The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins return to action Saturday night at 7 PM at Capital One Arena for Game 5 of their best-of-seven series in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The teams are even at two wins apiece after splitting games in Washington and then Pittsburgh. The game will be televised on NBC.
The Capitals will be playing their second game without top-line forward Tom Wilson, who was suspended for three games by the Department of Player Safety after a crushing hit on Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese. Caps forward Andre Burakovsky will also be unavailable as he continues to recover from an upper-body injury suffered during Game 2 of the Caps’ first-round series against Columbus. While Burakovsky returned to the ice on Friday for some light skating, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said Burakovsky remains week-to-week.
Lines from Saturday’s morning skate were the same as Game 4.
Caps AM skate lines:
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) May 5, 2018
What will it take for the Capitals to win Game 5? Here are 5 keys to the game:
1. Jump-Start the Offense.
While the Capitals had a relatively strong defensive performance in Game 4 on Thursday night in Pittsburgh, their offense was lacking, due in part to a reshuffling of lines as a result of the Wilson suspension. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was held without a shot on goal, as was Devante Smith-Pelly, who filled in for Wilson on the top line.The Capitals had just 21 shots on goal in Game 4, including an appallingly low 3 shots in the third period. Trailing by a goal for most of the third (until the Pens got an empty-netter with less than a minute left), the Capitals went without a shot during the final 9:11 of the game.
The Capitals had just 21 shots on goal in Game 4, including an appallingly low 3 shots in the third period. Trailing by a goal for most of the third (until the Pens got an empty-netter with less than a minute left), the Capitals went without a shot during the final 9:11 of the game.
The Capitals ranked first in the league in shots on goal during the first round of the playoffs and had 34 shots in Game 1 and 32 shots in Game 2 of this series before seeing a significant drop off when the series shifted to PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. On the road, the Caps had 22 shots in Game 3 before tallying 21 in Game 4.
With Wilson out during Game 4 and the Capitals on the road, Washington seemed to shift to more of a defensive game. The game was scoreless through the first 30 minutes, putting the Caps in a position to steal another game on the road, but the offense never got going.
Hopefully, the shift back to home ice will see the offensive effort tick back up. Having the first line come together will be critical. Caps’ coach Barry Trotz told the media on Friday that the first line doesn’t have time to gel — “our time frame is short,” he said. “They will have to get it together quickly.” If they don’t, Trotz said he will have to consider making changes.
A dozen Capitals have tallied points in the first four games of the series, while only 8 Penguins have a point. Washington will need everyone to step up their offensive game if they are to win.
2. Control Crosby.
— Eroc RDT (@BarstoolRDT) May 2, 2018
Sidney Crosby has been on the ice for every goal scored by Pittsburgh during this series. Every. Single. Goal. Crosby himself has two goals and four assists — not a huge number standing alone, but the Penguins simply find a way to score when Crosby is on the ice.
The Capitals will have last-change at home so Trotz will be able to start playing with his choice of defenders. Containing the Pens’ first line will need to be a priority, though Pittsburgh has plenty of scoring threats now that Evgeni Malkin and Carl Haglin are back in the lineup.
3. Come Out Hot, But Remember It’s a 60 Minute Game.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) April 26, 2018
The Capitals’ record on home ice during this year’s playoffs is 2-3. In four of their five home games, they have scored in the first five minutes. Striking quickly is a huge advantage, but at times during the year the Capitals have come out red-hot in the first 10 minutes and dominated their opponents, only to fade after an adrenaline surge and see the game slip away.
4. Discipline, Discipline, Discipline.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 4, 2018
Whether it’s offense or defense, the Capitals need to show patience and discipline. Few players in the NHL have the patience that Nicklas Backstrom showed Thursday night setting up the Capitals’ lone goal on the power-play.
Defensively, the Capitals’ penalty kill has been on fire for the last several games, and Pittsburgh’s performance on the man-advantage has slipped to just over 21% as a result. But the Penguins dominated on the power-play during the regular season, topping the league at over 25%, and the Capitals’ penalty kill took a significant hit with the loss of Tom Wilson, who averaged over two minutes a game on the PK. The Penguins were two-for-four on the power-play Thursday night, but one of those goals was the empty-netter.
5. The Serenity Prayer: Learn It & Love It
Photo: Capitals Twitter
The loss of Tom Wilson was clearly a setback for Washington. He is a force both on and off the ice, and the Capitals are more relaxed and confident with Wilson in uniform. His antics during warmups keep the mood light and his “can-do” swagger carries over to the entire team.
The Capitals’ fanbase and the players were frustrated by the severity of the suspension, but the Caps need to put the issue behind them and focus on the task at hand: beating the Penguins with the team that will take the ice.
With home ice advantage, the Capitals need to take control of the game by establishing a lead and building on it so that puck-luck isn’t a factor down the stretch.
By Harrison Brown