Opinion Piece by Chris Cleveland
Now that the Caps have survived the Maple Leafs and are on to the Round Two, it’s time to tackle what it is they need to do to finally get over that second round hump–for the first time in a long time. Lets look at what’s ahead.
First, the Penguins don’t have their best defenseman Kris Letang and that really hurts Pitt but is great for us. Not having to worry about Letang will be a huge help this series for the Caps since he is one of the best all around D-men in the NHL. I don’t think the Pens were really tested that much playing the Blue Jackets and it wasn’t as obvious that they were missing Letang. The Caps really need to throw as much pressure as possible on this short handed defense lineup. We are a much better team then Columbus and I think we can really expose the hole in the Penguins defense without one of their best weapons.
Another key factor to this series is the Caps power play. It has been up and down all season but I really do think this is going to be the most important aspect for the Caps this series. Their power play struggled a bit against the Leafs. Watching Game Four the other day and seeing them not score on the 5 on 3 they had for two minus drove me absolutely crazy!! Coach Trotz needs to have them at Kettler for the next few days getting the power play right. I’ve been to a few practices during the playoffs and I don’t think they spend enough time working on the power play. Even if it takes up half of practice go for it. Not to mention the power play was also 0/4 in Game Five. That’s when you know it really needs work. If the Caps can get the power play going early in the series Pittsburgh might be in for a long ride. When our PP gets going there is no stopping it.
The last big key to beating the Penguins in the Round Two will be the 5 on 5 play. The Caps looked to be struggling at times in this series. I actually don’t blame them too much. The Maple Leafs are a young team with blazing fast speed so I wasn’t all that surprised this series was a cat and mouse game. Speed is a really concern as we look at the Caps overall this past round. If the Caps can improve their 5 on 5 play against the Pens, I really do think this series will be good for them.
The best advantage that the Caps have this series is home ice. I think they really need to jump on Pittsburgh early in this series. They need to get the best defensive pairs out there when Crosby and Malkin are on the ice. Winning the first two games of this series is totally crucial for the Caps, especially on their home ice.
With all that said, if the Capitals can come out firing the first two games of the series and play like we know they can, I really do believe they can win this in five games. They are perfectly capable of winning at home then going up to Pittsburgh and at worst, splitting 1-1 there. Then they can bring the round back home and it in a triple OT game five thriller in front of the noisy Verizon center crowd!!
LETS GO CAPS!!