This is not what Washington had in mind for the Stanley Cup playoffs, trailing 3-1 and not even in the conference finals after a dominating regular season. Do the Capitals have what it takes to come back?
If you follow Washington, the answer is “no”, as there is nothing in their past to suggest otherwise. The first do-or-die scenario for Caps is a NBC prime time affair and the NHL odds at Heritage have them as -138 home ice favorites.
Before we dig in, here is a brief recap of playoffs which finds underdogs profitable at +6.08 units with a 33-33-1 record.
The Penguins survived without defensemen Kris Letang and held Washington to just two goals in last contest. That was not supposed to happen yet it did and despite four one-goal outcomes, if the Pens do it again, they will be favored to not only advance, but win The Cup.
One aspect overlooked in this series is how well the Pittsburgh defenders have played. Letang was out Wednesday, Olli Maatta was injured in this series, yet it has been the old cliche’ “next man up” for coach Mike Sullivan.
Trevor Daily was great in place of Letang, who added much needed speed since coming over in trade from Chicago and has helped the defense be a large part of the Pens success.
Of course the other aspect has been rookie goaltender Matt Murray, outplaying Braden Holtby. Murray has been unfazed at anything he has seen and continues to do his job superbly.
Pittsburgh will face some changes from Washington and has to go all out to do their best to close this out, because if the Capitals get a sense they can win next two contests, the entire series dynamic changes.
It is the same old movie for Washington, great promise from the regular season and once the playoffs begin, nothing. Sometimes it’s been Alexander Ovechkin in the past, other times not. The fact of the matter is the Capitals have never shown that extra gear come playoff time.
Champions find individual players who make plays, do all the little things and realize everything matters at this point. In Washington’s different playoff opportunities, they have tried to keep cool, been overly frustrated, but have never shown they could just play with controlled rage and just find ways to win.
Some players have talked about the puck not bouncing their way in three straight one goal losses, yet what has each player done to change that?
Rumors persist coach Barry Trotz is going to make line changes to shake things up, maybe that will work. But unless the Caps come to play for 60 minutes or longer if necessary, they could get a team blood transfusion and it might not matter.
What to Expect and Winner
Sometimes simple elements are right in front of us and we lose sight to explain things. In the early part of March, Pittsburgh got hot and entire team became focused collectively and the Penguins are 21-4 since. Washington ran away with the President’s trophy, lacked motivation the last few weeks of the regular season and lost that edge, which had carried them all year and are 12-14 in last 26 contests.
Personally, I don’t believe Washington is dead, but they are in ER. I will give them the benefit of the doubt for NHL picks and say they win one goal game and move to 16-6 after an OT loss.
Free Pick – Washington wins