It’s do or die time for the Caps as they host the Pittsburgh Penguins for Game 5 (7:15 p.m., NBC). Win and the series goes at least six games. Lose, and the season is over. Here are three bold predictions for Game 5.
1. Alex Ovechkin will lead all forwards in ice-time
Barry Trotz raised eyebrows on Friday as Ovechkin skated on the third line in practice. He remained there for Saturday’s morning skate, skating alongside Lars Eller and Tom Wilson. He is going to start on the third line, but there is no way he gets only third-line minutes with the season on the line. Trotz has already said he intends to mix up the lines through the game. Say what you want about how Ovechkin has played this series, we all know he remains the best player on the team. This is not the time to bury him on the bench. For Washington to win, they will need him at his best.
2. Justin Williams will get at least a point
Williams is known as Mr. Game 7. Well, it’s Game 7 now for the Caps. This is when the Caps need his leadership so they can believe they still have a chance to win this series because if they don't, then this is already over. He will lead the team both off the ice and by example with a big game on Saturday.
3. T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk will both get at least a point
There is another reason why this will be a big game for Williams and he shares it with Oshie and Shattenkirk. All three players will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. That gives added importance to Saturday’s game as it could be their last. Even if they are ready to move on, they are still playing both for a championship and a contract. This Capitals team is built to win now and wherever those three players may end up, there is no guarantee that their next destination will be a contender. This could also be their last chance to add to their free agent resumes and earn themselves a few extra bucks at signing time.