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Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

The Caps stand just four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup. To get those four wins, however, they will have to beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here are the keys to the series that will give the Caps the win.

Figure out how to beat Marc-Andre Fleury

No player has been as important to his team this postseason as Fleury is to the Golden Knights. He is reason No. 1, 2 and 3 why they have made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.

Fleury’s personal numbers are staggering. Through 15 games, he has a .947 save percentage and has recorded four shutouts.

Vegas has been a middle of the pack team in terms of offense this postseason scoring 2.87 goals per game. They have lost only three playoff games thus far, but, as dominant as they have been, they certainly are not blowing away the competition. Of their 12 wins, ten of them have come with a margin of victory of two goals or less.

This shows you just how important Fleury is to their success. They are not scoring opponents into submission, rather they are relying on Fleury to keep opponents at bay.

Fleury is the absolute key to the Golden Knights’ success. It’s easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to beat him consistently, Vegas becomes exponentially more beatable.

Win the neutral zone battle

Much of this series will be determined between the blue lines.

The Golden Knights are an incredibly fast team. Just to get to this point, the Caps had to beat two other speedy teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did it primarily by slowing down the offense in the neutral zone with a 1-1-3 trap. With so many bodies defending in the neutral zone, opponents have struggled to break the puck cleanly into the Caps’ defensive zone. The Caps are cutting off passing and skating lanes, creating turnovers and generating odd-man breaks in the other direction by catching opponents’ defensemen playing too aggressively on the rush.

As fast as the Penguins and Lightning were, however, the Golden Knights are even faster. Will the trap be as effective against Vegas?

Limit obstruction penalties

When playing against a team with speed, penalties often become a major issue. When trying to defend against fast players, if you get caught flat-footed or out of position, this tends to lead to obstruction penalties like tripping and hooking. When a player realizes he’s been beat, he does everything he can to prevent that from costing his team, leading to those type of penalties.

Vegas’ power play has not been lights out by any means with a success rate of only 17.6-percent this postseason, but you cannot continually give the opposition chances to score by frequently having a player sent to the penalty box.

Positioning is going to make all the difference in the world in this series to make sure a player is not forced into taking an obstruction penalty just to slow down the Golden Knights.

Get off to good starts

Vegas is 10-1 in the postseason when scoring first. Their secret to success is a mix between goaltending and speed.

Fleury has been phenomenal in net and the Golden Knights are a quick breakout team. It is very hard to get much sustained offensive pressure against them because once they get the puck, they are going down the ice at a million miles an hour.

Having to play from behind against a team like Vegas is not a recipe for success. Just getting the puck and keeping up with them is exhausting. Having to then find a way to then beat Fleury when he has a lead to protect is all the more daunting.

Strong starts will be vital to ensuring the Caps are not frequently having to play from behind.

Depth scoring

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant likes to roll his four lines. It makes sense since the drop-off between his top line and fourth line is not as dramatic as it is on most NHL teams.

Consider how this team was constructed. The expansion draft did not give Vegas access to superstar players, but they also did not have to take any fringe NHL/healthy scratch players to fill the fourth line either. They filled their roster with the best players available to them which gives them four lines of much more comparative strength than we typically see.

While this means the Caps have a stronger top six, it also allows Vegas to roll four lines and take advantage of other teams’ bottom six.

You can never take a shift off against the Golden Knights. There is no weak line to exploit. They come at you with four lines and relentless pressure and forecheck for 60 minutes.

Washington will probably get more production from its top six than Vegas will, or at the very least it will be a push. The question is what kind of production will each team get from the bottom six? If the Caps have the edge in depth production as well, they will be in good shape.

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Capitals at Golden Knights: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream

Capitals at Golden Knights: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream

The Washington Capitals continue their road trip, heading to Vegas looking for recover from an 3-1 attack to Antti Raanta and the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night. 

While the Caps look for a win, Alex Ovechkin looks to make history, joining the 700 goal club. Ovi currently sits just two goals short at 698 goals and has not scored a goal in four straight games now but that can change in no time. 

The Caps will face Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights on Monday night at 6 p.m. Fleury earned the victory in the net for Vegas after collecting 19 saves in their shut out game over New York Islanders. The Golden Knights have won their last two games by one goal. 

Here is everything you need to know about the Monday night game, which takes place at 6:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington. 

CAPITALS at GOLDEN KNIGHTS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals at Golden Knights, Game 59 of the 2019-20 NHL Regular Season

Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV 

When: Monday, February 17 at 6:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals at Golden Knights game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder Link)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals at Golden Knights on NBC Sports live stream page and on the MyTeams App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS at GOLDEN KNIGHTS TV SCHEDULE

5:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live

5:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live

6:00 PM: Capitals at Golden Knights

7:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

9:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live

10:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

CAPITALS at GOLDEN KNIGHTS INJURY REPORT

Capitals: Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Upper body, day-to-day

Golden Knights: Alex Tuch, RW, Leg, Week-to-week

CAPITALS at GOLDEN KNIGHTS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals (40-17-57): Sitting at 698 goals, Ovi remains on the brink of making history with 700 goals. As soon as Ovechkin reaches that mark he’ll be ranked among the greats including Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and Jaromir Jagr.  

