After the Washington Capitals hung on for a 5-4 win in Game Four, they find themselves in a best-of-three with Washington, regaining home-ice advantage.
The Capitals were the leagues’ best on home-ice this year, posting a franchise best 32-7-2 record at Verizon Centre this season. Washington will be looking to take back the lead in the series and force the inexperienced Maple Leafs into a must win situation.
There are a few ways the Capitals can take the lead and win their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Play Alex Ovechkin!
Alex Ovechkin has scored in three straight games and has been a force throughout the series. The first line has continuously imposed their will on the young Maple Leafs defenders, wracking up 14 points through the first four games. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and TJ Oshie are not an easy task for any team to defend, but the ice time has not been representative of this. In Game Three, Ovechkin had a mere 15:08 minutes of ice time. This jumped a little bit in Game Four to 16:14, still quite a bit below his season average of 18:21.
Keep Putting Pressure on the Leafs Defense
The Maple Leafs are working with a thin defense core after losing Roman Polak earlier in the series. He suffered a broken ankle after a hit by Brooks Orpik and fell awkwardly on his leg. Polak was the Leafs leader in career playoff games played and his injury leaves Toronto with even less playoff experience. The Capitals are going to have to take advantage of this and keep the pressure on the Maple Leafs defense by continuing to get pucks deep and using their potent cycle game. Washington has undoubtedly been at their best in this series when they are cycling and using size to their advantage while controlling offensive zone time.
|Maple Leafs||Career Playoff GP||Capitals||Career Playoff GP|
|Jake Gardiner||10||John Carlson||67|
|Morgan Reilly||4||Karl Alzner||59|
|Roman Polak*||51||Kevin Shattenkirk||51|
|Martin Marincin||4||Brooks Orpik||116|
|Matt Hunwick||24||Dmitry Orlov||15|
|Nikita Zaitsev||4||Matt Niskanen||85|
|Connor Carrick||4||Nate Schmidt||12|
*Out for playoffs
If they can continue to get a strong fore check going in the last few games of the series, they will be able wear down the Toronto defense.
Production from the Bottom Six Forwards
Tom Wilson has been the unsung hero for the Capitals to this point in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Toronto born winger has scored three goals in the series, including an overtime winner in Game One. The Capitals know depth and production from throughout the lineup is a significant part of playoff success. They witnessed it first hand in their second round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins last year. The Penguins were able to get the upper hand on the Caps as their third line of Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, and Carl Hagelin was the difference.
The Capitals will need to win two of their next three games to advance to the second round. They would find themselves in a rematch with the Penguins or a first ever playoff meeting with the Columbus Blue Jackets, a first round loss would certainly be a disastrous finish for Ovechkin and the Capitals.
For all your collegiate and professional apparel needs, check out 365 Gameday.