Tag: Eastern Conference Finals

Washington shuts the door on Tampa to force a game 7

Yesterday I wrote an article Washington Capitals in do or die game six: Lightning eye 2nd Stanley Cup appearance in four years it talked about some keys for the Capitals to ensure a game 7 victory. Now I don’t want to go and tout my own horn here but yeah I called three of these keys, and the Capitals executed every one and they won. Therefore I am essentially Bob McKenzie and everyone can call me a genius.

In actuality, the Capitals scored first and when they scored first look what happened. They limited Tampa to two power play chances and Tampa went 0/2, and last but not least Braden Holtby although only stopping 24 shots, made some key saves late in the game, especially when Tampa was pressuring in the middle of that third period in game six. Three keys I called and a Capitals win. I’m onto something, maybe I’m not all that bad at this.

Game 7 history… 

Now, the Capitals head off to Tampa for a game seven, the Capitals have played zero game sevens this playoff series and neither have the Lightning. The Capitals history heading into game seven dates back to 1985 vs the Islanders, the most recent one that has bad memories for Capitals fans is Penguins last season in the second round. The most fond memory the Capitals have in game seven was back in the 2008-09 season when they won a game seven vs the Rangers in round one and the Islanders in seven in 2014-2015. Besides that the Capitals have lost 10 series in seven games.

The Lightning have been around as a franchise since 1992-93 and since coming into the league the Lightning have been to six game sevens before and the most recent memory is losing to the Penguins in seven during the Conference finals two years ago, other than that the Lightning have come out on top from game 7’s vs the Flames in the Stanley Cup in 2003-04, the Penguins in 2010-11 in the first round and the Red Wings and Rangers in 2014-15 the year they lost to Chicago in the Cup.

Game 7’s have treated these two teams well, clearly the Capitals have a bit more experience they have been a franchise a bit longer but both teams know what it is like to play in a game seven and the Capitals certainly know what it feels like to lose a game seven in a heart wrenching way. Capitals fans I hate to do it but Derek Stepan game 7, 2015 second round, in overtime. The Capitals definitely didn’t forget that feeling and nor did Braden Holtby. Let’s just say that loss will play a huge factor into Friday nights game seven.

WARNING: Viewer discretion is advised! 

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Tampa looks to even series in Washington

The Lighting came out a different team for game three, they won with comfort and now have a little more confidence and momentum going into game four. The thing with the playoffs this year too is that the road teams seem to have the advantage as road teams heading into tonight’s game are 8-2.

The Lighting came out a little better in game three, the Capitals certainly matched their play but thanks to some big saves by Andrei Vasilevskiy and a big time game from the Lightning’s big three they now have a chance to even this series at two heading home to Tampa for game five.

The Lighting will not have the same result on many things they did in game three as we can expect the Capitals to come out a bit better and possibly pop the first goal. The Capitals took 5 penalties which allowed the Lighting to score 2 times on those five chances, which as by the looks of things was the difference maker. Some keys for the Capitals heading into game four are…

Three Keys for Washington

(1) Score first. The Capitals have scored first in the first two games and when they do they seem to carry a lot of momentum and things just seem to go their way more often. Plus if you can score first and get the road team on their heels that is good news. It sounds harder than it is, but the Capitals really need to come out in the first and just put pucks deep and on net. When the Capitals had their fore-check going and they were turning around the Lighting’s defense they saw more offensive pressure and chances.

(2) Limit the Lightning’s power play chances. the only way the Lighting are winning if they score on the power play it seems as they have 7 of their 12 goals on the power play this series. Pretty obvious, so stay out of the box.

(3) Play simple early. To get a road team tired and on their heels early in the game is important. By chipping and chasing for the first 15 minutes of the first to tire out the Lightning’s defense will be huge. The Capitals need to utilize that third and fourth line more often and have them just go out, bang bodies and cause some havoc. Just keep the game simple and don’t give the Lighting much offensive room.

What Vegas is saying…

The line opened at -105 for Tampa Bay and -115 for Washington which means nothing, because that’s nonsense. But right now at the moment at (9:10 am EST) the line is Tampa +100 and Washington -120. Which essentially means there is no clear favorite so either or the books are saying, basically anyone can take this game. The over under is 5.5 goals which we have been seeing almost every game this series it has hit above 5.5. I think just taking the over/under is a solid choice. The books are tough right now because looking at 13 other sites it also saying Tampa to be around +100 to +105 most and Washington to be -110 to -120 most. The books are saying there is no favorite basically so this is a tough one. Clearly this will change as the day goes on and bets come in for either team, but right now stay put and don’t do anything. As of now it is 58 percent Tampa Bay and 64 percent Washington in terms of bets already made.

