Capitals

Quick Links

3 key observations from Game 1: Pittsburgh capitalizes

3 key observations from Game 1: Pittsburgh capitalizes

The Pittsburgh Penguins seized the early series lead with a 3-2 victory in Game 1 on Thursday. Here are three key observations from the game.

1. Sidney Crosby is already having a better series than last year

Despite losing to the Penguins in last year’s series, the Caps actually played Crosby very tough, allowing him only two assists and no goal in six games. After Game 1, he already has two goals. That’s a bad sign. While limiting Pittsburgh’s secondary scoring will be key, Washington also cannot allow Pittsburgh’s top player to run wild on them. He will make them pay for every mistake they make.

RELATED: Jill Sorenson has a message for the pessimistic Caps fans

2. Braden Holtby is still not at his best

After a shaky start to the Toronto series, Holtby rebounded with two strong performances in Games 5 and 6 to help lead the Caps to the series win. Thursday was a step back. You cannot blame him for the first goal. What is a goalie supposed to do on a 2-on-1 against Crosby? The second goal, however, Holtby got his glove on the initial shot by Olli Maatta, but was unable to catch it. The resulting rebound was tipped to Crosby for the goal. Make no mistake, these are the best two teams left in the playoffs. It will take a superhuman effort to win. Allowing three goals on 21 shots isn’t it. I still do not think it is time to even consider putting in Philipp Grubauer, however. Holtby is not the reason why the Caps are losing, he is just not playing at a level in which he will be able to steal a game for Washington anytime soon.

3. Pittsburgh forwards play incredibly high

All year Trotz has stressed to his forward the importance of getting back on defense and not getting caught too far up the ice. Pittsburgh‘s forwards do the exact opposite. When back on defense, the Penguins’ forwards play very high in the defensive zone. There were even times when a forward was skating at mid-ice when Washington was still attacking. Pittsburgh is a fast team that likes to push the rush. By playing so aggressive, they are able to get the puck out of the zone and push the attack faster. But this comes at a price as they leave themselves more vulnerable in the defensive zone. The Caps need to be aware of how quickly Pittsburgh can push the counter, but they also need to take advantage of their vulnerability defensively.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps' locker room 'somber' after Game 1 loss

Quick Links

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

usatsi_10847404.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

Quick Links

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

MORE CAPITALS STORIES: