Feb 5, 2011, 11:18 PM EDT
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.
May 27, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT
Chicago endured Anaheim’s comeback attempt to win this one.
May 27, 2015, 10:29 PM EDT
The Ducks might have caught a break there.
May 27, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT
He has seven goals in 15 playoff games.
May 27, 2015, 9:46 PM EDT
Chicago scored three goals within four minutes.
May 27, 2015, 9:32 PM EDT
Jordan Weal has been a big part of Manchester’s success.
May 27, 2015, 8:09 PM EDT
Chicago’s mixing things up for this must-win game.
May 27, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT
She’s previously been warned that this course could lead to her being found in contempt.
May 27, 2015, 6:06 PM EDT
Anaheim has a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Final tonight.
May 27, 2015, 5:24 PM EDT
After just one year in Pittsburgh.
May 27, 2015, 4:43 PM EDT
The ladies sure loved that guy.
May 27, 2015, 4:16 PM EDT
One of the many decisions facing new GM Don Sweeney.
May 27, 2015, 3:49 PM EDT
Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final goes Friday at MSG.
May 27, 2015, 3:27 PM EDT
The two men worked together for a season in New Jersey.
May 27, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT
Tomas Fleischmann likely on his way out.
May 27, 2015, 2:21 PM EDT
“We’re going to be embedded in this community.”
May 27, 2015, 1:46 PM EDT
“I get the fact there were three goals that went in that were ugly. That’s the growth of a young player.”
May 27, 2015, 1:09 PM EDT
Either way, Kimmo Timonen is likely out.
May 27, 2015, 12:39 PM EDT
Rangers forward has had issues with it thus far.
May 27, 2015, 12:32 PM EDT
Former Panthers and Devils coach will take over a team that missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003.
May 27, 2015, 12:13 PM EDT
Remember when AV called the youngster out?
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