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Sunday 24th Sep 2017

At the end of April, I began covering some of the NHL’s Deadly Duos that were still alive and kicking in this year’s playoffs. Here’s the second part of that series.  

The Nashville Predators always lacked the firepower up front to contend with the battleships of the Western Conference, at least until 2015. The Preds acquired Left Wing Filip Forsberg from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat and also exchanged wingers with the Pittsburgh Penguins by sending Patric Hornqvist to the Steel City for sniper James Neal. Both players are now flourishing in their new environment.  

Forsberg ($6400 at DraftKings) finished the regular season with a team leading 33 goals and 31 assists while playing in all 82 games. Neal ($6500) finished third in team scoring with 31 goals and 27 assists and also played a full complement of games. But only 12 of those combined goals came on the power play, where the Predators ranked 10th during the regular season. Neal and Forsberg have pretty much been side by side all season and during the playoffs, but newly acquired Ryan Johanson ($5500) and Colin Wilson ($3800) also make good lower end plays with Wilson quietly leading the Preds in playoff scoring so far with five goals, eight assists and 13 points.  

Now let’s get to a couple of teams who will be squaring off in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Tampa Bay Lightning are front loaded with talent, and that’s excluding Steven Stamkos, potentially the deadliest sniper among the team’s young forward group.  

Perhaps Stamkos’ absence and the continued impressive play of Nikita Kucherov ($7600) and Tyler Johnson ($6100) are making GM Steve Yzerman rethink his position when it comes to Stamkos’ upcoming free agency. But there is no mistaking that Kucherov and Johnson were a two-man wrecking crew in the first round against the Detroit Red Wings.  

Tampa Bay’s second duo is relatively new with once prodigal son Jonathan Drouin ($4700) and regular contributor Alex Killorn ($5500). The latter has been a mainstay on Stamkos’ side since blood clots ended Stammer’s season prematurely. Drouin has been amazing since the Right Wing’s feud with management ended and he finally got to play with the big boys. It’s not fair though to mention Kucherov and Johnson and not mention triplet Ondrej Palat’s ($4900) contributions to the success of his mates. These five skaters have all been an integral part of the Lightning’s success this off-season along with defensive stud Victor Hedman, who may be the most important piece in the team’s bright future.   

Where does one begin with all the offensive talent on the Pittsburgh Penguins? Since I have gushed on long enough about Nick Bonino, Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel, let’s focus on the big dogs. Love him or hate him, Sidney Crosby ($7900) is one of the best players on earth and is the straw stirring the drink in the Steel City.  

Crosby’s partner in crime of late has been Patric Hornqvist ($7000), and these two players are among the more expensive options on DraftKings. But Evgeni Malkin ($7000) and Chris Kunitz ($4800) are the second wave of scorers coming at you in the Penguins offensive attack who have nice potential value. Any of these players’ third line mates are very nice cheap options with the potential to produce. Conor Sheary ($3900) on the Crosby line and Eric Fehr ($4100) now on the Malkin line add points not only with goals and assists, but hits, blocked shots and shots.

All four of these skaters fill out top spots on Penguins power play units and wear down defenders, which is probably why the third line I love here has been tearing opponents apart. This Penguins team often reminds me of the early 90’s Pittsburgh squads, loaded with so much talent that five forwards--Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Alexei Kovalev and Jan Hrdina—occupied the top power play unit and all finished in the top 30 in scoring.  

Crosby and Malkin are the leaders of this team regardless of who’s doing the scoring; the duo did lead the Penguins in power play markers during the regular season. Crosby had 10 power play goals and Malkin had 11 after missing 25 games. This duo is second (Crosby) and fourth (Malkin) in playoff scoring, and before it’s over, I have a feeling they’ll be one and two again.  

My Pre-Season Top 25 had Crosby and Malkin finishing in first and second in the rankings, and well, not quite so, but it’s not too late to jump on the Penguins bandwagon.

As a Midwesterner, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Pittsburgh, a blue collar city with great people. In fact, my old boss used to play for the Penguins. So do enjoy the Conference Finals and may your beards grow until your wives make you sleep outside.

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