Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011: Washington Capitals Will Win Series vs Lightning

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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011: Washington Capitals Will Win Series vs Lightning
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

They say that you do not have a real postseason series until the road team wins a game. Well then aren't we the lucky ones, Caps fans.

At least we share a common bond with Philly fans. Both of our teams have blessed us with twice as good a series as any other fan base still in the playoffs.

After Vincent Lecavalier scored in overtime on Sunday night to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-2 victory and 2-0 series lead, many Caps fans must be feeling like, "here we go again."

It is too easy to get down on Alex Ovechkin and company and say this is the same Ol' Washington Capitals.

I will not call them the Washington Crapitals and say this franchise cannot win in the spring. I refuse to justify or try to find some sort of jinx; nope, I will not do it.

I want to and I am going to vent a little but I do believe that the Caps can and will win this series.

It is too easy to dump on Bruce Boudreau and the Caps. After all, this series looks exactly like what I have witnessed as a Caps fan for 20 plus postseason trips.

Choking when it counts (0-11 on the power play), uncharacteristic mistakes (poor Scott Hannan line change) and once again watching a lower seed on their way to a possible series win (too many times to mention.)

Remember all the hot goalies we ran into during the playoffs in past years?

Tampa's net minder Dwayne Roloson is as hot as they come right now but the Caps will figure him out. Expect a lot of play in front of Roloson and a lot of scrums in front of the net from here on.

I know Rollie the goalie looks a lot like Jaroslav Halak sprawling around, Ron Hextall coming out to play the puck, Tom Barrasso with his cool demeanor and Billy Smith for being an ageless wonder.

Hell, Roloson is as old as Hextall, Barrasso and Smith. Wel,l not really but the Bolts 41-year old goalie is quickly becoming the story of this year's NHL playoffs.

Roloson has outplayed the Capitals 23-year old Michael Neuvirth and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, there has been only one matchup of starting goaltenders in an NHL playoff game with a larger age difference than that between Roloson and Neuvirth (18 years, 162 days).

That was the difference of 20 years, 304 days when Toronto’s Johnny Bower (age 42) opposed Montreal’s Rogie Vachon (age 21) in Games 2 and 3 of the 1967 Stanley Cup Final.

This series is not an original six matchup but it is loaded with modern day NHL superstars and the Lightning's superstars are out playing the Caps superstars

Martin St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos are getting the better of Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom.

Len Redkoles/Getty Images

Speaking of Backstrom, I noticed his picture was on my milk carton this morning. The information read this way:

Originally, from Sweden, the 6’1", and 210 lb. Washington center has been missing for most of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Backstrom was last seen with a hockey puck on his stick, skating it into his own offensive zone and around the opposing team's net, continuously.

While he does lead the Capitals in shots on goal in this series, he has just two points in seven games and is a minus-1. Backstrom is thinking too much about his game and needs to just play.

Even the grinders in the Capitals lineup are being outplayed. This has not been easy to do considering that Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon and Eric Fehr (one goal) is playing really well.

However, they have not produced a result like the Bolts grinders of Sean Bergenheim, Steve Downie, and Dominic Moore, who all scored a goal in Friday's Game 1.

The Caps have the better stats in the series as The Lightning has been outshot in all nine of its postseason games in 2011 and are 6-3 in those games.

Tampa Bay has currently won five postseason games in a row, four of them coming on the road and three of them were elimination games.

In other words, everything is going right for the Bolts; they are Murphy's Law in reverse and as for the Caps, well let us just say they cannot buy a break.

Another Fluky goal

Tampa has seven goals in the series and while one came with an empty two of them came after last hitting a Washington Capital.

Scott Hannnan was used in Game 1, as a shot went off his stick and past Michael Neuvirth for a fluke goal.

Mike Green's poor technique cost his team on Sunday night as attempted cross-slot pass from Marty St. Louis deflected off Green's skate and into the net.

Defensemen are taught that when your goalie squares to face a shooter, leaving a part of the net open, you must be sure to position yourself so that your skate blades must be parallel to the net.

