|Pierre McGuire's Breakdown|
|Center Adam Oates and enforcer-turned-sniper Chris Simon had
outstanding years, but this team needs more scoring from right wing Peter
Bondra. The Penguins will give left wing Richard Zednik plenty of room, so he
could have a big series.
|Jaromir Jagr is ready to deliver, but he needs some of his teammates
to show up as well. Right wing Alexei Kovalev finished the season strong, and
his offense will be needed. Washington shouldn't underestimate center Martin
|Solid group that can beat you with grit or a little of Sergei
Gonchar's finesse. The Caps show a total team commitment to this part of the
| Addition of Janne Laukkanen and Bob Boughner has really helped solidify the blue line. Now some opponents mistakenly forget about leg-breaker Darius Kasparaitis still being a Penguin.
| Yes, Olaf Kolzig seems like he could stop a bullet with his teeth.
The man has frequently been great -- he posted five shutouts -- and simply scary
good on other nights.
| Getting Ron Tugnutt may have helped team chemistry. Jean-Sebastien
Aubin will have his day, but neither guy can afford to give up weak goals.
| Not where they would like to be going into the playoffs. Newcomer
Glen Metropolit, a center, needs to get things going with Bondra and Gonchar.
| With all their talent you would think the Penguins should be better
on the power play, too. Laukkanen gives them more of an offensive presence on
the blue line, and that should open things up for Jaromir and Co.
| Passive neutral-zone forecheck lulls opponents into a false sense of
security, and then, BOOM!, the Caps jump on them. Young buck Jeff Halpern and
reliable Steve Konowalchuk do an admirable job killing off penalties.
| It will be interesting to see whether the Penguins try to get
aggressive on the PK in the playoffs or continue to stay passive as they were
most of the year.
|Ron Wilson is a master motivator who has a way of convincing players
to buy into what he's selling.
| Herb Brooks is the coach of record, but he is getting a lot of help
from his staff. How well former Czech national team coach and current assistant
coach Ivan Hlinka responds to playoff action will play a role.
|This team initiates contact as well as any team at the point of
attack. Plus the Capitals believe they can go all the way.
| Speed is the Penguins' huge intangible. They have to use it smartly
and, more importantly, consistently in all facets of the game.
| Can right wing Ulf Dahlen create offense from below the goal line? Can Gonchar create scoring chances off the rush and off the cycle?
| The chemistry of their mini crash line of Matthew Barnaby-Tyler
Wright-Aleksey Morozov, and the team's top-to-bottom skill level.
|McGuire's Prediction: Washington in 6|