It has been 20 years since its last appearance, but the Washington Capitals are heading to the Stanley Cup Final. The Capitals have been on a long journey through the playoffs, and they are finally playing hockey in June for the first time in the Alex Ovechkin era. The Western Conference Champion Vegas Golden Knights are the last test for the Washington Capitals on the road to the Stanley Cup. The Golden Knights have surprised the hockey world in their inaugural season. This matchup will be tough for the Capitals, and the Capitals must accomplish all the little details if they want any chance to hoist the Stanley Cup.
The Capitals have their work cut out from them against a hungry Vegas club. The Capitals must find the extra gear late in the postseason and they must perform well in certain areas if they want a chance to defeat the Golden Knights. Let’s dive in to some areas where the Capitals need to perform well to increase their chance to win the Stanley Cup:
This has been a major area of importance for the Capitals in the postseason. The Capitals powerplay unit has been clicking throughout the postseason. It has been hovering at 28.8% effectiveness.
The Capitals are getting contributions from everywhere on the powerplay. T.J. Oshie is leading the way with 5 powerplay tallies in the postseason.
The Capitals penalty kill has been a little bit average in the postseason. The Capitals are killing 75.4% of their penalties, which is certainly something that could use improvement. The Vegas Golden Knights have some dangerous weapons up front, with players like James Neal and William Karlsson that can score plenty of goals. The penalty kill must find a way to shut Vegas’ top scorers down in the Stanley Cup Final.
LIMIT MINOR PENALTIES
This is an area where the Capitals must concentrate on to perform better. The Capitals have committed 71 minor penalties in the postseason. The Vegas Golden Knights have also committed 71 minor penalties in the postseason.
The Capitals must find a way to limit the minors taken against a dangerous Vegas club that pressures the puck at every chance. Vegas creates a lot of momentum in their transition game, but they are very good at retrieving loose pucks and putting pressure on any opposing puck carrier.
DEFENSE AND BLOCKED SHOTS
Capitals fans have witnessed a different Capitals team in this postseason. Games 6 and 7 against Tampa Bay displayed some of the Capitals best hockey of all time. The Capitals clogged the middle of the ice, and blocked a ton of shots against Tampa’s star forwards.
The Capitals defensive core has been playing tight defense as a unit. Players like Brooks Orpik and Dmitry Orlov have been hitting their opponents, and are getting into every passing lane. The Capitals defense has been stifling, and the Capitals defenders have shown that they are willing to pay the price this postseason.
In any playoff series, great goaltending is a must-have. Braden Holtby has absolutely delivered for the Capitals in this postseason and in previous postseasons. Across the rink will stand Marc-Andre Fleury, who is a 3-time Stanley Cup Champion. Holtby and Fleury are both proud netminders, and this will be highly competitive showdown between these two greats.
By: George Foussekis