Quick Links

Capitals vs. Lightning Preview: 3 keys to the series

Capitals vs. Lightning Preview: 3 keys to the series

The Capitals certainly have their work cut out for them in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final.

Following a thrilling series against the Penguins, the Capitals now turn their attention to a Tampa Bay Lightning team that has reached this round three times in the last four years and that has a loaded roster. Meanwhile, the Capitals are making their first Eastern Conference Final appearance in 20 years.

If they hope to advance on to the Stanley Cup Final, here are three keys to the series.

3 Keys to the Capitals vs. Lightning Playoff Series

1. Winning the goalie duel

On paper, Tampa is better on offense and defense. If they get the better of the goaltending matchup as well then… well, there’s not much left for the Capitals to build on. Washington must have the edge in goaltending if they hope to win.

Fatigue is a definite question mark when it comes to Vasilevskiy. He already admitted midseason he was struggling with it and, while you could certainly argue that seemed to affect Braden Holtby as well, the difference is that Holtby got a chance to rest thanks to Philipp Grubauer.

Holtby played in 54 games in the regular season as compared to Vasilevskiy’s 65. Both goalies have given comparable performances in the playoffs thus far, but the longer this postseason run goes for Vasilevskiy, the more you have to wonder if fatigue will catch up to him again in much the same way it did during the regular season when his numbers plummeted.

Even if fatigue is not a factor, however, Holtby must still find a way to outperform his counterpart. Goaltending can often be a mitigating factor in the playoffs and it needs to be for Washington given how deep the Lightning’s roster is.

2. Taking advantage of the Lightning’s penalty kill

Statistically, Tampa is a strong team in almost every aspect. One area in which they really seem to struggle, however, is the penalty kill.

The Lightning finished 28th in the regular season on the PK at only 76.1-percent.

OK, so that was before they traded for defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Surely the PK must be improving now?

Actually, the penalty kill in the playoffs has been even worse than in the regular season as Tampa has managed to kill only 74.2-percent of the power plays it faced.

Washington’s power play through the first two rounds has been red-hot, scoring on 30.9-percent of its chances. They need to force the Lightning into taking penalties and take advantage when they have the opportunity.

3. Winning the first vs. second line matchup

Steven Stamkos had only four points against the Boston Bruins in the second round. Nikita Kucherov had two. So how was Tampa still able to win in just five games? Because of a dominant performance by the second line which scored nine even-strength goals.

Chances are the Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson line is going to matchup against that second line which is composed of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson. That’s a matchup the Caps have to win.

Boston was not able to take advantage of how well they played against the top line because the second line more than made up for their lack of production. You can bet Washington is taking notes on how the Bruins were able to slow down Stamkos and Kucherov. If the Caps are able to limit them as well, the series will be theirs for the taking if and only if they do not allow Tampa’s second line to make up for the top’s lack of production.

Washington is a very top-heavy team offensively. If the Caps’ top line cannot outscore Tampa’s second and win that matchup, their scoring depth will not be enough to carry them through the series.





Quick Links

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Blues eliminate Jets, Stars and Capitals pull ahead 3-2

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Blues eliminate Jets, Stars and Capitals pull ahead 3-2

Friday saw the Toronto Maple Leafs pull ahead 3-2 and the Colorado Avalanche eliminate the favored Calgary Flames. Saturday provided another elimination game and two teams pulled ahead 3-2 in their series.

Here are the results from Saturday.

St. Louis Blues eliminate Winnipeg Jets with 3-2 win

The Blues return to the second round of the playoffs after they were eliminated in the first round last season.

The Blues rally started 23 seconds into the game, when Jaden Schwartz put home a Brayden Schenn rebound.

Schwartz followed with two more goals, completing the hat trick. It's the second natural hat trick in a playoff series clinching game since Geoff Courtnall in 1992.

The Blues await the winner of the Nashville-Dallas series.

Dallas Stars pull ahead of Nashville Predators in 5-3 victory

The Stars were able to steal one from the Predators at Bridgestone Arena thanks to Jason Dickinson and Alexander Radulov's two goal performances.

Tyler Seguin added a goal of his own to pull the Stars ahead 4-2 at the end of the second period, and Ben Bishop recorded 30 saves.

The Stars have a chance to close the series at home Monday night.

Washington Capitals take upperhand on Carolina Hurricanes with 6-0 shutout

After dropping Game 4 in Carolina 2-1, the Caps exploded for six goals against the Hurricanes in a 6-0 win.

Nicklas Backstrom scored the opening two goals. He leads the Capitals in playoff goals with five and had a four point night.

The Caps also got production from their bottom six with Brett Connolly's goal and Nic Dowd's converted penalty shot. It's the first penalty shot a Caps player has successfully made in the playoffs.

Braden Holtby's shutout gave him seven in the playoffs, surpassing Olaf Kolzig's six for the franchise lead. The Caps have a chance to win the series in Carolina Monday night.


Quick Links

Todd Reirden on TJ Oshie's surgery: 'It's a tough situation for our team'

Todd Reirden on TJ Oshie's surgery: 'It's a tough situation for our team'

ARLINGTON — Capitals forward T.J. Oshie had a surgical procedure Friday to repair a broken right collarbone and remains out indefinitely.  

Oshie was not at Capital One Arena for Washington’s 6-0 win in Game 5 of its Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes. He was injured with five minutes to go in Thursday’s Game 4 loss in Raleigh when nudged from behind by Hurricanes forward Warren Foegele and slamming hard into the boards near full speed. 

“There's not one person who can take T.J. Oshie's spot for all that he is as a human being, player on the ice, off the ice all the stuff that he adds,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said at his media availability on Sunday afternoon. “But what I did notice is that everybody picked their level up last night. And that's what we're going to need going into Raleigh for [Monday]."

That’s when Washington, ahead 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, can eliminate Carolina in Game 6. It’s something it has done successfully on the road in recent years in Philadelphia (2016), Toronto (2017), Pittsburgh and Columbus (2018). All series the Capitals were up 3-2. In all four they won Game 6. 

But they won’t have Oshie this time and he is the emotional engine that has helped fuel some of those series-ending performances. There is still no exact timetable for Oshie’s return. The Capitals have avoided ruling him out for the season and Reirden artfully dodged a question about whether he’d be ready for training camp. 

A broken collarbone usually doesn’t take longer than two months to heal barring complications. But that’s almost certainly going to be after the playoffs ends even if the Capitals make a repeat run to the Stanley Cup Final. Last year they won it on June 7 in five games against the Vegas Golden Knights. 

“I do know that T.J. Oshie is going to do everything he can, and we're not willing to put a timetable on it right now with regard to any time,” Reirden said. “Just lots of these things take a different course in terms of how they rehab and don't rehab. I just know that I can tell you about T.J., he's all-in at all times, and that's a great person to have around our room at the very least." 

Oshie had 25 goals and 29 assists in 65 regular-season games. He missed 11 of 13 games with a concussion. He had eight goals and 13 assists in the Stanley Cup playoffs last season. He also plays the “bumper” role on the top power-play unit and kills penalties.

Oshie tweeted thanks to fans both before and after Washington’s 6-0 win on Saturday. In the third period, periodic “T.J. Oshie!” chants rang from the sellout crowd at Capital One Arena. 

“It was nice to see the crowd give [Oshie] a little love,” center Nicklas Backstrom said on Saturday.  

Added Reirden: “That's obviously a tough loss for us, but we're prepared to go without him as we saw last night. It's a tough situation for our team, but I certainly liked our response last night and was proud of our effort in terms of how we played and how we were playing with him in the back of our mind."