Stanley Cup Playoff Preview

April 16, 1994

WASHINGTON CAPITALS vs. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

The Sun's Sandra McKee previews the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series:

FORWARDS

The Penguins go on the attack with Jaromir Jagr (32 goals, 67 assists, 99 points), Ron Francis (27-6693) and Kevin Stevens (41-4788). And then, they throw Mario Lemieux (17-2037 in 22 games), one the NHL's greatest players, into the mix when he is healthy. The Caps have acquired Joe Juneau (19-6685), giving them a scoring threat at center, seen Dimitri Khristich (29-2958) begin to emerge from an eight-game slump and have seven other players with 40 or more points.

Edge: Pittsburgh.

DEFENSEMEN

Pittsburgh has a Murphy (Larry), two Samuelssons (Ulf and Kjell) and a "primordial glop" of Greg Hawgood, Peter Taglianetti, Greg Brown and Grant Jennings. The Caps, on the other hand, offer up the sound play of Sylvain Cote and Calle Johansson, the stay-at-home security of Joe Reekie and, of late, a ferocious Kevin Hatcher.

Edge: Washington.

GOALIES

The Capitals are working with a three-headed monster -- Don Beaupre (2.84 GAA), Rick Tabaracci (3.08) and rookie Byron Dafoe (3.39). Any of them can win on any given day. But Pittsburgh has Tom Barrasso (3.36), who has shown that he can take his game to a higher level in the playoffs.

Edge: Pittsburgh.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Penguins have the 13th-best power-play unit and the 10th-best penalty-killing unit in the NHL. The Capitals, who used to live off power plays, sank to 18th with the man advantage this season, and are also the 18th-best penalty killers. Both teams have been victimized for short-handed goals, Pittsburgh allowing Washington 12.

Edge: Pittsburgh

COACHES

Washington's Jim Schoenfeld took the New Jersey Devils to the conference finals in 1988, losing to Boston in Game 7. His playoff record, in that one year, 11-9. Schoenfeld has demonstrated his motivational skills, at least in his first year as coach. Pittsburgh's Ed Johnston, has a 7-10 postseason record, having lost in the quarterfinals with Chicago (1979-80) and in three preliminary rounds with Pittsburgh (1980-81, 1981-82 and 1982-83).

Edge: Washington.

INTANGIBLES

The Penguins have the experience of winning two Stanley Cups but are more a group of individuals this season than a solid team. The Capitals, over the past three months under Schoenfeld, have become a confident, unified team. And, for the first time in a number of years, Washington goes into the playoffs without great expectations, which could relieve the pressure individual players previously choked on.

Edge: Washington.

PREDICTION

Go with the intangibles.

Capitals in six games.

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