How ’bout a second cup-a -joe this morning — you need it especially if your alarm went off around 4:00 to tune in to matrimony madness across the pond. Meanwhile, back home, it’s time for round 2 of the NHL playoffs, and, like the Capitals’ roster, we couldn’t be more ready to get the series moving. Bloggers are well rested like their heroes. And young gun bloggers Andrew and Lis dissect the round 2 matchup below.
Andrew: Let’s get right to the point: only the Washington Capitals have the ability to make this a short series. The Tampa Bay Lightning were just in a long seven-game series with the Pittsburgh Penguins and are going to be fatigued, you have to believe, while the Caps have been able to rest. Not only that, but the Caps have more overall talent than the Lightning.
Lis: The regular season games between these two teams were thoroughly unpredictable– blowouts, shutouts, shootouts, overtime wins. And loads of Good Sasha! I completely agree with Andrew that this is the Caps’ series to lose, but I hope they stay aware of the fact that Tampa’s last opponent blew a 3-1 advantage. Ahem.
Andrew: Dwayne Roloson, the ageless wonder, is going to be the key component of this series, I think. Despite being over 40, he has shown he can compete with the NHL’s best and actually help his team win. If Tampa Bay were to upset the Caps, Steve Yzerman’s acquisition of him could be the best trade of the entire year. In one game he stopped over 60 shots agains the Pens, and that is definitely tiring on a goalie. It’d be tiring on a kid like me. The Caps will have to generate a heavy shot total this series in order to beat Roloson — the ‘Bolts are going to block a good many to begin with. They may not beat him right out all that often, but if they can tire him out, Washington’s chances increase dramatically. And generating a heavy volume of shots and being patient could prove the difference, because it’s Washington that possesses offensive depth in this series.
Lis: It’s ironic — despite all the glamor of an Ovechkin/Stamkos matchup, it’s goalies Dwayne Roloson and Michael Neuvirth that lead the NHL playoff statistics in goals against average and save percentage (you won’t find Ovi or Stamkos among the NHL leaders in offensive categories). The Capitals have a cushion as far as backup goalies go, unlike the Lightning. Both netminders bring stellar stats into this series, but the first-round opponents for both clubs, I think, left a lot to be desired in their respective attacks.
Andrew: Tactically, the Caps are going to have to keep several things in mind. First off, they cannot leave Steven Stamkos alone, unaccounted for. The last few years Washington’s defense has had a bad habit of letting Stamkos walk in the slot and have some great chances. But of course this is a much different-looking Capitals’ blueline relative to say just a year ago. While he may not have had a stellar series against the Penguins, Stamkos has the ability to score every time the puck touches his stick. Last series, the Caps never really got their big role players going in terms of offensive production. Getting them going will be key. It is more than just a few good shifts here and there, too; the team will have to get something approaching consistent production from its top forward units, cause you know that Tampa’s going to get production from theirs. Being able to roll four lines gives the Caps the ability to rest their top two threesomes throughout the game to get better production from them in crunch time. Not only that, but two or three scoring lines will make for very long nights for Dwayne Roloson.
Lis: Speaking of Matt Bradley, he has the second-most fights in his career against Tampa. And Matt Hendricks has dropped the gloves against Steve Downie. It’ll also be interesting to see how Alexander Semin does in this series. He seems to score goals against Tampa as easily as Angelina Jolie attracts men (though his two hat tricks against Tampa this season were not with Roloson in net).