Story highlights: It’s as American as apple pie; the Washington Capitals are teed up for a Game 7 showdown in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This time around, the Caps face the Tampa Bay Lightning for a spot in the Final against the upstart Vegas Golden Knights.
By Bill Sands
It’s not a Washington Capitals postseason until a series goes seven games; it took a while, but we finally have one on our hands Wednesday night. The Caps will skate into Tampa Bay for a Game 7 showdown with the Lightning, with the winner moving on to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final.
It’s been an up-and-down series from the start, with the Caps seizing a 2-0 lead only to lose three straight. In arguably their best all-around game of the entire season, Washington won Game 6 decisively to set up a winner-take-all game on Wednesday.
Keys to Game 7
- First Goal Wins: Fast starts have been a key feature of this series, as multiple games have featured a goal in the opening minute. Tom Wilson got the Caps on the board under 30 seconds into Game 2, while Cedric Paquette scored just 19 seconds into Game 5. The team that scores first has won every game, with the exception of Game 4, when Tampa came from behind to win. The Caps have a troubled history with Game 7 scenarios, and an early goal would go a long way toward easing those concerns.
- Forget The Past: Speaking of that troubled history, it’s no secret that the Capitals have a reputation for choking away Game 7 – including some quite terrible performances against the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. This time around, however, things feel a little different. There’s a new energy around this team, and playing on the road should go a long way toward helping Washington relax. The pressure is on Tampa Bay; the Caps just need to stay loose and keep having fun like they have all postseason.
- Stay Out Of The Box: This strategy paid off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of that series; it needs to be the same Wednesday. Tampa Bay has a lethal power-play and has burned Washington multiple times throughout this series. Game 6 featured some superb penalty killing (and several key saves from Braden Holtby), but Washington can’t keep playing with fire. Playing clean is essential to keeping momentum with the Caps, because Tampa’s power-play can strike fast and often. On the flip side, it’s vital that Washington capitalizes on all of its own power-plays.
- Keep The Hits Coming: Game 6 featured a number of booming hits from the Caps, with Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, and Alex Ovechkin all throwing several massive hits. In addition to being fun to watch, these checks wore down the Lightning and made their forwards play with more caution. Without getting into penalty trouble, the Caps need to establish a physical presence and get the Lightning off their game early and often.
Does A Road Game Benefit the Caps in Game 7?
As Caps fans know all too well, anything can happen in Game 7. Being on the road is normally a disadvantage, but in this case it’s probably a benefit to a Caps team that has plenty of demons in that area. Winning Game 6 should in theory give Washington momentum, but the Lightning are an experienced team that won’t go away easily. No matter what happens, it should be an entertaining game.