Here we go again. For the third consecutive year, the Capitals will meet the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Caps lost each of the last two series and in fact have lost nine out of the ten postseason meetings between these two teams. Will this year be different? How can the Caps defeat the two-time defending Cup champions?
Round 2: Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Game 1: Penguins at Capitals. Thursday, 4/26 at 7:00 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBCSN)
Game 2: Penguins at Capitals. Sunday, 4/29 at 3 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBC)
Game 3: Capitals at Penguins. Tuesday, 5/1 at 7:30 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBCSN)
Game 4: Capitals at Penguins. Thursday, 5/3 at 7 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBCSN)
Game 5: Penguins at Capitals. Saturday, 5/5 at 7 p.m. ET. (Broadcast on NBC)
Game 6 (If Necessary): Capitals at Penguins. Monday, 5/7 (Channel TBD)
Game 7 (If Necessary): Penguins at Capitals. Wednesday, 5/9 (Channel TBD)
View full detailed schedule here.
- 49-26-7, 105 points, first in the Metropolitan Division
- 3.12 goals per game (9th)
- 2.90 goals against per game (16th)
- 22.5-percent power play percentage (7th)
- 80.3 penalty kill percentage (15th)
- 47-29-6, 100 points, second in the Metropolitan Division
- 3.29 goals per game (3rd)
- 3.02 goals against per game (20th)
- 26.2 power play percentage (1st)
- 80.0 penalty kill percentage (17th)
- Alex Ovechkin – 49
- Evgeny Kuznetsov – 27
- Nicklas Backstrom – 21
- Alex Ovechkin - 5
- Evgeny Kuznetsov - 4
- T.J. Oshie - 3
- Evgeny Kuznetsov – 56
- John Carlson – 53
- Nicklas Backstrom – 50
- John Carlson - 8
- Nicklas Backstrom - 6
- Evgeny Kuznetsov - 4
- Alex Ovechkin – 87
- Evgeny Kuznetsov – 83
- Nicklas Backstrom – 71
- John Carlson - 9
- Nicklas Backstrom - 8
- Evgeny Kuznetsov - 8
- Alex Ovechkin -8
- Evgeni Malkin - 42
- Phil Kessel - 34
- Sidney Crosby - 29
- Jake Guentzel - 6
- Sidney Crosby - 6
- Bryan Rust - 3
- Evgeni Malkin - 3
- Sidney Crosby - 60
- Phil Kessel - 58
- Evgeni Malkin - 56
- Jake Guentzel - 7
- Sidney Crosby - 7
- Kris Letang - 6
- Evgeni Malkin - 98
- Phil Kessel - 92
- Sidney Crosby - 89
- Jake Guentzel - 13
- Sidney Crosby - 13
- Kris Letang - 7
Braden Holtby: 54 GP, 34-16-4 record, .907 save percentage, 2.99 GAA, 0 shutouts
Philipp Grubauer: 35 GP, 15-10-3 record, .923 save percentage, 2.35 GAA, 3 shutouts
Braden Holtby: 5 GP, 4-1 record, .932 save percentage, 1.92 GAA, 0 shutouts
Philipp Grubauer: 2 GP, 0-1 record, .837 save percentage, 4.55 GAA, 0 shutouts
Matt Murray: 49 GP, 27-16-3 record, .906 save percentage, 2.92 GAA, 1 shutout
Tristan Jarry: 26 GP, 14-6-2 record, .908 save percentage, 2.77 GAA, 2 shutouts
Casey DeSmith: 14 GP, 11-6-4 record, .921 save percentage, 2.40 GAA, 1 shutout
Matt Murray : 6 GP, 4-2 record, .911 save percentage, 2.20 GAA, 2 shutouts
Series split 2-2-0
Oct. 11: 3-2 Penguins win
Christian Djoos tallied a goal and a primary assist in his NHL debut, but it wasn't enough as the Caps yielded three power play goals to Pittsburgh.
Nov. 10: 4-1 Capitals win
The Caps took advantage of their six power play opportunities with two power play goals. T.J. Oshie fittingly scored the game-winner on a power play he drew from Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. Letang cross-checked Oshie so much, he was actually called for two cross-checking penalties on the same shift.
Feb. 2: 7-4 Penguins win
This game marked the beginning of Braden Holtby's lengthy mid-season slump. Washington battled back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game at 3-3 and again at 4-4, but they could not match Pittsburgh's four-goal third period.
