Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images
While there wasn’t a whole lot to like about the Capitals’ 5-2 Game 5 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night in Raleigh, the positive that can be taken from the lopsided defeat is that the Caps have another chance to take the series and advance to the second round to face former Head Coach Barry Trotz and New York Islanders. In order to do that, however, they will need to rely on their experience from the last year of hockey to clinch the series.
In the Capitals’ first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the team found themselves down 2-0 in the series and after a key Game 3 win, the Caps rallied to win the series in six games. In their second round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals had to claw their way to a decisive Game 6 overtime victory to take the series 4-2.
And in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Caps took a commanding 3-0 series lead only to have to win a decisive Game 7 to advance to the franchise’s second Stanley Cup Final, which they won in five games. And it is this experience (and the additional knowledge they have picked up throughout the 2018-19 season) that the Capitals must feed off of on Wednesday night.
In year’s past, the Capitals may have been the team to let a loss in a game in which they could have clinched a series get to them. But this group of players is vastly different from those of years’ past. They have the know-how and the proven ability to win the games that matter, to put their foot on the gas when the stakes are high, and an insatiable desire to repeat and defend their long-awaited Stanley Cup championship.
Captain Alex Ovechkin has once again been playing like a man on a mission and his supporting stars have been just as motivated. The loss of right wing T.J. Oshie to a broken clavicle certainly hurts, but the team showed how they are capable of playing when motivated by the loss of the team’s heart and soul in Game 5.
In essence, the Capitals must play the best game of their playoff season thus far and must do so with the knowledge and reassurance that they have been through this situation before and come out on top. Their title defense and repeat hopes depend on it.
By Michael Fleetwood