If the Caps want to beat the New York Islanders in Game Seven and move on to the next round, a fast start would go a long way. That's easier said than done, however, given how terrible the Caps have looked early on in games this series.
"Probably the ideal start is to come out and score right away and score often, but...it hasn’t gone that way for us a lot of the games," Karl Alzner said.
In six games, the Islanders have scored first in five of them. That would be hard for any team to overcome, but it's especially bad for the Caps.
In the regular season, Buffalo was the only team in the NHL that had fewer wins after conceding the first goal. The Capitals managed a win percentage of only .205 when trailing first, sixth worst in the league. When scoring first, however, the Caps led the NHL in win percentage (.860) and fewest losses (2). That's a trend they would like to return to on Monday night.
"Our execution needs to be a little bit better, get the puck in deep and keep it in deep," Alzner said. "Have a few whistles at the beginning would be fine too."
"It’s just making sure that you’re doing your due diligence and every player’s doing his job," Barry Trotz said. "Would I like to score more in the first period? Absolutely. It’s a little tougher always trying to come back."
Good starts are not just about scoring goals, but also dictating the way a game is played. In their best games of the series, the Caps were able to establish their game plan early into the game. In some of the losses...not so much. That sort of trend is not lost on the players.
"If you look at Game 3, they came out and hit everything that moved and they played a good game the whole game," Alzner said. "The next game they couldn’t quite get a whole lot going that first couple shifts and it was a little bit different of a momentum for Game 4. Game 6 it worked out for them."
In a Game 7 where the team's season is at stake, getting off to a better start will be key.
"The plan is to come out hard and continue to come the entire game and not take the foot off," Alzner said. "If that means get a goal right away, then perfect. If it means not having anything on the board right from the start, but playing good hockey we’ll take that too."
Changing it up: On Sunday Trotz hinted at possible changes to the lineup for Game 7 and it sounds like Curtis Glencross will be back for the Caps. "I would say that there’s a good chance that you’ll see him in," Trotz said.
Glencross has zero points in three games this series. Should he be added back into the lineup the question becomes who will be the odd-man out? Rookie Andre Burakovsky has certainly seen his fair share of offensive chances, but ultimately has been held without a point in his three games thus far. Given how physical the Islanders are likely to play, it seems most likely that he will be the one in the press box.
Powerless: The Caps have struggled to score on the power play this series, but scored once and generated plenty of opportunities in Game 6. Even if the power play is improving, It may be a little too late for this series given the limited opportunities teams usually see in Game Sevens.
"We’re going to need our power play to come up big because I’m assuming there’s not going to be a ton of penalties called in Game 7," Troy Brouwer said. "I know the refs don’t like being a deciding factor in Game 7 and so if we get an opportunity we have to do what we can to either score a goal or get good momentum for our team."
Fehr play: Eric Fehr skated for the first time on Sunday since taking an upper-body injury in Game 3. Though he will not be back for Game 7, when asked if Fehr would return for the next series should the Capitals advance, Trotz said, "Oh yeah. Absolutely."
MORE CAPITALS TALK: Capitals looking to reverse recent trend in Game 7