Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
The series is set for round two of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals have advanced to where they were one year ago and they will face their arch rival Pittsburgh Penguins for the second straight year.
The Capitals fell short last season and lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions. The Capitals have unfinished business and they will need to erase a lot of bad memories from years past to advance further in the playoffs.
So how will the Capitals be able to change their fortunes against the Penguins? What will they have to do to advance to the Conference Finals?
Let’s dive in to the keys to victory for the Capitals:
The Penguins have an opportunistic bunch that thrives with the man advantage. With players like Crosby, Malkin, Hornqvist, and Kessel, this team is loaded with firepower. The Capitals cannot afford to give the Penguins lots of powerplay chances in this series. The Capitals need to play a smart game and limit any retaliatory penalties. The Penguins have a few pests in their lineup, so the Capitals will need to keep their cool and keep their composure.
WIN SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLE
The Capitals need to capitalize on every powerplay chance they get. This has haunted the Capitals in previous playoff years. The Capitals powerplay performed well against the Leafs and will need to continue to do so against the Penguins.
MORE PRODUCTION FROM ALL FOUR LINES
The Capitals top six forward lines played well against the Leafs, but the Capitals 4th line players did not register a single point in the series. While the Capitals 4th line is utilized most in defensive situations, they will need to provide some goal support against a Penguins club who gets offense from all four of their lines.
The Capitals struggled against the Maple Leafs in the faceoff circle. Their faceoff percentage in the playoffs is 46%. Faceoff victories provide teams puck possession, so the Capitals will need to win more draws so players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin do not have the puck on their sticks.
SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS
The Penguins are a bit banged up on defense and in net. The Penguins will be without defenseman Kris Letang the rest of the season. This gives the Capitals a nice advantage because Letang is the Penguins best puck moving defenseman.
Goaltender Matt Murray is still on the shelf with a groin injury, but veteran Marc-Andre Fleury filled in nicely against the Columbus Blue Jackets. If Fleury is faced with an onslaught of shots in the series versus the Capitals, the veteran netminder might get worn down as the series progresses. It is important for the Capitals to fire tons of shots at the Penguins net because it will wear down the Penguins veteran netminder and defensive core.
FORGET THE PAST AND ADOPT THE WINNING MENTALITY
The Capitals have had a horrid playoff past. It is something that they cannot avoid and it is likely in the back of their minds. The Capitals need to change the script and forget about the past.
If an athlete has a winning mentality, he or she will have winning results. On paper, the Capitals are loaded with talent at every position. Will the Capitals be able to impose their will and desire to win on the Penguins? Will they be able to strike fear on the Penguins? Can the Capitals make history and show the world that this team is different than the teams that have fallen short in the past?
The Capitals biggest hurdle is beating their division rivals in crunch time. They have a chance for redemption this year and they have a chance to forget about the past and make a new brighter future.
By: George Foussekis