Washington Capitals Road
Washington beat the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs in six games. Each team took a game in the others barn, but the Caps took three consecutive games to win the series after being down 2-to-1. Toronto gave the Caps all they could handle, with rookie sensation Auston Matthews netting four goals in the series. The future is bright for Toronto, but the time is now for the Capitals. These Caps fans agree.
Pittsburgh Penguins Road
Pittsburgh beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games. After going down 3-0 early in the series, Columbus rallied to win one on home ice. However, the Penguins were too much. Vezina Trophy candidate Sergei Bobrovsky looked human. Add an injury to Calder Trophy finalist Zach Werenski to that mix and it does not end well. Last years’ champs are looking to repeat.
Staying out of the penalty box. In the Toronto series, Washington took a total of 26 penalties. That averages to just over four per game. The Caps have had penalty of trouble all year, and that streak has continued into the playoffs. Washington needs to get out of their own way and play at even strength.
Having extra rest and using it to their advantage. The Capitals have basically played seven games if you add up all of the overtime they accrued. Pittsburgh is without star Defenseman Kris Letang and speed demon Carl Hagelin. With the extra days off from winning out in five, this allows for extra time for Hagelin, at the least, to return. Considering Pittsburgh has the second oldest lineup from the regular season, they need it.
How Washington Will Win
By hemming Pittsburgh in their own zone the same way they did in spurts against Toronto. Instead of the spurts they had though, it has to be a full time commitment. During the first period of Game Four, and spurts throughout Games Five and Six, the Caps were absolutely dominant in cycling, forechecking, and getting chances against the Leafs. It paid off in a big way, and the only forwards on the Caps who have not recorded a point yet are all fourth liners. Sometimes the best defense is high flying offense, and this will be especially true against the Penguins. Columbus did not have nearly the forward depth Washington does, and Washington needs to capitalize on that.
How Pittsburgh Will Win
Using their speed. It gave Washington fits last year in the second round, and Toronto’s younger speed and skill drove the Caps nuts. By taking some notes from last years performance, and the Leafs run in the first round, the Penguins can force the Caps to take bad penalties and make them pay. With Jake Guentzel proving to be a feisty addition to Sidney Crosby’s line, this will give the Caps headaches trying to keep track of everyone around them.
Who Should Win
Based on last years playoff series, look how freakin’ close this is.
Micah Blake McCurdy’s “rainbow death crab” gives Washington the slight advantage.
This series is going six or seven games, but Pittsburgh will beat Washington. Again. Need proof?
Washington's record in series against anyone-but-Pittsburgh: 14-18. Washington's record in series against Pittsburgh: 1-8.
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) April 24, 2017
Most people have the Capitals as their Stanley Cup champions, but this still will not be the year. There is something about playoff season where Pittsburgh goes into buzzsaw mode and does not look back. Washington had nuggets against the Leafs. However, to keep up with Pittsburgh, they have to get out of their own way if they want to get even get in Pittsburgh’s way.
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