Playoff Pregame #7: Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #5 Tampa Bay Lightning
Capitals trail the Eastern Conference Semifinal Series 0-1
Location: Verizon Center
7:00 PM
TV: Versus (HD), TSN
Radio: 106.7 FM, 1500AM
Previous Game:
Apr 29, 2011 TBL@WSH 2-4 L
Next 2 Games:
May 3, 2011 WSH@TBL, 6:30 PM
May 4, 2011 WSH@TBL, 7:00 PM
Know The Enemy:
Our Bloguin Partner: Lightning Hockey Blog
Our friends at: Raw Charge

See how to steal Tampa’s thunder!

The Washington Capitals find themselves in unfamiliar territory, behind in a series for the first time this post-season.  The good news for the Caps is that when they have found themselves behind, they have rallied to tie every series since 2008. In 2008, the Caps were down 3-1 to Philly before they rallied to tie 3-3, In 2009 they were down 3-1 to New York and 3-2 to Pittsburgh before they tied it 3-3, and they went down 1-0 to Montreal last year and won Game 2. 

The Caps were on the verge of scoring a half-dozen goals on Friday night, but were unable to find the back of the cage on four of those occasions.  The Caps just have to keep attacking like they did on Friday night and hope the Bolts don’t get any more fluky goals.  Dwayne Roloson wasn’t easy to beat, but he wasn’t exactly a brick wall, either. 

Injury Report: Capitals’ RW Mike Knuble (hand), D Dennis Wideman (leg hematoma), and D Tom Poti (groin) are out.  D John Carlson (undisclosed) suffered an injury in Game 1 and is day-to-day.
-For the Lightning, D Pavel Kubina (head) and LW Simon Gagne (head) were injured in Friday night’s game and are unlikely to play Sunday.  D Randy Jones (ankle) and D Matt Smaby (lower body) are out indefinitely.  C Dana Tyrell (foot) is questionable. 

Three Things To Watch For:

Woe Captain, My Captain:  Alex Ovechkin was a major force behind the Caps’ series win over the Rangers, but he was ineffective at best against the Lightning last game.  Ovie played over 22 minutes, including 7 on the powerplay, and came away with just 2 shots on goal and a -1 rating.  If the Capitals are going to have success in this series, Ovechkin is going to have to contribute more on offense.

Injury Bug: After seeing Simon Gagne and Pavel Kubina go down with injury, Lightning coach Guy Boucher is going to have to come up with another scheme to beat the Capitals.  Yes, the Lightning won the game, but not after they wore out their top stars playing two men down.  Boucher likes to play with 7 defensemen and rotate forwards through different lines, something that will be much more difficult now.  Boucher is an extremely smart coach, we will see what he does on Sunday night, and who he replaces his injured players with.

Stay Disciplined: The real reason the Caps lost the game is because they couldn’t stay out of the penalty box.  This was a problem in a few games against the Rangers, too.  The Caps get sloppy, send a parade of players to the penalty box, and finally allow a powerplay goal after their penalty killers get too tired to stop the other team.  Some penalties are unavoidable, but there’s no reason to take an offensive zone penalty unless you’re trying to get under the goalie’s skin.  Game 2 could just as easily be decided by special teams play, and the Caps are going to have to figure it out.

Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images