The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway, and the opening round has not been kind to the Capitals, so far. The Capitals suffered overtime defeats in the two opening games of the series in Washington D.C.
While the Capitals are in a bit of a hole, the series is far from over. The Capitals have some regrouping to do, and if they can win at least one game in Columbus, the series will return to Washington.
Since the Capitals dropped Games 1 and 2 in overtime, the Capitals need to make some adjustments to their game as they head to Columbus. What can the Capitals do to improve so they can send the series back to Washington?
FIX THE PENALTY KILL
The Capitals penalty kill was not very good in the first two games. The Blue Jackets went 4/8 in both games. The Blue Jackets finished the 2017-18 regular season with the 25th ranked powerplay in the NHL.
The Capitals need to be more efficient in their defensive zone clears. There have been a few instances in the series where the Capitals forwards and defensemen have failed to clear the puck early in the Blue Jacket powerplay shift. It has led to longer shifts in the defensive zone, and the Blue Jackets have found holes to the net for easy tap-in goals.
LIMIT THE PENALTIES
The Capitals have taken 9 minor penalties in the first two games. Four of those minors have taken place in the third period, including 3 in the 3rd period of Game 1.
The Capitals need to play with more discipline. Most the Capitals minor penalties in the playoffs have involved stick infractions. The Capitals need to watch their sticks closely, and need to be wary of any kind of retaliation penalty that will come from the men in stripes.
KEEP THE FOCUS EARLY AND LATE IN PERIODS
It has become very predictable when the Capitals give up goals. The Capitals love to surrender goals late in periods, and sometimes in quick bunches. In Game 2, the Capitals surrendered two goals to the Jackets with less than 2 minutes to go in the frame. In the series, the Capitals have surrendered 5 goals to the Jackets either in the first 5 minutes of a period or in the last 5 minutes of a period.
Coming out of the locker room, or getting ready to go into the locker room, the Capitals tend to lack focus and execution in these time frames of a game. Goals given up early or late in periods are back breakers for a team’s momentum in a game.
The Capitals have 2 goals from their bottom six-forward group. If the Capitals want to prolong the series, they will need some goals from players that may not normally score. The teams that go far in the playoffs have four deep lines that can contribute offensively, so the Capitals need more production if they want to crawl back into the series with Columbus.
By: George Foussekis