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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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Backstrom backs away from previous comment that Ovechkin is always yelling for the puck

Backstrom backs away from previous comment that Ovechkin is always yelling for the puck

With no live sports to watch, people have to find ways to pass the time. A fun way to do it is with NBC Sports Washington's NHL 20 simulations of the Capitals' scheduled games. Some of the players have even gotten involved joining the broadcast or reacting to the game results. So now, we have Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin providing commentary plus actual players reacting to a video game simulation. What a time to be alive.

Nicklas Backstrom was the star of the first game that was broadcast on NBC Sports Washington -- a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on March 24 -- with a hat trick performance. The real Backstrom gave a FaceTime interview afterward and said, "I don't do hat tricks that often, so it was nice to seal it off with a hat trick. You see what happens when you can't hear Ovi scream all the time for the puck."

On Wednesday, Backstrom joined the media for a Zoom video conference and was asked about that very answer. He quickly clarified that it was meant as a joke.

"You know what?" he said. "I felt so awkward doing that interview to be honest. I'm like, I've got to try to make this funny as possible. I don't know how to answer questions about simulation games. That was obviously a joke."

When you think about a real person having to do an interview about their digital player's performance, you can see how things could get awkward pretty quickly. Then again, if Ovechkin were always calling for the puck it would not be that surprising. He is, after all, one of the greatest goal scorers of all time. He could be forgiven for wanting the puck on his stick as often as possible.

Backstrom, however, said of Ovechkin that he doesn't need to call for the puck. Part of what makes him great is his ability to find the best place to be to score at all times.

"I think looking at it, [Ovechkin's] never yelling for the puck," Bacsktrom said. "He's just that good of a goal-scorer and I'm happy to give him the puck every time too. I was just trying to make that funny interview."

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Hath's Heroes is keeping Garnet Hathaway busy during the quarantine

Hath's Heroes is keeping Garnet Hathaway busy during the quarantine

Like the rest of us, Capitals' winger Garnet Hathaway is just trying to stay sane and helping out where he can.

His charity, Hath's Heroes, which provides meals to first responders, is especially important in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Hath's Heroes started working with Capitals' Chef Robert "Robbie" Wood to provide even more meals to first responders, which Wood is matching, plus an additional meal to a high-risk individual in need.

“Chef Robbie has been serving the Caps for a long time and makes unbelievable food, I can attest to it, and they also have a great initiative with Kid Power and DC Central Kitchen," Hathaway said on the Capitals Talk Podcast.

While many are fortunate to be able to work from home or be with family during the pandemic, first responders are out on the front lines.

“It’s the social responsibility of staying safe, keeping your distance and trying to stay healthy and protecting those around you," Hathaway said. "So I feel that’s where we can all feel great about helping somebody, by taking responsibility for your actions and helping out if you can."

CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW ON THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST:

Doing one's part is important to flatten the curve and Hathaway says donations of any amount are appreciated.

“For donations, if you can, if you have the opportunity to and you’re capable of, any amount really does make a difference.”

When he's not working with Hath's Heroes, Hathaway has been spending time with his fianceé and dog and trying to learn the Harmonica he got for Christmas. "Silent Night" was the first song he learned to play.

“Months away from the Christmas season, but I think I’ll be ready by then," Hathaway said.

Aside from downtime, Hathaway has taken solace in finding structure in his day.

“I think the biggest thing is trying to find a structure that works, that I can stay physically healthy and mentally healthy." 

“For everyone that’s feeling cooped up in their house, they gotta stay active and they gotta get some fresh air and they gotta stay healthy," Hathaway said.

While everyone has been binge-watching Netflix's hit documentary "Tiger King," Hathaway says he hasn't had the opportunity to watch yet.

“I might be the only person in America not watching Tiger King, but that’s not to say that I won’t get there at some point."

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