Caps Up 2-0 Head into Hurricane Country - Game 3
The Washington Capitals will play their first road game of the playoffs this year as they head south for games 3 and 4 in Carolina after taking a 2-0 lead with wins at home including an OT win on a goal by Brooks Orpik. Yes, the same Brook Orpik who scored a GWG in the Cup Final.
With the OT win in game two, the Capitals have themselves in a much better position in the first round after two games in this year's playoffs than last year when they went down 0-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets winning both of the first two games this year vs Carolina Hurricanes on home ice. While it should be much less stressful heading into game 3 tonight in Raleigh, North Carolina, the Caps cannot take a relaxed attitude into tonight’s very pivotal game. Obviously being up 3-0 vs 2-1 is a huge advantage.
The Hurricanes building will be alive and jumping tonight with the franchises’ first playoff game since 2009 and if their Stanley Cup run in ‘06 was any indication the fans and local area will be nuts, so it’s quite vital Caps coach Todd Reirden has his team ready as the first 5 minutes should be a gauntlet of pressure. So far, Washington has been able to score first in both games and it would be beneficial to try and get the crowd out of the game early.
Since the loss in game 1 in last years Stanley Cup Final, the Caps have won 6 straight playoff games and will look to play as well on the road as they did last spring on their way to a championship with a win tonight in Carolina. They closed out every series on the road last season and had the NHL’s best playoff road record.
Nicklas Backstrom has started the spring season on fire with 3 goals and 4 points so far with 7 players registering 2 or more points in the two victories. Backstrom has a wicked wrister that he uses sparingly but has been deadly at times. The Caps top-six forwards have been producing with the top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, and Tom Wilson have a combined 9 points. So far, we’ve seen some changes by Coach Reirden on the second line as Jakub Vrana and Carl Hagelin have split time with Evgeny Kuznetsov and TJ Oshie who have 5 points combined.
Conversely, the Hurricanes top line has been held mostly in check as Nino Neiderreiter, former Cap Justin Williams, and Sebastien Aho to just one goal and one assist combined. Kuznetsov, while losing draws regularly to Aho, has been great defensively to neutralize the speedy Hurricane forward. Their second line of Michal Ferland, Jordan Staal, and Teuvo Teravainen has just 1 point and that point was a PP goal by Staal. The Caps are playing well 5 on 5.
Michal Ferland did not receive any supplementary discipline for his hit on Nic Dowd which he received a 5-minute major. This was the right call. However, Dougie Hamilton elbowed Evgeny Kuznetsov and received a 2-minute minor, but there was some talk on the DC side that it was slightly over the edge.
The Capitals had been getting better staying out of the box towards the end of the season. Their last 3 games they had a total of 4 penalties but so far in the first two games of the playoffs, they have taken 8 penalties, including some very bad ones, particularly by TJ Oshie and Nic Dowd. Oshie is a veteran playoff player and should be wiser than he was, and Dowd, while not a rookie, is still a vet and needs to control his stick, taking 2 high-sticking penalties.
We will see if Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour makes any changes to his lineup or shuffles his lines a little. Being at home will also give Brind’Amour the advantage of last change and I could see him wanting to get the Aho line away from the Kuznetsov line. He has scratched Saku Maenalanen and re-inserted Greg McKegg who played Game 1.
The Caps power play scored in its first two chances of the series but has gone 0-6 since including a 5-minute major they failed to score on when Ferland took the penalty on Dowd. It looked like the Caps were trying to set-up the perfect one-timer for Ovechkin and just never had any real quality shots. Tonight, I expect some shifting in-game as they try and spread out the Canes PK and Carlson and Ovechkin switching sides. I’d like to see Ovechkin getting down closer to the crease as he had at times in the regular season.
Line-up remains the same for the Caps.
Braden Holtby will start again for Washington as he looks to get win number 3 with a .912 SV% and a 2.46 GAA so far allowing 5 goals on 57 shots. His career playoff stats are an incredible 2.05 GAA and .929 SV%.
Game time tonight is 7 PM from PNC Arena.
The Capitals had called up Ilya Samsonov as a 3rd goalie for a few days and have announced they have returned Samsonov to Hershey and re-called Vitek Vanacek in his place. This is good for the organization and players to get some experience (and bigger cheques for a few days) during the playoffs.
Capital One Arena is always Rocking The Red in the Playoffs!
Tj Oshie borrowed a move we’ve seen from Kuznetsov a few times over the years…
As was tradition last year… #HOTLAP