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.
Mar 16, 2014, 1:53 AM EDT
The Battle of California.
Mar 16, 2014, 1:20 AM EDT
Columbus comes away with the win.
Mar 16, 2014, 12:27 AM EDT
It’s been a while.
Mar 15, 2014, 11:55 PM EDT
Mar 15, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT
Stick on the ice.
Mar 15, 2014, 10:38 PM EDT
Tied it up with less than a second left.
Mar 15, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
Penguins GM, Ray Shero, was on hand as Philadelphia honored to his father.
Mar 15, 2014, 9:35 PM EDT
He didn’t score in that photo. That’s just a good action photo.
Mar 15, 2014, 9:24 PM EDT
Pittsburgh lost to Philadelphia on Saturday.
Mar 15, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Two teams at or near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
Mar 15, 2014, 8:12 PM EDT
Having a tough season.
Mar 15, 2014, 7:43 PM EDT
Lots happening to start this game.
Mar 15, 2014, 7:18 PM EDT
Was the team’s captain, and played there from 1996 to 2008.
Mar 15, 2014, 6:31 PM EDT
He was hurt against Los Angeles on Thursday.
Mar 15, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT
He’s been playing center all season.
Mar 15, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
He had three assists against Vancouver on Friday.
Mar 15, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Sunday afternoon, the Vancouver Canucks face the Florida Panthers and that means a reunion with Roberto Luongo. Luongo, who was sent to Florida by Vancouver ahead of the trade deadline, has settled into a comfortable (albeit losing) situation in Sunrise. Meanwhile the Canucks have had a rough go of things lately. Luongo’s former teammates are…
Mar 15, 2014, 4:35 PM EDT
Chicago has slipped to third in the Central Division.
Mar 15, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Things aren’t going so well for the former first-overall pick.
Mar 15, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT
Just one of those days for Pittsburgh.
- Discuss: Habs overcome three-goal deficit, beat Senators in overtime 9
- Canucks ready to face Luongo on Sunday 1
- West update: Stars blow lead yet still improve hold on wild card spot 4
- East update: Red Wings eke out shootout win for key points 0
- Luongo continues to foil Schneider as Panthers damage Devils’ playoff hopes 3
- TGIF: In which we salivate over potential playoff matchups 10
- Backstrom to receive silver medal, IOC says Sweden doctor ‘made a serious error’ 29
- Pens lose Neal to concussion 61
- Here are the top 10 and bottom 10 goalies in even-strength save percentage 22
- Weekend preview: Flyers-Pens rivalry renewed, Bruins look to stay hot 13
- Here are three ‘major changes’ the NHL should consider (98)
- Chiasson ‘shaken up’ by Peverley incident, won’t dress for Stars tonight (74)
- ‘It’s obvious Tortorella can’t come back next year,’ writes Vancouver reporter (62)
- Pens lose Neal to concussion (61)
- Video: Dryden on why hockey should ‘give up the fighting, but keep the fight’ (57)