Braden Holtby, G, Capitals (21-12-4): Despite the Caps loss on Saturday Braden Holtby was by far the best player on the ice. Holtby stopped 28 of 30 shots during a 3-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Golden Knights (22-14-5): Fleury came in clutch earning a shutout by stopping all 19 shots that he faced in a 1-0 win against the New York Islanders on Saturday. Marc-Andre Fleury recorded his fourth shutout of the season and the 60th of his career.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Braden Holtby is back, Carl Hagelin heats up and 700 is coming

Braden Holtby is back, Carl Hagelin heats up and 700 is coming

The Capitals may have lost to the Arizona Coyotes 3-1 on Saturday, but if Braden Holtby and Alex Ovechkin kept playing like they did, that will lead to a lot more wins down the line.

Check out a recap of the game here.

Observations from the loss

Holtby looks like Holtby again

It's a loss, but there are some positives to take away from this game and the biggest is the play of Holtby. Antti Raanta was the star of this game, but Holtby was just as good for Washington with 28 saves on 30 shots. In the third period with the Caps trailing by 1, Arizona tried to close the game, but could not because of Holtby. He absolutely robbed Derek Stepan who stole the puck away from Dmitry Orlov and was in on net. Holtby poked the puck away, but it was still loose in front. Stepan wheeled around to get the shot, but Holtby somehow managed to deny him.

Holtby was Washington's best player. This game may have been a loss, but if Holtby is back to his normal form that will translate to a lot of wins down the stretch of the season.

Raanta was great, but the Caps' offense still wasn't good enough

I think the Caps deserved a better outcome in this game than the one they got, but even with 36 shots on goal and a great performance by Antti Raanta, Washington could have made things tougher on the Coyotes' netminder.

Despite the high volume of shots, there weren't enough high-danger chances and not nearly enough sustained offensive pressure. The offense looked the most dangerous in the first period, but Washington was not able to really push that in the final 40 minutes.

You can't always rely on Ovechkin, you have to be able to generate offense from the rest of the lineup. Not having Evgeny Kuznetsov hurts, but injuries happen and the Caps have very good center depth. They have to play better offensively regardless.

Watch those wings

An issue I have noticed since the team returned from the all-star break is the defense's tendency to lose wings when they go wide. Several teams have taken advantage of this with forwards going wide down the wings, then cutting in behind the defense and Christian Dvorak's goal was an example of that. In this case, Dvorak turns as he goes down the wing as if he was setting up to shoot so I wonder if Jonas Siegenthaler did not expect him to cut inside, but that's exactly what he did and Siegenthaler was slow to react.

This is an issue more on odd-man breaks with the defense stepping into the middle to defend the puck and losing track of what the wings are doing so perhaps Saturday's goal was not indicative of the pattern, but still something to keep an eye on.

700 is coming

With no goals in four straight games, this is now the longest goalless drought of the season for Ovechkin, but don't worry, it's coming.

Ovechkin had 17 total shot attempts in this game with eight shots on goal. He also hit one off the post. I think initially No. 700 was in his head and neither he nor the team was playing well as a result. Now he looks as dangerous as ever and he is going to torch someone for those last two goals sooner rather than later.

Turning point

With the game tied at 1 in the third period, Phil Kessel gave Arizona the lead with a power play deflection to beat Holtby high to the glove side.

The play was really set up by Jakob Chychrun as the Coyotes went low to high, passing out to Chychrun at the blue line. Chychrun wound up for the shot, seemed to hesitate for just a moment, then delivered a slap pass right to the stick of Kessel for the deflection. Chychrun knew exactly what he was doing on that play and delivered the great pass.

Play of the game

Holtby was Washington's best player on Saturday and it was because of saves like this. Watch this highway robbery of Stepan.

Stat of the game

Offense has been a bit tough to come by for the third line and Carl Hagelin in particular, but both are really starting to heat up.

Quote of the game

Ovechkin had 17 shot attempts and eight shots. He did everything but score and he was encouraged by that rather than frustrated.

"I would be pissed if I don't have any chances, but it's OK. It's going to come."

Fan predictions

He definitely tried and credit to you for going bold.

I've been seeing a lot of calls for a Holtby goal lately. He's a great stickhandler so I could definitely see it happening. He didn't get the chance on Saturday though.

You got the Holtby part right. He finished with a .931. The other two...well, you were about as hot as Washington's offense.

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