The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins play Game 6 in Pittsburgh on Monday night at PPG Paints arena, and with the Caps leading the series 3-2, a win will put them in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Caps fans already know the “DC sports curse” about the conference finals, so I am not going to repeat it. The Caps had a terrific third period Saturday night, and they will need to continue that momentum to pull out the series win in Pittsburgh.
There was a small scare late in Game 5, though. Nicklas Backstrom left the game, and he took very few faceoffs before that. In addition, John Carlson received a high hit late, but both are expected to play and be fine on Monday, per head coach Barry Trotz.
Trotz said he expects Backstrom to play tomorrow. But also said “we’ll see where he is tomorrow.” Carlson is “fine,” Trotz said. Burakovsky is not traveling to Pittsburgh, so he’s still out.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) May 6, 2018
Here are my keys to the game for the Capitals to win in enemy territory and take their first playoff series over the Penguins since 1994
Good “road period”
If the Caps have a good first 10 minutes, or a good “road period,” they can make what should be a loud crowd at PPG Paints Arena a non-factor. To do this, the Caps don’t necessarily need to score, but they cannot be trading chances with the Penguins. If the Capitals do, the two teams could easily find themselves on their way back to Washington for a Game 7. A power play, even with some good chances, may also help create a sense of doubt among the black and gold supporters.
Stay out of the box
This one should be obvious. The Capitals cannot keep giving the Pens power play opportunities with the amount of skill they have. The Penguins went 2-5 on the man advantage on Saturday night, and had it not been for Braden Holtby, it could have easily been 5-5. The Caps took some lazy penalties, especially in the offensive zone, and if they do that on Monday, they will not win.
Play a full 60 (or more)
The Caps had a horrendous second period on Saturday where they were out-shot 18-5. Holtby came up huge and was the only reason the Caps were down by only one heading into the third. If they get severely outplayed in a period again, Holtby may crack and the series will become a best of one. In addition, as we saw in game one, the Pens can score multiple goals in a matter of minutes. If the Caps let up for just five minutes, they may find themselves in a hole they cannot dig out of.
If Washington can follow these keys to the game, the demons of playoffs past will be exorcised. The curse will be lifted, and the Caps will head to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1998, where the Tampa Bay Lightning are waiting.