If you picked the Washington Capitals to win Stanley Cup playoffs series over Pittsburgh, you had to be thrilled to finally see them play a complete contest along with maximum effort in Game 5 victory.
However, that was at home, now Washington has to go into hostile environment and try and survive against the NHL odds listed at Intertops, which have them as +115 road underdogs. Today we will offer thoughts on the side and total and look to improve to 5-1 record in this series.
Credit coach Barry Trotz for line changes, as they seemed to work and Washington played their most complete game on both ends of the ice since Game 3 in Philadelphia series. The Capitals were desperate and home, which played a part and the reemergence center Evgeny Kuznetsov seemed to be the igniter. Paired on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, Kuznetsov had a couple great scoring chances and the sense one has he could bust out any time after being Washington’s top point producer, but Kuznetsoz only have two points in these playoffs.
Defenseman Brooks Orpik returns from three-game suspension and they can certainly use his skills to further contain Pittsburgh’s speed. Also, last summer’s acquisition of Justin Williams cannot be overstated after last contest. Williams scored in that game and is now 13-5 in elimination battles and has unbelievable 24 points. A truly clutch performer when it counts.
While we do not know how the series will conclude, Sidney Crosby and Evgani Malkin have combined for only two points compared to Ovechkin’s five. If Pittsburgh wins tonight, none of that will matter with the Penguins advancing to play Tampa Bay.
However, the pressure is on both teams to come through this evening, because like Washington, Pittsburgh has skeletons in their closet, having lost two of their previous five Stanley Cup series when leading 3-1. (Tampa Bay 2011 and N.Y. Rangers 2014) Not having their two best players competing at high level is disconcerting and first line right winger Patric Hornqvist was essentially benched in third period of previous game is at least worrisome.
Goalie Matt Murray gave up a rather easy goal in 3-1 loss Saturday, but has a .937 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against average in the playoffs. Normal starter Marc-Andre Fluery has been declared fit to play and no matter what decision coach Mike Sullivan ultimately makes (Murray has been named Game 6 starter), if the Penguins lose series, we will have loud detractors.