Story highlights: Caps in the Final! The Washington Capitals reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1998 by playing to their strengths and never letting go of their game plan – dismantling the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0.
By Bill Sands
Yesterday, we laid out the game plan for what the Washington Capitals would need to do in order to bring home a win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. We detailed four key points, and the Caps responded with perhaps their best game of the year. Washington may not have dominated, but they did almost everything right and came away with a 4-0 win.
Here are the four points we outlined yesterday and how the Caps did on the night:
- First Goal Won: In yesterday’s post, we pointed out that the Conference Finals featured several early goals, and the teams scoring those early goals won each game. Just 1:02 into Game 7, Alex Ovechkin one-timed a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov and gave the Caps a very early lead. In addition to providing the team with confidence, the goal also silenced the crowd and put all the pressure on Tampa Bay.
- Forgetting the Past: With that early lead, the Caps did something they haven’t done in a long time: score first in Game 7. From the start, the Caps were clearly loose, relaxed, and actually having fun. The weight of past failures was clearly not on the minds of the Caps last night, and their devil-may-care attitude was instrumental in helping them play their game.
- Stay Out of the Box: Mission accomplished. While Tom Wilson spent some time in the box after his epic fight with Braydon Coburn, the Caps were an extremely disciplined team in Game 7. Washington only gave Tampa one power-play when Matt Niskanen high-sticked Nikita Kucherov early in the third. Besides that, and a power-play for Washington early in the first period, the two teams spent the entire game at even strength, a factor that definitely worked to Washington’s advantage.
- Keep the Hits Coming: Though Game 7 didn’t have the same booming hits that Game 6 featured, Tom Wilson set the tone early when he stood up for his linemates. After Coburn pulled off Kuznetsov’s jersey, Wilson stepped in and dropped the gloves on behalf of his more skilled center. Wilson got several punches in before dropping Coburn, and the fight definitely energized the bench. Moral of that story: Don’t disrespect the jersey – especially in full view of Tom Wilson.
— DCpuckDrop (@DCPuckDrop) May 24, 2018
Tampa had their chances, but Braden Holtby stood tall when he was called on and Washington moves on after a perfect road game.
Next up is Vegas, as the Caps take on the Golden Knights in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Monday night.