5 ways the Caps beat Bolts (we have stats and everything)

Chris Russell
May 10, 2018 - 11:54 am
Braden Holtby

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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The Washington Capitals are in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in a long time. 

Standing in their way? The Tampa Bay Lightning, the best team in the Eastern Conference in the regular season and the third-best team in the NHL.

This will not be an easy task. However, there is hope...  

Here's how the Caps can get it done and advance to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

1. Dominate on the power play: During the regular season, the Capitals were the 7th best extra-man unit at 22.5% and were 25.2% at home while dropping all the way to 19.5% on the road.

During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Caps are second best with the man advantage at 30.9%, down slightly from earlier in the postseason with a larger sample size.

The Caps are at 33.3% at home in the playoffs (8-24) and much better on the road so far in the playoffs than they were over the 82-game season at 27.8% (5-18).

Overall, the Caps power play has clearly helped carry them to this point. The Lightning have struggled all year long to kill penalties. Tampa Bay has only killed 74.2% in the playoffs (11th) and they were a miserable 28th in the regular season at 76.1%.

They’ve killed 76.9% (3 GA – 13) at home in the first two rounds and (5 GA – 18) and 72.2 % on the road.

2. Freeing Willy (And Backy & Burky?): Tom Wilson returns for the Caps in Game 1 on Friday night in Tampa after serving his three-game suspension.

Wilson re-joined his familiar line mates, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, at practice on Wednesday as the Caps tuned up the band for Tampa.

Wilson must be able to play free physically without fear, but most importantly, he has to play like he did in the first three games of the Penguins series, where he was a menace to Pittsburgh in every way.

Wilson had a couple of beautiful stretch-pass assists, was all over the ice in a big Game 2 win and then forced a turnover for the game-winning goal in Game 3. That’s the Tom Wilson the Caps need. Not the guy that could be fearful of a suspension or the one that was on display early in the Columbus series.

Barry Trotz said Wednesday that both Nick Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky were day-to-day and would travel with the Caps to Tampa. I wouldn’t count on either playing in Game 1 and perhaps beyond. But if Washington geta both or at least one back early in the series, it would be a huge emotional boost.

3. Brayden and Braden: The Caps must be able to keep second-line center Brayden Point in check. He has ten points in the playoffs (4-6, 10 GP). He has two points on the power-play and has won 50% of his faceoffs.

For the Caps, Braden Holtby is going to have to stand on his head for at least one game and possibly more, like he did in the Penguins series. He’s (8-3) with a 2.04 goals against and a .926 save percentage. A bit down from his career numbers but trust me, he’s been better.

4. Keep ‘Em Rollin: The Caps, for the most part, have been able to roll all four lines successfully in the playoffs with different combinations because of injuries or ineffective play. That must continue because Tampa is very deep. Devante Smith-Pelly is going to be my X-factor for Washington. He was great in the Columbus series and struggled to replace Wilson against the Penguins. He has eight career playoff goals and can kill penalties while playing a physical game. “DSP” is a guy the Capitals desperately need.

5. Don’t get beat by the ponies: The Lightning have quite a few studs. Nikita Kucherov (112 total points), Steven Stamkos (96 total), Point (76 total) and they are going to be frightening to deal with. Washington can’t get beat by guys like Anthony Cirelli, Chris Kunitz and even J.T. Miller. If they do, it’s lights out.