it bothers Ovechkin at all that he's been compared to Crosby at every turn in his career?
JR: No, because they came in at the same time. They were so good at such a young age, and they were so marketable at the right time. And at the time, there wasn't anybody that really touched them at what they did. And it's nice to see that they're both at the top of their game again. Sidney Crosby probably had one of the best second halves of the season of anybody, and Alex Ovechkin scored 50 again. So you have all of those intangibles that make this rivalry and this matchup even more intriguing again.
Do you have a gut about how the series plays out?
JR: I think this is going to be tough for Washington. I think Washington gets it done in seven. That home-ice advantage is going to be key for them. They've got it now, unlike how they haven't had it sometimes in the past, especially last year against the Rangers. I think that home-ice advantage is just going to be enough to let them squeak by Pittsburgh. It's going to be tough, though.