Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are now in full swing, and there has already been some exciting games. The Washington Capitals took home the Metropolitan Division title for 2019, but the Capitals are still looking for in hopes of winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.
The Capitals will square off with the up-and-coming Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday evening for Game 1 in the best-of-seven series. The Capitals handled the Hurricanes in the regular season, as the Capitals won all four games in the season set.
The Capitals will look to tame the Hurricanes and make sure they do not get off to a quick start. The Capitals went down 0-2 to Columbus a season ago in the first round, and will look to avoid a slow start again this year.
How can the Capitals contain the Hurricanes? What can the Capitals do to avoid a slow start in this series?
WIN THE SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLE
It is important for the Capitals to try and tilt the series on special teams. The Capitals have a potent powerplay that has plenty of weapons. The Capitals finished the regular season at 20.8 effective, which was ranked 12th in the NHL.
The Hurricanes powerplay did not have the same kind of results as the Capitals powerplay. The Hurricanes powerplay was just 17.8% effective, which was ranked 20th in the NHL.
If the Capitals can tilt things on special teams via their powerplay and penalty kill, that will increase their chance of winning this series. The Capitals must find a way to convert on powerplays by giving the Hurricanes different looks on their powerplay formation. In addition to the powerplay, the Capitals must be able to penalty kill consistently. There were times during the regular season where the Capitals struggled on the penalty kill and were not in proper positions on the ice.
The playoffs are full of momentum swings. The Capitals are an experienced group, and have been through all the ups-and-downs of the postseason.
The Capitals have a big edge over the Hurricanes when it comes to playoff experience. The Capitals should be able to handle of those big momentum shifts, and should know how to keep their composure in this series.
Game 3 will provide a big test for the Capitals. Since it will mark the first playoff game in over 10 years, the crowd in Raleigh will be rocking. The Capitals will need to battle the environment early, and will need to avoid getting rattled early in the game.
The Capitals have received clutch goaltending from Braden Holtby in previous postseasons. In 82 career postseason games, Holtby has 45 wins, a 2.04 goals against average, and .929 save percentage. Holtby has 6 career postseason shutouts.
Clutch goaltending is important for any team’s postseason run. Holtby delivered for the Capitals when it mattered most last year, and he should be able to deliver again.
Throughout the regular season, the Hurricanes played with a goaltending combination of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney. The Hurricanes are expected to start Petr Mrazek in this series, but one can wonder if they will continue to use Mrazek as the series progresses.
By: George Foussekis