2011 NHL Playoffs: Washington Capitals Face Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 2

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2011 NHL Playoffs: Washington Capitals Face Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 2
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

I wanted them, I really did. With or without "The Kid," I still wanted them, but the Tampa Bay Lightning took care of them.

Instead of the Pittsburgh Penguins, it will be the Tampa Bay Lightning that invades the Verizon Center on Friday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

As a lifelong Caps fans from the Baltimore/DC area, now living in Florida, I still wanted Pittsburgh.

The Washington Capitals will be ready—ready for this second-round matchup like no other Washington team in postseason history.

The Caps disposed of the Rangers in five games and then sat back and waited for their opponent as every other Eastern Conference matchup went the seven game distance.

The Caps are rested, focused and ready to go according to Washington Post Capitals Insider Katie Carrera.

It looked as though the Caps would be playing the stingy Buffalo Sabres, who held a 3-2 series lead over the second-seeded Flyers, but Philadelphia proved to be too deep and came back to win the series.

The Montreal Canadiens also looked like they would try for the second straight year to oust the No. 1 seeded Capitals, but the Boston Bruins dashed the Habs' hopes in seven games, too.

Ovechkin shootout goal

Their rivals even tortured them a bit by waiting for overtime to eliminate them.

Now, the Caps and Bolts get together for just the second time in postseason history.

In 2003, Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier trailed Washington 2-0 in the series, but managed to come back, win four games straight and take the series in six.

While St. Louis and Lecavalier are oldies but goodies in Tampa, the Caps will bring a completely different look and team into this playoff series—one that not even their Southeast foes will know.

The Capitals have just about perfected their defensive style of play and the Bolts have not seen the Caps close-up since the beginning of March.

The Capitals were 4-1-1 against the Bolts this season, but were twice shutout by Tampa netminder, the 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson.

No worries here Caps fans, Henrik Lundqvist also whitewashed Washington twice during the regular season.

Today, Lundqvist was spotted playing golf with Brandon Dubinsky, Sean Avery and the rest of the New York Rangers.

Despite the two shutouts, the Caps had a great deal of offensive success against Tampa this season. They outscored them 19-10 and on three occasions scored five or more goals.

Caps Vs Bolts---Braden Holtby relieves Neuvirth

Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both led the Caps with 10 points each against Tampa Bay this season. Each had two goals and eight assists.

Alexander Semin recorded two hat-tricks, including a five-point game on November 11. Semin finished with nine points (seven goals, two assists) in four games against the Lightning.

Goaltender Michal Neuvirth went 1-0-0 with a 3.00 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in two games vs. Tampa Bay, while Semyon Varlamov went 2-1-1 with a 1.49 GAA and a .949 SV percentage in four games.  

On the injury front for Washington, Mike Green has been declared "fine" and ready to go by Caps coach Bruce Boudreau.

Mike Knuble, who injured his hand in the opening round series against the Rangers, may not be ready for duty just yet.

“He’s still not ready to go in but he’s skating and keeping his conditioning up,” Boudreau said. “I don’t have a timetable but it’d be sooner than later. I think he’ll be available in the second round at some point.”

Dennis Wideman is still recovering from a leg hematoma suffered on March 29 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Wideman wants to practice with the team but Boudreau's said that is not an option just yet.

“There’s one more practice [this week], that means he’d have to practice with the group. I don’t think he’ll practice with the group tomorrow,” Boudreau said. “After that, all doors are open.”

Please be sure to check back later this evening on Bleacher Report for my complete breakdown and prediction of the Cap-Lightning second-round series.

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