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NHL Power Rankings: How much are the Capitals trailing the Lightning this week?

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NHL Power Rankings: How much are the Capitals trailing the Lightning this week?

The Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning met for the first time since the Conference Final on Saturday. The game resulted in a 6-3 loss for the Caps, but it was very close with Tampa Bay adding two empty-net goals to seal the win. The game certainly felt like a playoff preview going in, and it absolutely did not disappoint.

Would anyone be interested in watching a seven-game series between those two teams based on what we saw Saturday? Yes, please.

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The Lightning's offense was as good as advertised and seemed to take Washington by surprise at the start. As good as Tampa Bay was last season, this team is even better. When they set up in the offensive zone, they made a lot of one touch passes that made it nearly impossible for the defense to catch up.

As the game went on, however, you began to see the formula for Washington's success last season. The Caps seemed to wear out the Lightning with a grinding offensive cycle. A poor start to the game and an early turnover in the third period that resulted in a goal were the major differences in this one. Otherwise, it was very even with Washington getting the better of the play as the game went along.

Saturday was the first of three games between the Caps and Lightning to close out the season. It will be fascinating to see how this matchup evolves in the next two games.

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Here are a few recent observations and thoughts on the Caps.

♦ One reason the Caps beat the Lightning last season is because of their physical play. Washington just began pushing Tampa Bay around and it had no response. The Lighting were aggressively physical and threw their weight around a bit on Saturday looking to send a message that this year would be different. Here’s the thing though, while Tampa Bay was credited with more hits (33 to 23), I felt the Caps were far more effective with it. Playing physical is not about just laying hits whenever you have the chance, it’s also about wearing an opponent down. That was the major difference in the playoffs and after a bad start, that’s how the Caps nearly came back on Saturday. The early goal in the third period was the killer as it felt like Washington was on the verge of taking the game over.

♦ Tom Wilson’s hit on Mikhail Sergachev was shoulder to shoulder and the only reason there was any reaction to it at all is because the guy who laid the hit was wearing No. 43. This should serve as an important reminder to him. In 2017-18, Wilson was suspended for a hit in the preseason and stayed clean through the entire regular season before getting suspended in the playoffs. If he is not extra careful with his physical play this postseason, the NHL is going to throw the book at him and it is really going to cost the team. Saturday should serve as a reminder to Wilson that the microscope is on him every time he hits anyone.

♦ Alex Ovechkin is two goals away from his eighth 50-goal season with 10 games left to go. If he gets there, he will be only the fourth player to score 50 or more goals at the age of 33 or older joining John Bucyk, Jaromir Jagr and Bobby Hull. Don’t take what you’re watching for granted. This is one of the all-time greats.

♦ Whether the second defensive pairing is being weighed down by Dmitry Orlov or Matt Niskanen is a matter of some debate. To me, it is essentially irrelevant to this point because they both clearly need to play better. You cannot turn the puck over like they did against Tampa Bay and expect to get away with it.

♦ Washington’s playoff lineup looks all but set at this point. The only real position that appears to be up for grabs is fourth line center. I believe Nic Dowd has out-performed Chandler Stephenson this season, but I believe Todd Reirden disagrees with that. I know the team really likes what Stephenson brings to the penalty kill. With his speed, I think he could be a Carl Hagelin type of player, but I have not seen him have that kind of an impact yet.

♦ If you’re looking ahead to playoff opponents the three most likely candidates for the first round are Pittsburgh, Carolina and Columbus. Before the injury to Evgeni Malkin I would have guessed Pittsburgh would finish third with Carolina and Columbus as the two wild cards. Now I am not sure, especially given that the Hurricanes and Penguins still have two more against one another.

Tampa Bay is far and away the top team in the league, but how far behind them are the Caps? Find out here in this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings.

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Capitals vs. Lightning Game 7 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, time, TV Channel, live stream

Capitals vs. Lightning Game 7 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, time, TV Channel, live stream

Game 7.

It's the best phrase in all of hockey, and on Wednesday, May 23, Game 7 of the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final between the Capitals and Lightning will go down in Tampa, Fla.

The Capitals' path to Game 7 was less than ordinary. After racing to a 2-0 series lead with back-to-back road wins in Tampa, the Lightning responded with three straight wins, forcing the Capitals' to the brink of the 2017-18 season.

But in Game 6 on Tuesday night, the team put on their best performance of the season, blanking the Lightning and forcing Game 7 at Amalie Arena.

The winner of Game 7 advances to the Stanley Cup Final, where the Vegas Golden Nights await, having defeated the Winnipeg Jets to advance to the championship round in the team's inaugural season.

Game 7 Capitals at Lightning
Date: Wednesday, May 23
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Amalie Arena. Tampa, Fla.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 7 OF THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING SERIES?

Game 7 of the Capitals-Lightning 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final takes place on Wednesday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m. at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 7 OF THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 7 between the Capitals and Lightning is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 7 Capitals vs. Lightning
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 7?

Game 7 of the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Final between the Capitals and Lightning is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 7 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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The Capitals got two "Wooos" from Ric Flair so it has to be #OurYear

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The Capitals got two "Wooos" from Ric Flair so it has to be #OurYear

This is the #CapsYear.

It has to be.

After vanquishing the Penguins in the second round and blitzing the Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, the Capitals are sitting pretty.

Although the Capitals don't need any luck, the got some support from none other than the Sixteen-time heavyweight champion (wooo), and the stylin' (wooo), profilin' (wooo), limousine riding (wooo), jet flying (wooo), kiss-stealing (wooo), wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun! (woooooooooo) Ric Flair.

Our very own Craig Laughlin caught up with "The Nature Boy" and coaxed a "Lets go Caps" out of the professional wrestling icon, who happens to be a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But just because Flair roots for the Penguins doesn't mean he can't support the Capitals.

"I like Ovechkin, so I can root for them," Flair said.

Ric Flair is a man who loves living the high life. The Capitals are just a few wins away from enjoying the high life too.
 

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