Blue Jackets at Capitals Game 2 Preview: Caps Look to Level the Series

dsp Photo: The Moulton Advertiser

The Washington Capitals seek to even the series with the Columbus Blue Jackets after falling 4-3 in overtime in Game 1, despite owning 2-0 and 3-2 leads. The series will shift to Nationwide Arena for Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Thursday night following Sunday night’s Game 2. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Washington and NBC Sports Network at 7:30 PM. 

Capitals fans saw yet another first-round playoff game decided by a single goal in overtime. Last year’s 6 game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs featured six total overtime periods and every game was decided by one goal.

The Caps and Blue Jackets got an extra day’s rest between playoff games this week. While the Caps generally fall into a solid rhythm playing every other day during the post-season, waiting an extra day helped the Caps by giving Jay Beagle and Michal Kempny time to recover from injuries. Both were full participants in practice on Saturday.

The Capitals had a few bright spots during Game 1: they outshot the Blue Jackets 30-25 in regulation, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice, John Carlson assisted on all three Caps goals, and Devante Smith-Pelly provided some depth-scoring.  Phillip Grubauer made 23 saves on 27 shots and will start Game 2.

A quick look back at Game 1 courtesy of the Caps.

Still, the Caps have a lot to do to even the series.

Areas to Improve

1. Taking Advantage of Opportunities

The Blue Jackets are likely to be without No. 2 center Alexander Wennberg, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury following a hit from Capitals’ forward Tom Wilson. Rookie forward Sonny Milano will take his spot in the lineup. Wennberg was seventh on the Blue Jackets with 35 points in 66 games in the regular season. He scored in Game 1 on Thursday.

The Capitals also must take advantage of special teams. They were 2-for-6 on the power play in Game 1 and 4-for-6 on the penalty kill. Washington has a huge advantage over the Jackets on special teams, where Columbus was just 25th on the power play with a 17.2% efficiency and just 27th on the penalty kill with a 76.2% efficiency, both of which were the worst among all playoff teams. The Capitals must take use their deadly power play to take control of Game 2.

2. Shut Down the Bread Man 

Artemi Panarin established career-highs with 82 points and 55 assists in his first season in Columbus. He ended the regular season with 12 goals and 31 points in his last 24 games. That carried over to Game 1, where he had three points and the overtime game-winning goal.

The Capitals have had hard times shutting him down in the past — he had three goals and four points in four games vs. Washington this season and three goals and six points in eight career games against the Capitals.

The Capitals must shut down Columbus’ most dangerous forward if they hope to even the series.

3. Faceoffs

The Capitals lost 55% of the faceoffs in Game 1 with the Blue Jackets. Center Lars Eller won only 38% of the draws he took in Game 1 while Evgeny Kuznetsov only won 22%. The Capitals lost the faceoff on the shift that Panarin’s overtime winner occurred.

Washington is expected to get Jay Beagle back in the lineup after he missed four games with an upper-body injury that he suffered in the first period of the Capitals’ game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 1. Beagle is used for important draws to get the Caps’ possession at the biggest times. He was fourth in the NHL with a 58.5% faceoff winning percentage this season and his absence was evident on Thursday.

The Capitals must improve on the faceoff dot to create more scoring opportunities, pressure the Blue Jackets in their own zone, and control the style of play throughout the game.

4. Lock Down the Lead

The Capitals led 2-0 after the first period, 2-1 after the second period, and 3-2 with five minutes remaining in the game but weren’t able to hold the lead. The Capitals led for a total of 51:54 Game 1, good for nearly 78% of the game.

The Capitals need to do a better job of jumping on the Blue Jackets and putting pressure on them when having the lead. During the regular season, the Capitals were 36-1-3 when leading after 40 minutes (93.8 points percentage) and the Blue Jackets were 5-24-3 when trailing after two periods (20.3 points percentage).

Getting Beagle back to win the big faceoffs will help but the Capitals need to do a better job of locking down the lead once they get it and to keep pressuring the Blue Jackets like Evgeny Kuznetsov did when he scored twice in 29 seconds at the end of the first period. Caps fans cringe when they see the Caps starting to play what looks like “prevent” defense.

5. Discipline

The Capitals took four penalties in Game 1, including two in the final period. The Blue Jackets scored on both of them.

Columbus scored 13 seconds after Tom Wilson took a penalty for charging in the first two minutes of the period when Thomas Vanek struck just 1:31 into the final frame to tie the game at two.

Andre Burakovsky took an offensive zone penalty with 5:05 left in regulation for tripping, which led to a game-tying goal by defenseman Seth Jones just 39 seconds later.

The Capitals should win Game 2 if they stay out of the box and play the way they did at even strength.

Capitals’ Projected Lines

**Note: Capitals’ forward T.J. Oshie took a maintenance day on Saturday but should be able to play his regular spot on the second line in Game 2.

Blue Jackets’ Projected Lines

Caps Coach Barry Trotz addressed the media Saturday.

Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, and others addressed the media after practice.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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4 Responses to Blue Jackets at Capitals Game 2 Preview: Caps Look to Level the Series

  1. Anonymous says:

    Look at the history of the Caps and look how many stupid penalties they have taken at the worst time… Semin, Green, Green… Bura…. we have NEVER won a series by goalies…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Capitals Lineup for Game 2, Jakub Vrana Scratched | NoVa Caps

  3. Pingback: Jay Beagle Will Return for Game 2 Tonight | NoVa Caps

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