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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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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line


Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.


PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."