Finishing the Job: The Capitals Will Look to Shut Down the Blue Jackets in Game 6

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After a thrilling overtime win on Saturday night, the Washington Capitals have now taken their first lead in their first round playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets that they earlier trailed 2-0. Now up 3-2 in a series many believed was long over, with a chance to close-out the series Monday night, the Capitals are on the cusp of returning to the second round of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Head coach Barry Trotz talked more about that in his conference call on Sunday morning. 

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime thanks to a game-winning goal by Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom, along with Alex Ovechkin, have are the longest-tenured players on the Capitals with playoff experience. The duo got their first taste of playoff action back in the spring of 2008 and have been through all the postseason disappointments including the last two seasons on strong Capitals teams that saw the team capture back-to-back President’s Trophies with the league’s best record.

“Obviously we had high expectations the last couple of years and we continue to have those high expectations. Last year we felt we had a position where we could’ve got a little further and we didn’t. We ran into the Stanley Cup champions,” said Trotz. “Yeah there’s some disappointment and Nicky has been a part of this group that’s been here for a while so there’s no question he’s had to manage that just like anybody else that’s in that core group that’s been here for a while.”

The Capitals have been in this situation a number of times in the Barry Trotz era. In 2015, in the team’s first round series against the New York Islanders, Washington trailed 2-1 in the series until winning Games 4 and 5 to put them in position to close out the series in Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders desperation led to a 3-1 win and evened the series before the Capitals responded with a win in Game 7.

The Capitals were much more fortunate in Game 6 in the first round over the last two years. In 2016, the Capitals held a 3-0 lead on the Philadelphia Flyers before dropping two games in a row. The Flyers looked desperate as they tried to force a Game 7, but the Capitals closed out the series in Game 6.

Last year’s first round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs is very similar to this year’s first round series. Last year, each of the Capitals’ home games needed overtime to decide the winner, with the same situation playing out this year. What is also similar is how Game 3 in Toronto needed overtime just as Game 3 in Columbus also needed overtime. Another similarity is that Game 4 was the only game in that 2017 series that was decided in regulation. So far, that’s only been the case in Game 4 this year.

“I think the playoffs are an absolute grind as it is. If you have a chance to eliminate a team, you have to have that ‘killer instinct’, you have to have that ability to close out a team and it’s the toughest game (of a series) to win because the other team is desperate,” said Trotz. “Their backs are against the wall. They’re gonna give their absolute max effort tomorrow and we’ve got to make sure we have a max effort. If we do that then we have a chance to win in Columbus. We’ve won there a couple times already and you want to get on to the next series as quick as you can because the next series comes up very quickly on you. You need to recover. You need a mental break as well.”

The Capitals were able to do that last year in Toronto in front of a hostile crowd. If they could do it then, they can do it again tomorrow night. It won’t come easy though. The Capitals will have to earn it.

Blue Jackets Head Coach John Tortorella told the media after Game 5 that his team will be back in D.C. for Game 7. The Blue Jackets refuse to go down on their home ice and the Capitals must match their intensity if they want to close out the series.

“There’s gonna be swings. Their crowd’s gonna be jacked up, the home crowd will get them (the team) jacked up,” Trotz said. “You’ve got to make sure that you’re ready to play from the get go, make sure you’re playing your game, you’re playing with certain max effort and max commitment and slowly push them out shift to shift, push them out of the game a little bit. You try to get the momentum going your way and if you can, you can be pretty powerful”.

By Michael Marzzacco

About Michael Marzzacco

Michael is an avid DC sports fan with a passion for writing. He has followed the Washington Capitals since the 2003-04 season, around the time his enthusiasm for DC teams really began. It was from the days when they had the worst record in the league to when they became the most exciting team in the area. His Dad took him to his first Caps game a couple of years later. One of his favorite memories was being in the stands during the 2015 Winter Classic where Troy Brouwer scored the game-winning goal with 12 seconds left. Michael graduated from Radford University in May 2016, earning a degree in journalism and focusing on sports journalism and broadcasting. His goal is to work in sports media in Washington, D.C.
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2 Responses to Finishing the Job: The Capitals Will Look to Shut Down the Blue Jackets in Game 6

  1. Pingback: Game 6 Preview: Capitals Look To Close Out Columbus | NoVa Caps

  2. Pingback: How the Capitals will Line Up for Game 6 | NoVa Caps

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