On Friday, the Capitals will head to Tampa, Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.
The Capitals are coming off a historic win, one that they've been waiting for since 1998, while the Lightning went on a four-game winning streak against the Boston Bruins to get to this point in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
A lot stands in front of the Capitals in this matchup. They will be getting Tom Wilson back on their top line but the return of Nicklas Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky is still up in the air. The Lightning have speed, scoring depth, and deeper playoff experience. However, their goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy has admitted to being affected by fatigue during the regular season, something the Caps could use to their advantage if the series goes to seven games.
With all of that being taken into consideration, what are analyst predicting, as well as saying, ahead of Game 1?
Capitals vs. Lighting Predictions:
Joe Beninati, NBC Sports Washingon Capitals play-by-play announcer: Capitals in 7
Ryan Billie, Caps GameTime and Caps Extra producer: Capitals in 7
Tarik El-Bashir, NBC Sports Washingon Capitals Insider: Capitals in 7
Rob Carlin, NBC Sports Washington Capitals anchor: Capitals in 6
Brent Johnson, NBC Sports Washingon analyst, and former NHL goalie: Lightning in 7
Al Koken, NBC Sports Washington Capitals on-ice reporter: Capitals in 6
Courtney Laughlin, Caps FaceOff and Caps Overtime panelist: Capitals in 7
Craig Laughlin, NBC Sports Washingon Capitals color commentator: Capitals in 6
Troy Machir, NBC Sports Washingon senior digital producer: Lightning in 5
Alan May, NBC Sports Washingon Capitals analyst: Capitals in 7
Jason Murphy, Caps Faceoff and Caps Overtime producer: Capitals in 5
Grant Paulsen, host of Caps FaceOff and Caps Overtime: Lightning in 6
JJ Regan, NBC Sports Washingon Capitals digital producer: Capitals in 6
Jeremy Roenick, NBC Sports NHL analyst: Lightning in 7
NHL.com (Tom Gulitti): "In the conference final for the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era, which began in 2005-06, and for the first time since 1998, the Capitals have the feel of a team of destiny. And they are playing with a determination and commitment defensively they'd previously lacked. It will be a big challenge to get past the Lightning, who are deeper at forward and on defense, but after dethroning the Penguins, the Capitals' belief in themselves will carry them through to the Stanley Cup Final."
Tampa Bay Times (Tom Jones): "Goaltending, of course. We always say that. But it's true. Holtby is a former Vezina Trophy winner. The Lightning's Andrei Vasilevskiy is a finalist for the Vezina. Both are superb. But which one is more likely to give up a softie at a bad time? My guess is Holtby, giving the Lightning a slight edge in goal."
SB Nation (Raw Charge): "Lightning in 7. My initial thought was Lightning in 6, but Holtby isn’t Rask, and Washington is playing with house money (not many expected them to make it this far). Holtby is going to steal at least one game, and Washington’s forward talent is going to cause problems all series for Tampa Bay. If the Lightning somehow manage to make this series a short one, then I’m just going to throw my notes out the window and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. "I still doubt this goes shorter than 6 games, though. I expect a hungry Capitals team ready to prove that they can go the distance. However, I still think Tampa Bay will come out on top."
NHL.com (Tracey Myers): "Like the Penguins, the Lightning got much of their scoring in the last round from one line. Unlike the Penguins, the Lightning aren't feeling the effects from winning the Stanley Cup two straight years. I see the Lightning having a more balanced production this round. And if the Capitals are without forward Nicklas Backstrom, that doesn't help their situation. Washington is going to have its hands full with Tampa Bay, and I think the Lightning will prevail."
Sports Illustrated: "The Caps are underdogs, and with good reason. They simply can't match the depth of the Lightning. Unless Andrei Vasilevskiy flops in net, the Lightning should have a clear path to the Cup Finals. The Caps are good enough to steal a game or two, but this one looks like it's Tampa's. Tampa in 6."
Capitals vs. Lighting Odds:
This will mark the third playoff meeting between the Capitals and Lightning. During the first round of the 2003 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Lightning eliminated the Capitals 4-2 and again in 2011 in the second round, 4-0. The Caps finished 1-1-1 against the Lightning during the 2017-18 season.
According to OddsShark, the Lightning are favored in Game 1, -175.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS:
- X-Factors: What could swing series?
- Caps-Bolts Players to keep an eye on
- Riding High: Caps need to keep calm
- Ultimate Preview: Inside Caps-Lightning
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