April 1: 3-1 Capitals win
The Capitals clinched their third straight Metropolitan Division championship in Alex Ovechkin's 1,000th career game. It was a mistake-filled game as Washington gave Pittsburgh five power plays, but Philipp Grubauer was brilliant in net with 36 saves in the win. This game may well have been the deciding factor in Grubauer winning the starting job heading into the playoffs.
3 keys of the series for Washington
1. Discipline: In the two games the Caps beat Pittsburgh this season, the Capitals did not give up a power play goal. No team had a better power play in the regular season than the Penguins and we already saw how dumb penalties cost the Caps in the first round. Washington took 24 penalties in six games against the Blue Jackets and that is far too many. They cannot win that way against the Penguins.
The problem is that in the second round with a heated rival, tempers can flare a bit. Just look at the last time these two teams played when Malkin was shooting Oshie's stick off the ice and tried to fight Kuznetsov for speaking Russian to him. Still, the Caps are going to have to keep their emotions in check.
2. Getting the goaltending advantage: The scoring depth of Pittsburgh is unmatched. The fact that a team can have Crosby, Malkin and Kessel all on the same team in the salary cap era is mind-boggling. Oh, and by the way, Jake Guentzel scores every time he touches the puck in the playoffs. Washington cannot win this series if they do not get better goaltending than Pittsburgh.
The good news is that Murray was not lights out in the first round. Yes, he had two shutouts, but there were also three games in which he let in at least four goals. A .911 save percentage is not where the Penguins really need him to be. The bad news is that while Holtby is statistically one of the best playoff netminders in NHL history, he struggles against Pittsburgh. In last year's series, Holtby managed only a .887 save percentage and 2.57 GAA.
One thing to keep in mind, on April 1 Grubauer started a critical game in Pittsburgh and was phenomenal. Could Trotz possibly think of going back to Grubauer if Holtby struggles against the Penguins?
3. Head games: Let's face it, there is a mental aspect to the Capitals' postseason struggles. When it comes to beating Pittsburgh or getting past the second round, this has become a mental hurdle. They have to come into this series with confidence they can win and maintain that confidence throughout, regardless of whether they get down in a game or in the series, regardless of whether there is a bad penalty call, regardless of whether Murray stands on his head again, regardless of any of the struggles they may face, they have to stay mentally confident.
When the Caps went down 0-2 against Columbus, Ovechkin said that the series would return to Washington tied at 2. The way he said it, it wasn't a guarantee or some massive proclamation, it was a statement of fact. Both he and the rest of the team believed they were going to come back and win the series. They need that level of confidence against Pittsburgh as well.
What are people saying about this series?
From ESPN: “The Capitals fought through an early goalie controversy to shake the pesky Columbus Blue Jackets in six games in Round 1. Washington will need to perform much better at home to have a chance of knocking off the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions. Sidney Crosby's crew had a seesaw first-round series of their own against another Metropolitan Division rival, the Philadelphia Flyers. Although nearly every game of that series was a blowout, the Penguins outlasted the depleted Flyers in six games -- leaving us wondering if Pittsburgh has enough gas left itself. After all, there's a reason no team has three-peated in more than three decades.”
From Sportsnet: “Holtby’s .907 save percentage this season was by far the worst of his NHL career and in January and February his save rate dropped below .900. This led to more starts for Grubauer, but since wrestling the job back from him against Columbus, Holtby’s playoff save percentage is a very respectable .932 — the second-best mark of all advancing Eastern Conference goalies, behind only Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. If Holtby is back on top of his game as one of the world’s elite, he will be the key for Washington to exorcise their demons."
From the Pittsburgh Penguins: “See you soon, Capitals.”
Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals Insider: Capitals in 7
JJ Regan, Capitals Correspondent: Penguins in 7 (prove me wrong, Caps!)
Joe Beninati, Capitals play-by-play announcer: Capitals in 6
Craig Laughlin, Capitals color commentator: Capitals in 6
Al Koken, Capitals on-ice reporter: Capitals in 6
Alan May, Capitals analyst: Capitals in 6
Rob Carlin, host of Capitals GameTIme and Capitals Extra: Capitals in 7
Ryan Billie, Capitals producer: Capitals in 7
Grant Paulsen, host of Capitals FaceOff and Capitals Overtime: Capitals in 7
Courtney Laughlin, Capitals FaceOff and Capitals Overtime panelist: Capitals in 6