His was not and now, the Caps have lost the first two games of a playoff series at home for the second time in three years.

Even taking all of this into consideration, the Washington Capitals are still going to win the series.

The Washington Capitals are never out of a game. Just like in football when you possess a great defense, your team remains in every game.

The Capitals are second in the league in postseason goals-against per game entering play Monday, allowing 2.14 goals per game. Washington has allowed 15 goals in their first seven games, the second-lowest total amongst active playoff teams in the NHL.

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In addition, the Caps have killed off 26 of 29 (89.7 percent) opponents’ power play opportunities, the second highest penalty kill percentage among active playoff teams in the league.

Washington also knows a little something about coming from behind.

The Caps were the best team in the NHL when allowing the first goal and trailing after the first period. Washington was 15-11-3 when behind after 20 minutes and 23-19-5 when surrendering the first goal of the game.

Despite the lack of playoff experience and youth on the Caps roster, many of the players have experienced serious playoff adversity in one form or another in recent years.

The last time Washington dropped the first two home games of a playoff series was during the 2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Rangers.

In that series, the Capitals lost Games 1 and 2 at home before winning four of the last five games to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, winning the series, 4-3.

Against the Rangers in '09, Alex Ovechkin had five points and Nicklas Backstrom had six assists in the final five games.

Alexander Semin led the comeback with seven points (four goals, three assists) in the last five contests.

There are 12 players on the current Washington roster that played in that 2009 series against New York.

The Capitals overcame a three-goal deficit for the first time this season with their 4-3 double overtime win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals this year.

They became the first team this postseason to win a game in which they were trailing entering the third period and the first team since the 2002 Carolina Hurricanes to win a game in which they trailed by three goals in the third period.

During the regular season, Washington came back to win five games in which they trailed by two. The Capitals recorded eight wins during the regular season when trailing after two periods, tied for first amongst playoff teams.

The last time the Capitals overcame a deficit of three or more goals to win a playoff game was on April 17, 1996 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Pittsburgh.

Even some of the rookies have been through serious playoff drama.

Although it was at the AHL level with the Hershey Bears, Michael Neuvirth, John Carlson and Karl Alzner were a part of the Bears squad that dropped the first two games at home  in the Calder Cup Finals last season.

The guys pulled it together and won the next four games in route to winning back-to-back Calder Cup Championships.

Len Redkoles/Getty Images

The Caps are not dead. The only problem is that Tampa's head coach, Guy Boucher has a Masters Degree in sports psychology, and he probably has his guys believing they are two games down.

The Caps have outworked the Lightning for the better part of the first the two games. One has to believe that as long as the Caps keep working and stop making untimely mental errors, their luck will change.

Washington out-shot the Lightning in Game 2, 37-23 and attempted 76 total shots (37 on net, 24 blocked and 15 wide of the net.)

The 16 shots on goal Washington took in the second period were the most that the Capitals have taken in a single period in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. The three shots allowed by Washington in the second period tied for the lowest amount allowed by the Capitals in a single, regulation period in the playoffs.

The Capitals held Tampa Bay to nine shots through the first two periods, the lowest amount after two periods for a Caps opponent during the playoffs.

Tonight's game has all the makings of a classic breakout affair for Washington. Just as Tampa did to Pittsburgh in Game 5, look for the Caps to try to do the same in Florida.

Tampa beat Pittsburgh 8-2 and began to get into the heads of the Pens just as I expect the Caps to do tonight in Game 3.

Washington will have to solve the Lightning penalty kill to a degree. The Bolts have allowed just one power play goal in 47 opportunities. Washington must, let me repeat MUST, score the first goal tonight.

This team is special and there is just something about them that I cannot put my finger on that keeps my faith high in this series.

What the Caps did this past season could not be accomplished by most, if any other team in the league.

Nope, I refuse to say the Caps are done. In fact, I believe they are just getting started. Washington in seven games and it begins tonight.

 

 

 

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