AP Photo/Nick Wass
The Washington Capitals are right back at square one. Over the past few years, the Capitals have entered the second round of the playoffs, but their runs have abruptly ended at that point in time. Capitals fans are cautiously optimistic, as the Capitals are not the favorite heading into this series with the Penguins.
Each season is different. Each team is different. This year is no exception. The Capitals and Penguins have different players compared to last season, and each team is still looking to make history for different reasons.
The Capitals and Penguins have delivered numerous memorable playoff series, and the 2018 matchup is likely going to follow suit. While the Penguins have gotten over the hump, the Capitals are still looking for answers to get there.
With Pittsburgh looming, the Capitals will look to get past the second round of the playoffs for the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era. It will not be easy, but the Capitals will likely look forward to the challenge.
How can the Washington Capitals pull off the shocking upset? What do the Capitals need to do in the series to kill the Penguins’ hopes of a 3-peat?
KEEP PITTSBURGH OFF THE POWERPLAY
If you have watched the Stanley Cup playoffs for the last while, you know that the officiating is sub-par at best.
Against the Flyers in round 1, the Penguins powerplay was 20% effective. During the regular season, the Penguins powerplay was 26.2% effective. The Penguins are loaded with talent on their powerplay. With Crosby, Malkin, Letang, Hornqvist, and Kessel, there is plenty of firepower in place on their top unit.
The Capitals must remain disciplined in this series. The Capitals cannot afford to give the Penguins a ton of powerplay chances per game. If the Capitals lose their discipline, they will dig themselves into early holes in games.
Braden Holtby was outstanding against Columbus. He will have to remain outstanding against a tough Pittsburgh club. In last year’s playoff matchup, Marc-Andre Fleury stole the matchup between the Capitals and Penguins. While there is no Fleury this time around for Pittsburgh, Matt Murray has proven that he is more than capable of having success in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES GIVEN
Penguins Forwards Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin will not be available to the Penguins in Game 1. Malkin is a huge loss for Pittsburgh, as the big centreman led all Penguins skaters with 98 points during the regular season. Hagelin is a speedy winger that is good on the forecheck, and is known for being a regular Capital killer.
The Capitals are going to have to take advantage of Malkin being on the shelf. He is a big point of Pittsburgh’s offense. With Malkin missing, this gives the Capitals coaching staff more flexibility with line matching.
While the Capitals won the Metropolitan Division, it is hard to argue that they are the “favorite” in this series. The Capitals need to play with the underdog mentality in this series.
The Capitals must toughen up their mindset, and head into this series with an inner fury. The Penguins have given the Capitals nothing but heartbreak and disappointment over the last number of years. The Capitals must take things personally, and must unleash the fury to defeat the Penguins. It is time to deliver the knockout punch to the organization that has troubled the Capitals for their entire existence.
By: George Foussekis