Washington Capitals: 42-22-7; 8-2-0 in last 10 Tampa Bay Lightning: 54-13-4; 8-2-0 in last 10
For the first time since May 23rd, 2018, the Washington Capitals will face off against the dominant Tampa Bay Lightning tonight, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. In a do-or-die Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, the Capitals snagged the title in a 4-0 shutout over the Lightning, and would ultimately go on to win their first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history.
Tampa Bay has already clinched a 2018-19 playoff berth, and currently boast the most impressive record in the NHL. They are currently on 3-game win streak, but previously topped out at 10 wins straight back in Feburary. The Lightning were undefeated for the entire month of February (in regulation) until the Boston Bruins snapped that 10-game win streak on the final day of the month. You may remember how dominant last years’ Lightning team was for much of the regular season. They, however, eventually lost steam, finished out 3rd overall, and the Nashville Predators won the Presidents’ Trophy. However, this year, with an almost-identical roster, Tampa has all but guaranteed a Presidents’ Trophy win. Many argue the Cup is Tampas’ to lose this year. On Thursday, a third period comeback allowed the Lightning to beat the already-eliminated Detroit Red Wings, 5-4.
The Capitals remain a Metro division powerhouse, climbing their way up the standings. In the 21 games prior to the All-Star Break, the Caps were 10-8-3. Since the break, they are 15-5-1. A 5-2 win over the Flyers on Thursday kept them in first place in the division. A win tonight by the Capitals and/or a loss by the Islanders will keep them there. The Capitals have been Metro Division champions three times (8x additional prior to changes in division naming), and are hoping to snag the title for the fourth consecutive season.
Braden Holtby (27-17-4) is expected to get the start for the Caps tonight. With 7 wins in his last 9 starts, the go-to-goalie seems to be hitting his stride just in time. It certainly helps that backup goalie Pheonix Copley is so reliable, as to allow Holtby rest prior to the playoffs. Andrei Vasilevskiy (33-8-4) will be in between the pipes for the Lightning. The Capitals were able to solve him last season. Many of the goals the Caps scored during the ECF were top shelf, or 6- and 7- hole; above the waist, so to speak. Has Vasy altered his MO? It seems so; take a look.
Below is the Capitals’ expected lineup per Isabelle Khurshudyan.
Caps expected lineup vs. Bolts
Holtby to start
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) March 16, 2019
Coverage begins at 6:00pm on NBCSWA with Caps Face-off Live, followed by Caps Pregame Live at 6:30pm, and puck drop shortly after 7:00pm.