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'Boy strength' ends up being what lifts Caps in Game 4

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'Boy strength' ends up being what lifts Caps in Game 4

Maybe it was Barry Trotz’s way of motivating his 20-year-old rookie. More likely, he was just answering a question as honestly as he could.

On Tuesday, when asked about Andre Burakovsky, Trotz gave this assessment:

“He doesn’t have that man strength yet. He’s still got that boy strength.”

Tell that to fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist, who may still have whiplash after seeing – or not seeing – Burakovsky’s wicked wrist shot whiz by his blocker with 3:31 remaining in the second period of Wednesday night’s 2-1 win over the Rangers.

Or go tell that to Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who chased Burakovsky about 150 feet down the ice, only to see his boy strength beat Lundqvist with an authoritative backhand move.

“He’s bigger than he looks,” said Capitals right wing Tom Wilson, who lives with Burakovsky in a three-man bachelor pad shared by Michael Latta. “He’s got some weight to him and he’s a strong kid. He likes to chirp at me and run away but when we wrestle, he’s a strong kid.”

A healthy scratch at the start of the playoffs, Burakovsky said he wanted to prove to Trotz that he belonged on the ice and not in the stands and he did that Wednesday night.

MORE CAPITALS: ONE NATIONAL SPORTS EMOJI SHIRT TO GAME 4

On his first goal, Burakovsky found open space in the slot and instead of passing to a wide-open Troy Brouwer on his left, he fired a bullet past Lundqvist.

“I opened up for the one-timer, so maybe I was a good decoy,” Brouwer said. “He scored, which is all that matters. I did tell him, though, that if he didn’t pass he better score.”

Burakovsky said he never considered passing.

“I was right in the middle, so it would have been kind of crazy if I didn’t take a shot there,” Burakovsky said.

On their first shift of the second period the Killer Bs struck again. Brouwer blocked a shot by McDonagh, springing Burakovsky free on a breakaway.  at the Rangers' offensive blue line, allowing Burakovsky to break in alone on Lundqvist. Burakovsky shielded the back-checking McDonagh and beat Lundqvist past his glove with a backhander.

“[Brouwer] kicked the puck to me and I was trying to take it to the middle,” Burakovsky said. “I saw that Lundqvist was kind of low and I was just trying to go over his pad.”

Burakovsky was showered with cheers and they continued later in the period when he blocked a shot inside the Capitals’ defensive blue line and hobbled to the bench.

“We’re sacrificing our bodies to get the win,” he said, referring to 25 blocks by the Caps, including six by Brooks Orpik, five by Karl Alzner and four by Matt Niskanen. “No matter how much it hurts, it always feels good inside to block a shot.”

Call it man strength.

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

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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.

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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."

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