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Picking a winner

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Who will win Game 7 on Wednesday night?

Why not ask the writers who know these teams the best?

We had Corey Masisak, the Capitals beat writer for The Washington Times, and Rob Rossi, the Penguins beat writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, tell us why the teams they cover can win Game 7 at the Verizon Center.

Their analysis follows, starting with the Capitals.

WHY THE CAPITALS CAN WIN

Bruce Boudreau told his team it is our turn when Game 6 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series went to overtime. He just might be right.

These Washington Capitals bear almost no resemblance to those editions that routinely found agonizing ways to lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1991 to 2001. They play a different style of hockey. They wear different uniforms. They also have a better collection of young, dynamic talent than at any other point in the franchises mostly futile history.

Boudreaus Capitals have been at their best when a real sense of urgency develops. The Caps won seven straight games to make the playoffs last season. They are 6-1 in elimination games in the past two postseasons -- 7-1 including the win-or-go-home regular-season finale last season.

This team also plays better in big games. Washington went 3-0-1 against Boston, 3-0-1 against Pittsburgh and beat both Detroit and Chicago this year during the regular season. If Columbus and Los Angeles arent involved, Washingtons odds of winning improve dramatically.

These Capitals also have had unparalleled success against Pittsburgh. Ten times these two teams have played this season, and only once have the Penguins defeated them in regulation.

Before Boudreau arrived from his previous life as a journeyman minor league coach, Sidney Crosbys Penguins owned Alex Ovechkins Capitals. With Boudreau behind the bench, the Caps are 7-2-4, with the other regulation loss coming last season when Nicklas Backstrom put the puck in his own net.

If these Capitals avoid the tentativeness they displayed in Game 7s last season against Philadelphia and this year against the New York Rangers, they will have the advantage on special teams and in goal and have the home crowd behind them.

-- Corey Masisak, The Washington Times

WHY THE PENGUINS CAN WIN

Beware these Penguins, who are at their best when facing their worst possible scenario. A full year spent overcoming adversity will lead them to victory Wednesday at Verizon Center in Game 7 of a second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Washington Capitals.

With all due respect to sharpshooting Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin and out-of-his-mind rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov, these Penguins will not allow the red to be rocked.

They are 12 months removed from a last-minute goal by forward Max Talbot that staved off elimination in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final at Detroit -- a series against a superior opponent that the Penguins nearly extended to a seventh game despite shutout losses in Games 1 and 2. The next four games were one-goal affairs.

These Penguins are only a few weeks removed from failing to score a goal in a clinching game at home only to come back from a 3-0 deficit at Philadelphia in the next game to wrap a first-round series. That was their second victorious rally after trailing a playoff game 3-0 in the past two seasons.

Remember, this teams nucleus overcame a five-point playoff deficit with 25 games remaining to jump from 10th to fourth in the Eastern Conference. These players, led by captain Sidney Crosby, do not acknowledge any situation as too tough.

Playing more than half their regular-season slate without top defenseman Sergei Gonchar and a month without goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and going through a coaching change in mid-February did not rattle them -- nor did replacing six forwards from the 2008 Cup final roster, opening the season with a 10-day trip to Europe and going 15-21-2 in a two-month stretch.

A deciding game on the road, even against an equally skilled and gutsy opponent, will not do them in.

These Penguins have survived worse, which is the reason they will see another series.

-- Rob Rossi, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review