Capitals' Semin a marksman against Lightning
The Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning begin their Eastern Conference semifinal on Friday, a series highlighted by a number of the league's offensive stars.
Washington's Alexander Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, and Martin St. Louis of the Lightning are deservedly usually the first mentioned of that group, but it was Capitals forward Alexander Semin who stole the show in the season series.
Semin had seven goals in four games against Tampa Bay, including a pair of hat tricks. In the most recent game against the clubs in March, he scored the tying goal on Dwayne Roloson in a 2-1 shootout win.
It continued a career trend of success against the Lightning, bringing his totals to 22 goals and 17 assists in 33 regular-season games.
The 27-year-old Russian was a flop in previous playoff experiences, but he stepped up in the first round against the New York Rangers with three goals and an assist in the five game series.
On the flip side, Nicklas Backstrom hopes to get a sparkf rom facing the Lightning, a team he has enjoyed decent success against. The talented Swede managed just one assist against the Rangers, but he has set up 17 goals and scored five in 21 career games against the Southeast Division rivals.
Tampa Bay enters the second round on a roll, outscoring the Penguins 13-4 in winning the last three of the seven-game series.
The Lightning won three games on the road in Pittsburgh, improving their road record since the beginning of the regular season to 24-15-16.
Washington is 28-8-8 at home in the regular season and the playoffs.
The Capitals took nine points out of a possible 12 in the season series, with the Lightning grabbing five points. Washington outscored Tampa Bay 19-10.
Bergenheim production a surprise
While it's not an anomaly that Semin did so well against the Lightning, it might be surprising to learn that the Lightning's most productive forward this season against the Capitals was not St. Louis, Stamkos, captain Vincent Lecavalier or dependable forward Simon Gagne.
It was Game 7 first-round hero Sean Bergenheim. The forward had two goals and two assists against the Capitals.
Bergenheim scored three times and had an assist against Pittsburgh, welcome news for a team that struggled at times during the regular season to find secondary scoring outside the contributions of their stars.
While there's offensive talent to spare in the series, the respective goaltenders had the two lowest goals-against averages of all starting NHL netminders in the first round.
While some of that had to do with the offensively challenged Penguins and Rangers, there was no denying that Roloson and Michal Neuvirth were outstanding.
The 41-year-old Roloson is a veteran of deep playoff runs with Buffalo and Edmonton, while Neuvirth, 23, is getting his first post-season assignment.
Game 2 will take place on Hockey Night in Canada on Sunday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m ET).
Because of a prearranged arena booking, the two teams will play on consecutive nights next week when they reach Florida.