Washington Capitals fans are sitting at home right now, wondering what could have been. The Capitals had their best season in franchise history, but they were bounced by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2nd round of the NHL Playoffs.
The Penguins are now in a dogfight with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals. After 5 games played, the Lightning currently lead the series 3-2 and have the Penguins on the verge of elimination.
So how have the Lightning executed better than the Capitals in their matchup versus the Penguins? What have the Lightning been able to do right against the Penguins? What did the Capitals do wrong against the Penguins?
Let’s take a look at the film from both playoff series, and examine why the Lightning have performed better against the Penguins:
Johnson has recorded 2-game winning goals in this series. The speedy Lightning centre is one of the smallest players on the ice between both squads. But he has done a fantastic job at getting in front of the net, and being a distraction in front of Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray. Johnson is scoring the ugly goals. He is not playing a fancy game, but he is playing a smart game.
Good things happen when players go to the front of the net. Good things happen when a goalie is distracted, and his vision is blocked. It is hard for any goaltender to stop weird deflections, like the goal Johnson scored off his rear-end in Game 5.
If any hockey player wants to score a lot of goals, that player needs to go to the front of the net. Tyler Johnson is not the biggest or strongest hockey player out on the rink on most nights. But he is a smart player, and he is getting to the right areas against the Penguins.
The Capitals were shooting a lot of perimeter shots, which is something any opposing goalie will feel more comfortable with. The Penguins were able to box out the Capitals throughout the series, and they really shut down the middle of the ice.
The Lightning have been able to get pucks in the middle of the ice, and they have been able to get shots off from behind the net.
RATTLE KRIS LETANG
Kris Letang is a quality puck-moving defenseman in the NHL. Letang also tends to play on the edge and he has shown that he can lose his cool.
The Lightning have really gotten under Kris Letang’s skin in this series. Through the 5 Conference Finals games, Letang has 1 assist and a -4 overall rating. The Lightning have delivered the hits and the trash talk, in order to get Letang off of his game.
Against the Capitals, Letang tallied 3 assists in the series, and he missed Game 4 due to suspension.
OFFENSE FROM THE DEFENSE
While the Capitals got a bulk of their blueline production from John Carlson in the Penguins series, the Lightning have been getting points from all over their blueline.
Jason Garrison, Matt Carle, and Victor Hedman each have 2 points in this series. The Capitals received no points from their heavy lifters like Karl Alzner and Brooks Orpik. They also received very little production from their bottom defensive pair. The Capitals bottom defensive pair spent too much time in the defensive zone against the Penguins, and had some critical turnovers which gave the Penguins an advantage.
By: George Foussekis