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The chess match is on as Caps try to anticipate the Lightning's adjustments

The chess match is on as Caps try to anticipate the Lightning's adjustments

The chess match is on.

Adjustments are critical when it comes to winning a seven-game playoff series. Both teams come in with their game plans and adjust as the series goes on. The team that can better adjust to the other’s game plan and counter their moves generally wins the series.

But how do you adjust when everything goes right?

The Washington Capitals have dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning in two games and lead the Eastern Conference Final 2-0. They have been better than Tampa in just about every aspect, but the chess match between the two teams is still very much in play.

“You always try to stay ahead of the curve a little bit, move, counter move,” Barry Trotz said following Tuesday’s morning skate.

If the Lightning are going to make this a series, they will have to make some adjustments and the Caps know it. For Trotz, he now has to anticipate what sort of moves Tampa will make.

“We've asked that question, what do you think they will do?” Trotz said. “I'm not in their room, I don't have any microphones or cameras or anything like that so it's a little bit of a guess, anticipation of what they might do. But we don't know.”

Looking at how the Caps won Game 1 and Game 2, there is no obvious answer for what changes Tampa head coach Jon Cooper will make.

The Lightning skated the same lines at Tuesday’s morning skate as they had in the first two games, suggesting there will not be any lineup changes. Andre Vasilevskiy has given up 10 goals in five periods, but that is more of a reflection of the play in front of him. Goaltending has not been the issue and, even if Cooper wanted to make a change, the team’s backups are Louis Domingue and Peter Budaj, neither of whom seem likely to take over the series.

The biggest issue for Tampa has been its inability to penetrate Washington’s 1-1-3 trap and defend against the quick counter attacks the trap has generated. The Lightning have to find a way to break into the offensive zone and keep the puck there without selling out and leaving themselves vulnerable.

“We've tried to formulate what they might do,” Trotz said. “We might be totally wrong.”

It’s a delicate balancing act. The Caps have to anticipate what changes Tampa may make, but they should not adjust too much given how absolutely dominant they have been through two games.

The good news for Trotz is the Caps will be at home. If the Lightning make any changes that catch Washington by surprise, they have the advantage of making the second line change. That will allow Trotz to adjust his lines accordingly for better matchups in order to counter whatever moves the Lightning may make.

With a 2-0 series lead, the best move Trotz can make may be to make no move at all and wait to see what Cooper does.

Said Trotz, “They'll drop the puck and we'll try to figure it out as it goes along.”


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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

The St. Louis Blues won a decisive Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks 5-0, pushing the Sharks to the brink of elimination.

The Blues are now one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final since the 1969-70 season, where they lost to the Boston Bruins in a sweep.

St. Louis started the scoring early when Oskar Sundqvist netted his second goal of the series in the first five minutes of the game. 

Jaden Schwartz then tallied his first goal of the game off a juicy rebound in front of Martin Jones to start the scoring in the second period. It was Schwartz's 10th goal of the playoffs, which tied him for third all-time in Blues history for goals in the postseason.

Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Blues lead off a penalty shot. He's the first player in Blues franchise history to score a penalty shot goal in the playoffs.

Schwartz then added two more goals in the third period for a hat-trick. The first came on a 5-on-3 power play advantage off a scramble in front of the net, and the second came from a backdoor one-timer pass from Tarasenko.

Schwartz now has 12 goals these playoffs, and it's his second hat-trick of the playoffs.

Blues goalie Jordan Binnington recorded 21 saves for a shutout, and he's the first rookie goalie to accomplish that feat for the Blues.


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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues pull even with Sharks with 2-1 win

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues pull even with Sharks with 2-1 win

The St. Louis Blues' two-goal first period powered them to a win over the San Jose Sharks, and the series is now tied.

The Blues started with a goal 35 seconds into the game. Ivan Barbashev picked off a Brent Burns exit pass and flung it towards the net for the games opening goal. 

Barbashev is the second Blues player to score in the first minute of a game these playoffs. Jaden Schwartz is the other player.

Tyler Bozak scored the game-winning goal for the Blues on a power play off a scramble in front of the net.

The Sharks responded when Thomas Hertl poked the puck past the goal line after Jordan Binnington thought he had the puck covered. Hertl now has 10 goals this postseason for the Sharks, and the team now features 10 or more players to score 10+ goals in the playoffs for the second time in franchise history.

Binnington's 29 save performance gave him his 10th win of the playoffs, the most of any Blues goaltender in franchise history.