Feb 5, 2011, 11:18 PM EST
The most accurate and immediate way to describe tomorrow’s Pittsburgh Penguins-Washington Capitals SuperBowl Sunday game is as a rematch of the 2011 Winter Classic. That being said – and forgive us for being dreamers* – but could that early game also be a preview for a captivating first round series?
If the 2011 playoffs began at this moment, the Penguins would host the Capitals in a fourth vs. fifth seed series. There are justifiable reasons why each team might stay in second place in their divisions, too.
Odds are that you know that Pittsburgh will likely be without Evgeni Malkin’s services for the rest of the season while Sidney Crosby‘s return is indefinite, two huge losses that may eventually wound them in their neck-and-neck run against the Flyers. Even after finally besting the Southeast-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday, the Capitals also have the deck stacked against them. They play six of their last seven February contests on the road and face a six-game road trip in March while the Lightning still have eight games left in their mammoth homestand.
(Really, the biggest threat to this first round series might be the sixth-ranked Montreal Canadiens, who only have one less point than the Capitals while owning two more wins.)
With this possibility in mind, here are a few thoughts on this hypothetical series.
Would a first round series be a good thing for the league?
A Pens-Caps first round series would be a great “glass half-full vs. half-empty” barometer for league executives. The optimistic side would be obvious: the league would receive a guaranteed pay-off from the 24/7 documentaries and the years of buzz created by this budding feud. On the other hand, a pessimist will point out the fact that the stakes aren’t as high in a first round match as they would be in, say, the Eastern Conference finals. Of course, an even deeper Debbie Downer would say that the playoffs would lose one of its marquee teams after four to seven games.
How would the Capitals handle the pressure of facing an ‘underdog’ Penguins team?
Even if the Penguins hosted the series, Alex Ovechkin & Company would have to deal with the fact that Pittsburgh would probably go in with a “nothing to lose” attitude since they would play without Malkin. Pundits would likely quip that the Caps just have to win this series and would likely call them “gutless” if they lost. Washington would skate with some added weight on their already-burdened shoulders.
Would HBO’s cameras return?
The NHL would have a lot to gain if they permitted a behind the scenes look of such a playoff series. Surely the two sides would be a little more secretive – and the typical two week shelf life of a playoff series would introduce some interesting obstacles – but can you put a price on the kind of buzz a 24/7 sequel would generate? Obviously, this is the purest of speculation, but it’s a fun thing to think about, isn’t it?
Anyway, those are a few things that come to mind while pondering the tantalizing possibility of a Pens-Capitals first round series. Feel free to share your two cents in the comments.
*- Don’t get us wrong, it’s beyond-early to say that the Penguins won’t win the Atlantic Division title and the Capitals are out of the hunt for the Southeast crown in 2010-11. Both teams are only three points behind their respective division leaders, which are far from insurmountable margins. In other words, don’t call HBO to set up 24/7: playoff edition just yet.
Dec 25, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
From down 0-3 to winning it all.
Dec 25, 2014, 11:00 AM EST
Over 105,000 descended on Ann Arbor for an unforgettable experience.
Dec 25, 2014, 10:00 AM EST
Even a disappointing Olympic finish can’t erase a star-making moment.
Dec 25, 2014, 9:00 AM EST
Was quite the playoff run for L.A. and its 27-year-old defenseman.
Dec 25, 2014, 8:00 AM EST
Check back often. It’s an all-day thing.
Dec 24, 2014, 8:59 PM EST
Only Glen Sather is ahead of him.
Dec 24, 2014, 7:51 PM EST
“It’s like a little miracle down here.”
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The goal was initially credited to Martin St. Louis.
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Will he eventually earn a full-time NHL roster spot?
Dec 24, 2014, 4:31 PM EST
His stint with the Lightning was brief, but memorable.
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Not surprisingly, the Kings feature prominently.
Dec 24, 2014, 2:22 PM EST
League rules that Jackman wasn’t expecting to be punched, “nor should he be.”
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Owner Eugene Melnyk has called the potential move a “game-changer.”
Dec 24, 2014, 11:18 AM EST
“We’re seeing some of his best hockey,” Claude Julien said.
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And they’re planning to start taking deposits for the 2016-17 season.
Dec 24, 2014, 11:05 AM EST
Minnesota’s lost four straight, and six of its last eight.
Dec 24, 2014, 10:24 AM EST
Semyon Varlamov’s shutout probably makes that a more comfortable idea.
Dec 24, 2014, 9:43 AM EST
A controversial check left Buffalo winger Brian Gionta injured.
Dec 24, 2014, 8:33 AM EST
Wednesday’s collection of links.
- PHT’s top 14 of ’14: Kings win Cup, Martinez the OT hero 0
- Welcome to PHT’s top 14 stories for 2014 0
- Scott suspended four games for punch that was ‘neither predictable, nor acceptable’ 23
- Sharks’ Scott has hearing for his punch to Jackman 29
- (Video) PHT Extra: Christmas wish lists from around the NHL 2
- PHT interviews Don Maloney, who knows he has a big trade chip in Vermette 7
- Backstrom to start for Wild, who need their goalies to be ‘better’ 13
- NHL on NBCSN: Avs challenge Blues after narrow losses to St. Louis 6
- Gaudreau’s first hat trick helps Flames stun Kings 7
- Fowler after Ducks’ win vs. Sharks: ‘We never give up’ 1
- Sabres aren’t happy with league’s decision regarding Bartkowski (73)
- Report: NHL won’t hold hearing for Bartkowski hit (55)
- Video: Who are the Bruins targeting in trade talks? (47)
- Video: Bartkowski delivers controversial hit to Gionta, fights Foligno (47)
- Could Malkin be the next player to be fined for diving? (43)