Washington Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning: Eastern Conference Finals

This is a matchup we have seen in the playoffs only two times, 2002 and 2011, the Lightning holds the series advantage 6-2. In 2002 they beat Washington in the first round 4-2, in 2011 they beat Washington 4-0 in the second round. The good thing about hockey is as much as those numbers play a factor, they essentially mean nothing. In 2002 no active player is still on either team to this day and in 2011, the only two players who remain on the Lightning roster still to this day are Stamkos and Hedman, I am going to have to guess they barely remember that series.

Who has the edge here though this year? Let’s break down each aspect of the game.

Offense…

Tampa Bay: The Lightning have a very deep top nine, one of the best in the league and every player on this roster is capable of scoring and chipping in some way. Their leading scorer is Nikita Kucherov with 12 points, next up is Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos with 10. Ondrej Palat(8), JT Miller(7), Alex Killron(6), Yanni Gourde(6), Tyler Johnson(5). They have a list of players who can score every night, as we saw with Boston. When the lines look a little like, Kucherov-Stamkos-Miller, Point-Palat-Johnson and still have Killron, Gourde on the next two it is going to be a handful for the Capitals.

Washington: As we all know, the Capitals run through two guys a lot, Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, their two top scorers and guys that have been their fuel all playoffs. Their leading scorer is Ovechkin with 15 points and Kuzy with 14, despite Backstrom being out one game, game six he also is a point per game player with 13 points in 11 games. Throw in an all-around forward in TJ Oshie(8) and a defensive forward in Lars Eller(7) the Capitals will rely heavily on these guys like Oshie and Eller to chip in a bit more and take some pressure off Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. Welcoming back Tom Wilson will give them that edge as well, with the Lightning, have Coburn, Hedman, Callahan as their guys who like to throw the weight around, Wilson will match any Lightning and bring that physical presence each day.

Winner: Lightning on pure depth and versatility. Any line can chip and every line has a ton of speed plus their fourth line has been causing havoc every shift they are out there. A good fourth line makes a championship team.

Defense…

Tampa Bay: With Norris trophy winner Victor Hedman leading the backend, with the help of Anton Stralman, Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev and Dan Girardi. The Lightning have a very deep, versatile defense as well. In McDonagh you can get both offense and defense(offensive defenseman), Girardi you know a solid 16+ minutes a game playing a fairly solid defensive game and Stralman playing a very solid 18+ minutes shut down style. With Sergachev and Hedman leading the rush on the backend, they have a ton of tools who can get do it all.

Washington: John Carlson through and through has been the most underrated defenseman this whole season, logging major minutes this postseason, producing 11 points, 3 goals and 8 assists in 12 games behind all defenseman by one point for the defenseman lead in the playoffs. With Matt Niskanen and Dimitry Orlov who have played a very solid shut down game with the Penguins and their top guys and the old veteran-like Brooks Orpik doing the same thing as Girardi in a sense. With two very inexperienced and young defenseman in Christian Djoos and Michale Kempny, the Capitals have seen these two young men, grow exceptionally well this playoff run and not make any MAJOR mistakes. A simple game that has been working well for them.

Winner: Lightning, too much depth and tools on that backend that supplement their offense so well.

Goaltending…

Tampa Bay: Andrei Vasalivskiy is up for a Vezina trophy and has been very solid and consistent this year for the Lightning. Someone who has really risen to the ranks of a starting role and has given the Lightning the confidence they need, making the saves he needs to when he needs to. Just in the Boston series, he allowed 12 goals in 5 games and 5 of those goals came in game one. He ranks third among active goalies in save percentage(.927) and third in goals against 2.20. This is a tough one because Vasilevskiy has had his team played very well in front of him, but has still been a part of their success in a big way.

Washington: Braden Holtby once a Vezina winner, but after one of his worst years as a starter, coming into the playoffs the Capitals went with Phillip Grubauer after that failed and the Capitals lost their first two games. They gave the torch back to Holtby who has been lights out for them with an 8-2 record, one coming in overtime in game two. Ranking second in goals against with a 2.04 and fourth in save percentage(.926). Holtby has allowed 23 goals compared to Vasilevskiy’s 22 this postseason and their numbers are very similar.

Winner: Capitals, experience-wise, I think we see Holtby elevate his game and play big on this stage that he has never been to before. They are very similar in numbers as far GAA, SV % and goals allowed but I think Holtby is going to be again the big difference maker for the Capitals and rise to the big stage when they need him most.

Series winner: I see the Lightning taking this series in 7, the home ice will play a major role and their offense is just too much to stop right now. With Point, Palat and Gourde all having great series thus far, along with a solid fourth line and Stamkos and Kucherov being relatively quiet that second round, the Lightning’s top guys will come to play and give them the edge here.