Caps' 4 Keys to 4 Wins (to Win the Cup!)

Chris Russell
May 27, 2018 - 9:36 pm
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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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The Washington Capitals are officially in Las Vegas to take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final. Go ahead and pinch yourself! It’s real. Game 1 is Monday night on 106.7 The FAN.

Let’s roll the dice and see if the Caps avoid coming up with snake eyes at the table.

Here are four keys on how they can get to four wins and raise their first ever Stanley Cup!

1 – Start early, Win Game 1: Just like they did in Tampa and it ultimately held up, the Capitals would strongly benefit from opening a series on the road with a win. Of course, it guarantees nothing, but it removes a lot of pressure from Game 2 and allows you to dictate the pace.

The Vegas crowd is much louder and more enthusiastic than the one in Tampa. So how do they do it?. “The same way we did it going into Tampa,’ Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz told reporters on Saturday morning.

Trotz admitted that the Stanley Cup Final is a “different stage, different circumstances” but he feels his team gets it. “These moments only come around once in a while, if they even do for some. Make the most of it.”

The Caps were down early and big in their only game in Las Vegas during the regular season. They were also a very different team than they are now. They trailed 3-0 in the first 15 minutes of the game and never recovered. They also had played the night before in Phoenix and seemed to be going through the motions.

It’s especially important to get off to a good start considering the Caps road success in the playoffs at (8-2) and home struggles (4-5) in the postseason. Vegas also won in Washington on Super Bowl Sunday.

2 – Caps Power Play vs. Golden Knights Penalty Kill: It’s strength vs. strength here and usually whoever wins in the area that they’re good at it, is going to win often. The Capitals are 28.8 percent on the power-play, second-best in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Golden Knights are at an 82.5 percent penalty kill clip, which ranks fourth in the playoffs.

The Caps are (8-27, 29.6%) on the power-play when on the road in the playoffs and (9-32, 28.1 percent) at home with the extra man.

The Golden Knights have allowed (5-28, 82.1%) at home on the penalty kill and are about equal on the road at (5-29, 82.8 percent) during their first playoff grind.

3 – Caps Forwards must break down VGK’s defensemen: Vegas is good defensively, but they’re not great. Former Cap Nate Schmidt is an offensive first defenseman, who can probably be had by the high skill of Washington at times. Brayden McNabb is tough and physical. Shea Theodore, Deryk Engelland, Luca Sbisa and Colin Miller make up the rest of the group.

Miller can hurt you offensively at even strength and on the power play (10 G, 31 A in the regular season) but he was a minus 4 overall. He’s been much better defensively at 5-on-5 in the playoffs. Engelland is Mr. Vegas but he’s 36. Sbisa is tall and has plenty of experience but is a minus 19 player over his entire career, despite a pretty good year.

Washington worked heavily on short, tape-to-tape passes through the neutral zone and entry points Saturday in Arlington and on 2-on-1’s and other odd-man transition opportunities. It’s a normal part of the routine but might be even more important if they are to beat Vegas.

4 – Can you touch M.A.F.?: Can the Caps beat the red-hot Marc-Andre Fleury, who at times, controlled the Caps in playoffs past?

This season, he was (29-13-4, 2.24, .927) and in the playoffs, he is (12-3, 1.68, .947) and has four shutouts.

In his career against Washington, mostly with the Penguins, Fleury is (22-12-2, 2.54,  .914) during regular season play. At times, Fleury has been feast or famine. He shut them out in Game 7 of the 2nd round last year on 29 saves to advance to the conference final but in the two games before that, he allowed a combined total of nine goals. It’s not like he can’t be beaten.

Get screens, get deflections, get rebounds and get gritty. Continue to earn the Cup.

 

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