On Monday night we beat the Penguins 3-2 in overtime, thanks to a beautiful goal by Kevin Shattenkirk. That was one of many important moments in the game. The other one happened 5:24 minutes into the first. Sidney Crosby was hit by Alexander Ovechkin’s hockey stick, which sent him flying into Matt Niskanen, who held his stick up to protect himself. Meanwhile Crosby was knocked out by the hockey stick and fell on the ice, hitting his head and sustaining a concussion. It was announced yesterday that he won’t play tonight.
Crosby has recorded 11 points (four goals and seven assists) in the eight games the Penguins have played in the Playoffs. He has four points (two goals and two assists) this round. He has then helped out with four of the 11 goals they’ve scored against the Caps. In the regular season “Sid the Kid” has scored 44 goals and gotten 45 assists adding up to 89 points.
For the Caps, it goes without saying that the Pens playing without Crosby could benefit them. In his NHL career, Crosby has scored 20 goals and 40 assists against the Capitals in the regular season. In addition, he has scored 11 goals and eight assists in the playoffs.
However, it could also really be bad for the Caps. This could be “kicking the hornet’s nest.” No doubt the Penguins are very angry and are likely to be much more damaging towards the Caps–meaning this will be a physical game. Although the Niskanen hit wasn’t intentional and he was trying to protect himself, he will still have a retribution target on his back. And then there is Evgeni Malkin who will step up and take Crosby’s role. The Pens have played 117 games without Crosby, with only one of them in the postseason. During those games Malkin recorded 66 goals and 88 assists.
And lets not forget Phil Kessel with four goals and eight assists in the playoffs so far. Or Marc-Andre Fleury who has been a real block against Caps scoring.
So there are the positives and the negatives for the Caps. We don’t wish ill will on Crosby and hope he will be back to himself soon. That said, all and all I think it will help the Caps not to have him in the game tonight. It is probably going to make them a bit easier to beat and bring the series back to DC.
We knew it would be tough against the Penguins, again. We believed the Capitals could take them. We felt confident in two home wins. And we sure had no doubts about Braden Holtby.
And then Thursday happened (3-2 Pens) and we gulped. We made excuses. The players had some strong words themselves.
And we still believed.
And then Saturday followed Thursday and the unthinkable happened. The Caps went down hard with a 6-2 loss this time. Fans emptied Verizon before the final horn and those pesky Pittsburgh fans did their ‘in your face’ takeover of the Gallery steps.
It’s now Sunday and we have all had a minute to digest what is going on.
The team reportedly had a private meeting to vent and bemoan what happened. Coach Trotz has to answer for pulling Holtby in the third and putting in Philipp Grubauer – he needed a ‘game changer.’ The players were in no mood to talk with the media and no one really wanted to hear what they had to say.
Fans run the gamut of ‘it’s only two games’ to ‘here we go again.’ They are beyond frustrated to see this winning team battling in the playoffs just to be out coached and unable to score. They are battling- there are signs of tenacity. And there are signs of a weakness no one can adequately name.
So what now friends?
Keep wearing your Believe shirts. Keep watching on Monday and Wednesday for a positive outcome that brings the round back to Verizon. Show up at practice and the game on Saturday with your signs and keep being loud!!
It is not time yet to throw in the towel. It ain’t over yet!! We’ll walk with you. We’ll be there as friends should be, through the bad and the good. Just gotta hang on for the good.
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!!