Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
After taking a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals have dropped three-straight games to find their backs against the wall, facing elimination from the postseason for the first time in the 2018 playoffs. Game 6 is set for Monday night at Capital One Arena. Puck drop is just after 8:00 p.m.
Both teams had the day off on Sunday and traveled from Tampa to Washington. The Capitals will return to the ice for a game day skate Monday morning at 10:15 at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Practice will be open to the general public.
Game 5 Re-Wind
The Capitals were late arrivers to Game 5, giving up the game’s first goal just 19 seconds into the contest. After a lifeless first period in which the Capitals were outshot 13-4, the Capitals opened the middle frame in similar suit, giving up a third goal just 33 seconds into the period. Facing a 3-0 deficit early in the second period, the Capitals would finally dent the twine with a tally from Evgeny Kuznetsov to make it 3-1 after two periods. Alex Ovechkin would add a late goal to make for an interesting final 90 seconds of the game, but it wasn’t enough. The Capitals ended up outshooting Tampa Bay 30-22 for the game.
What was recently a significant concern for the Capitals has been put on the back burner by default, as officials have decided to put their whistles away since the conclusion of the first period in Game 4. The Capitals have not had a power play since the 7:08 mark of the second period in Game 4. Tampa Bay has had just two power plays since the Capitals last power play, coming up empty on both. The Lightning had the only power play in Game 5.
One of the few remaining lineup questions for Barry Trotz is whether or not to re-instate Andre Burakovsky, who was a healthy scratch for Game 5. Burakovsky has proven to respond rather quickly after past benchings, but it’s not clear if Andre is lagging due to the injury he sustained in the first round, less than optimum lien,ate assignments or if something else is bothering him. Regardless, his game has suffered since returning to the lineup. We will likely know more at morning skate on Monday.
Do you start Burakovsky in Game 6? He has responded immediately after benchings in the past. Or is he just not ready to go?
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) May 20, 2018
Lines For Game 6
Trotz will also likely look to his trusty line blender and have a few tweaks for Game 6. Much of this will obviously depend on what he decides to do with #65. Look for an Ovechkin-Backstrom reunion at some point in the game as well, if not right from the start. The Lightning have done a good job against the Capitals top line, primarily with 4th line players Chris Kunitz, Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan. The Lightning have also effectively managed the Lars Eller line in the last three games, so look for a potential tweak here as well. The Capitals will get to control matchups in Game 6, so Barry Trotz will be sure to try and find ways of improving these lines.
Game 6 Success
The Capitals have responded in recent Game 6 games in which they were facing elimination on home ice.
— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) May 20, 2018
Across Enemy Lines
The Lightning will be looking to become the first team to win four straight games in a Conference Finals since the Boston Bruins swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013. The Lightning have never lost a playoff game in Washington (7-0) and are looking to become the first NHL team to lose Games 1 and 2 on home ice and rally to win a Conference Finals or Semifinals series (since 1974-1975).
- Washington has outscored (16-15) and outshot (175-121) Tampa Bay through the first five games of the series.
- After a large early series lead, the faceoff battle is fairly even after five games, with Tampa leading 50.2-49.8%. (Backstrom)
- The Lightning lead in power plays (15-14) and power play goals (6-3) for the series. The Lightning have a 40% conversion rate while the Capitals have a 21.4 Success rate.
- Overall, teams who lose the first two games of a Conference Final or Semifinal own an all-time series record of 29-2 (1984 New York Islanders, 1991 Penguins).
- The Capitals have not lost four consecutive games all season.
By Jon Sorensen