Mr. Irrelevant Caps correspondent Brad Parker returns (!) to preview this Caps-Pens death match. He’s joined by Ian Brinksman, a Pittsburgh native and devoted Penguins fan who had the misfortune of working with Brad once. Brad asks the questions and Ian answers. Enjoy …
1. Is there any reason to think this year will be different?
Oh, god yeah. These are essentially the same two teams that met last year, only the Capitals blue line is better and the Penguins are without Letang. The Pens/Caps split their series this season, with each team winning at home. Given that 4 games are going to be played at the Verizon Center, I think they have an excellent shot. The only weakness I gleamed (from watching exactly five Capitals games this year, including three in the playoffs) is they struggle a bit against speed. With Carl Hagelin sidelined the Penguins are considerably less spry.
Finally — and maybe I’m putting way too much into this — but I think the fact the Capitals have so many impending free agents there will be a real psychic push to get them over the hump.
2. Why will this year be the same?
Even without Letang, the Penguins are still deep, fast, and dangerous. These are obviously the two best teams in the NHL. As such, the winner of this series will probably be down to a coin flip. I was also surprised at how stiff the Caps seemed to be against the Leafs. Obviously, they found their footing, but I don’t think they can play like that against the Penguins and expect to win. Also, Hagelin should be back at some point this series. He gave the Capitals fits last year, and would be a huge boon for the Penguins.
Speaking of psychic stuff, I do think the Penguins have it over the Capitals. I’m not sure how that translates onto the ice, but if this series is a coin flip, well, that could be the edge.
3. What do you hate most about Caps fans?
I’m the prissiest priss that ever came out of priss town. When I go to the Verizon Center I’m not loud, I’m not aggressive, I simply sit in my seat and (quietly) cheer on the team that I grew up watching. Even still, I get lumped in with the goons who stand on the Portrait Gallery steps. If an alien came down and witnessed my time in that venue, they’d assume my name rhymed with “bunt.”
To be a bit more serious, I do think it’s pretty bad that “your city is a shithole” is such a common refrain. I find it pompous, ignorant, and conforms to the worst stereotypes of East Coast elitism. I love D.C., I’ve obviously put my roots here, so I think the denizens of this city are better than that. Obviously, not every Caps fan does this –- just as you’ll never find me waving a terrible towel (for some reason) on the portrait gallery steps -– but it is a thing.
4. Last year the Caps moved the schedule to accommodate a Bieber concert at Verizon, this year we kept our schedule and cancelled a Chris Brown show. We deserve to win just for that, right?
Hmmm, this is a tough one. At best, this is a wash for D.C. reducing his assault charge to a simple misdemeanor. But if I can get some sort of assurance that he’ll get all his food spat in on his next visit to this fair city, yes, that’s worth like seven Caps championship parades.
5. What’s your prediction?
My brain says Caps in 7. Like I said, I think it’s a coin toss and the home ice advantage is just as good a reason as any. My heart secretly says Pens in 7, but under no circumstances will I put money on that. Considering every prediction I made in this space last year came true, get ready to exorcise those playoff demons Caps fans! (Until you get steamrolled in the Eastern Conference Finals because you don’t get to have nice things).
6. If the Caps don’t beat the Pens this year, with this lineup and Letang and Murray hurt, is there any hope of ever defeating Pittsburgh?
I mean, on a long enough timeline… sure. I do think this is your best chance over the next several years. But even if Oshie and company depart, your core is still strong (and young) enough that I doubt it’ll take that long to reload. Look at that: optimism!