Stanley Cup Playoffs: Alan May previews Caps-Hurricanes

Chris Lingebach
April 09, 2019 - 7:48 pm

The Capitals went a perfect 4-0 against Carolina in the regular season and now they look to continue that trend in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

What problems could the Hurricanes present the defending Stanley Cup champs in their first-round matchup? Caps analyst Alan May tackled that question during The Morning Skate, presented by D.C. Lottery.

"I think the big thing that Carolina's gonna try to do is they're gonna change their systems up a little bit defensively, or a lot, and try to go to some of the stuff that we see the New York Islanders use, we saw the Coyotes use this year," May told The Sports Junkies on Tuesday. "A couple times teams came into Capital One, or the Caps were in their arena, and those teams went into all-out defense.

"They didn't try to hit, they didn't go to the boards so you could hit them, they tried to keep emotion out of the game, and they were just looking for mistakes and frustration. So the Caps have to be prepared for that, for a young team that's had more than half of its roster never play in an NHL playoff game, and they've even got some of their older players there, guys that have been around for 10 years, have never played in a playoff game."

"They're gonna try to do anything they can. They're gonna be excited," he continued. "Their arena will be packed when they do get down to Carolina. But the big thing is doing everything you can to be prepared for any wrenches they throw into the game plan, and then you just always have to worry about having a hot goaltender.

"But the biggest thing, I think, they're just gonna try to play lay-in-wait, and wait for mistakes to try to score goals from. They're very fast, but I don't think they want to go end to end and play wide-open hockey with the Caps with all the goal-scorers they have."

Holtby's Mental State This Year vs. Last

This time last year, the Caps entered the playoffs with goaltender Braden Holtby on the bench, and dropped their first two games at home to Columbus with Philipp Grubauer in net. The latter had been the more consistent netminder throughout the regular season, as Holtby struggled with bouts of inconsistency.

"Well, I think this year when the team wasn't winning, that Braden didn't get flustered," May said. "He wasn't upset. It didn't affect him 24 hours a day when the team was giving up all the high-danger scoring chances, all those things, right-net front. And this year, when teams scored on him, he didn't get flustered. He didn't allow the second one. If he let in the first one, it didn't become a thing."

"And I think just mentally, with him being able to get through all of that and face the adversity that he had last year, where I think things were bad," he continued. "He was getting agitated a little bit, a little bit upset with what was going on around him, things he couldn't control.

"He can't control a backcheck, he can't control whether someone decides to block a shot. And now he just realizes, I've got to do my job, they do theirs. We've got to mesh together and just worry about the next play coming down the ice and don't dwell on things, don't get upset."

"You take that, when every player's got confidence and they're in the game mentally and they're focused, they're at their best, and I think that's where he's at right now," he said. "He's in a really good spot with how he's playing the game. I like his technique way more this year than I saw him late last year. So it's been a lot different in how he's playing the game as well, some of the coverage things on the shots down the wing. So you've just got to be confident, and this team's got to be extremely confident knowing when they look back there, they've got Braden Holtby in net taking them to victory."

As May has previously explained, the Caps will be well served to hold serve at home, to take some of the bite out of the team with nothing to lose and avoid a situation where "all of a sudden that team's got a lot of belief in themselves."

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