Let me start off by saying I'm a Penguin fan living in Canes Country. As such I really feel I have a pretty good handle on the what/who/when/how of the Canes. Now if you're a Canes fan you may be wondering to yourself, "Romano, you know how well the Canes have been playing and how they have constantly beat the odds in classic dramatic fashion, why do you have them only winning one game? Oh that's right, you're a Pens fan." Yes, I'm bias. But I think even if I weren't I would still pick the Penguins in 5 (maybe 6). I have the utmost respect for the Canes. I think they are an extremely good team with grit and determination. They just find ways to win games, including those against some great hockey teams. Truthfully, I told colleagues that the Canes would win the Bruins series. Then why will the series end in 5?
One of the first things I heard Bylsma say on February 15th was that he thought the Penguins had enough offensive firepower and the ability out skate the opponents, that all he was planning on doing was to exploit that; and that's just what he has done. Bylsma has been the anchor to this teams success. He's been the most grounded in the toughest of times and always keeps a strong composure on his guys which allows them to have a great deal of trust in their coach. Gaining the respect of your players is perhaps the most important thing a coach can do, and he has this team in great spirits.
The Penguins defense have the most blocked shot of any team in the playoffs at the moment. Eaton, Gill, and Scuderi are playing like All Stars at the moment with the way they have been keeping clean shots from getting through. Orpik as well has done a great job at keeping guys out of the slot. And Gonchar and Letang have utilized their offensive prowess to get timely goals.
Not only are the Penguins playing quality defense, one thing their offense is doing real well in the playoffs is forechecking. With the exception of the 2nd period in Game 6 vs Washington the Penguins have done an excellent job at keeping the puck out of their own zone and in the opponents. The pressure being put on by guys like Kunitz, Staal, Fedetenko, Talbot, Dupuis and Kennedy makes for a difficult time the opposing teams to creating chances. As good as Cam Ward is, I'm not sure he can sustain the pressure.
Malkin hasn't been in the spotlight as much as he has during the regular season, but that doesn't mean you count him out. He still has 19 points in the playoffs and has made some timely plays. The thing about Malkin is his ability to create his own plays. He flourishes when he takes it to the net and evades defenders to open up the slot for more chances. The Canes will have a difficult time defending both Geno and Sid (which I can imagine Bylsma showing more often in this series).
Lately Crosby has been playing with that undying willpower we have not seen since Mario was on the ice. As of now he's on place for breaking the Penguins all-time record for playoff goals at 19 currently held by Kevin Stevens. I mean let's be honest, he's been playing like an animal. It's very rare that you see a guy who can literally take over a game on his own. I do think Ovechkin has the ability to change a game with his ability to score, but rarely do you see a guy like Crosby who can impact a game on every level and make everyone around him better. We all know he had the first 4 of 5 goals the Penguins put up against the Capitals. And in game 7 he put on a performance for the ages. I do believe Carolina can somewhat match up to the Penguins in each of every position aside from Crosby. But that's just it, they don't have Crosby. He's the difference maker.