Caps again need to be Game 6 road warriors

Chris Russell
April 22, 2018 - 9:53 pm
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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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The Washington Capitals have a chance on Monday night to do what they have done a good job of in the last couple of seasons.

Win a Game 6 on the road in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And had they better.

Two years ago, it was a Game 6 closeout in Philadelphia. Nicklas Backstrom scoring the only goal.

Last year, it was a 2-1 Game 6 overtime series-clinching victory in Toronto to advance to the second round.

With their season on the line – the Caps also pulled away and won a huge Game 6 in Pittsburgh last year, 5-2. Backstrom had a goal and an assist in that win, which forced a Game 7 at home.

We all know how that turned out and that’s exactly why Monday night in Columbus (99.1 FM) is a MUST WIN for Barry Trotz and the Capitals.

It’s not really a must-win, but let me ask you: Who really wants to play a game seven at Capital One Arena Wednesday night, considering the Caps' history in those spots?

As good as they’ve been recently in pivotal Game 6 situations, they’ve been just as bad in Game 7 situations at home over the years. Sure, they’ve had a few wins. The Islanders in 2015 and the Rangers in 2009. They’ve also gone down with barely a whimper against the Penguins in 2017 and 2009. Also, the Canadiens in a shocking upset in 2010.

They’ve also lost deciding Game 7's to the Rangers in 2012 (MSG), 2013 (a humiliating 5-0 shutout at home) and 2015 (MSG).

The head coach for the Rangers in three of those Game 7 situations (2009, 2012, 2013) in which the Capitals lost two out of three game sevens to the “Blueshirts?” John Tortorella.

You know him. The same guy who is the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets and who promised the media that his team would return to Washington for a Game 7 Wednesday night.

“We will be back here for Game 7,” Tortorella angrily snapped at reporters Saturday evening at Capital One Arena. “I won’t have to say a damn word to them. We’ll be back here for Game 7!”

It’s the Capitals' job to prevent that. It’s the Capitals' job to treat Game 6 like their season is on the line and their backs are against the wall. It’s on the Caps to make Tortorella’s talented squad start their summer vacation early.

Otherwise, Columbus will be riding a momentum wave of backing up their head coach and knowing that they are going to a building that they’ve already won twice in during this series and quite honestly should have won a third time, on Saturday.

Columbus was the better team for the final 30+ minutes or so, and they know it. The Caps know it, too. The Caps earned a Game 5 win on Saturday, but there’s no denying they were fortunate.

They can’t afford to be as sloppy or completely dominated like they were in the third period on Saturday. The Blue Jackets out-shot Washington 16-1 and out-scored them 1-0 and quite honestly, Tortorella’s team should be on the verge of the second round, not the Capitals and Barry Trotz.

But they’re not. That’s hockey. The Caps got the breaks they needed. A fourth tip-in goal of the series and second of the game for Washington was the only way to beat the mostly brilliant Sergei Bobrovsky in the Jackets' net.

The Caps received a terrific goaltending performance by Braden Holtby and were perfect on the penalty kill.

They’re going to need all of that and much more on Monday night if they’re to advance and avoid a Game 7 in their own house of horrors.

 

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