The Washington Capitals were heading into their series with the Florida Panthers as the biggest underdogs next to the Nashville Predators. Nobody really thought the Caps could get out of this series, some didn’t even see the Caps getting a win. Despite only seeing about a minute of game time from Tom Wilson this series as well as a goaltending change, the Capitals have the series tied at 2-2 going back to the Sunshine State.
How can the Capitals close this series?
A series tied 2-2 with the President’s Trophy-winning Panthers is nothing short of incredible. On paper, the Panthers are very reminiscent of the Capitals of yesteryear. A painfully strong, young core. Veteran Leadership, star-studded goaltending, and very fast, physical play. The Caps have managed to handle that pretty well, despite being one of the oldest teams in the league.
Perhaps one of the biggest points of success the Capitals are finding is by playing some of their best defense all year. Going into the series, Coach Peter Laviolette knew how to weather that dangerous Florida attack. By sitting back and sitting in a 1-3-1 defensive shape, the Caps are limiting clean zone entries and causing turnovers in the neutral zone. Along with strong, even strength play, the Cap’s penalty kill remains perfect among one of the deadliest power plays in the league this year.
To continue giving themselves a chance, the Cap’s are going to need to continue to be strong in a few areas:
- Physical Play- Even without Tom Wilson, the Caps have matched the intense and forbearing physical play by the Panthers. If they allow them to begin to dictate physicality, the Caps are going to slip down a slope they don’t want to go down.
- Solid Goaltending- Ilya Samsonov relieved Vitek Vanecek of his duties after the 5-1 loss in game 2. Since then, Samsonov has been playing his most consistent hockey of the year and seems to be playing with a lot of confidence.
- Continue to limit the rush- The Caps Blue Liners have done outstanding to limit odd-man rushes this series so far. If they slip up on that front or start getting caught up too much, the Panthers will attack with pace and punish them.
- Finish the chances- there have been several times throughout this series now, either through lack of focus or bad luck, that the Caps have missed fantastic, high danger chances. If they can bury goals on Bobrovsky, they’ll continue to run away with it.
- Stay Calm and Focused- Perhaps the biggest point here is to just keep playing Capitals Hockey. It’s a 2-2 series and the Capitals have shown they have all the power to knock out Florida. Game 4’s Overtime loss could have been avoided, but it’s happened and now they need to move on. Everyone on that roster knows their talents and if they remain calm and confident, they can knock out the Cats.
The Capitals are heading back to Miami to face the Panthers in what’s sure to be a loud game 5 away from home. If the Capitals can steal a win in this next game, they set themselves up in a fantastic position to close out on home ice.
Our Game 5 Predictions:
Jamie- 4-2 Capitals Victory
Zac- 3-2 Capitals Victory