Three keys for Ovechkin and the Capitals against the Lightning

April 29, 2011|By Matt Vensel

The Capitals made quick work of the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. Now they face one of their Southeast Division rivals in Round 2. The Lightning, who dispatched the Penguins in seven games, are the underdogs, but are still dangerous. We already had one five-item list today, so here are three keys to beating the Lightning (the series starts Friday night in Washington):

Be wary of the counter-attack: The Penguins had success cycling the puck in the corners against the Lightning, but without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, they had trouble cashing in on their puck possession. Whenever the puck finally changed hands, the Lightning’s talented forwards were off to the races, and those sprints often ended with the puck in the back of the net. The Capitals were excellent defensively against the Rangers, and they’ll have to back-check hard after Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier in the transition game. Of course, avoiding turnovers in the first place always helps.

Wear down the old guy in net: Dwayne Roloson had an up-and-down series against the Penguins, but he bounced back from James Neal’s awful game-winning goal in Game 4 to pitch a shutout in Game 7. He is a liability, though, and given his age (41), he can’t be expected to hold up against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals’ big guns, especially if they are firing pucks at him often and from all angles like they did against Henrik Lundqvist.

Win the special teams battle: The Lightning advanced past the Penguins due in large part to their power play and penalty kill. They scored eight power-play goals in the series and limited the Penguins to one goal in 35 extra-man opportunities (granted, the Penguins didn’t have Crosby and Malkin, but still). The Capitals, who had the NHL’s second-best penalty kill in the regular season, must stay out of the box in this series. As good as they have been a man down, the Capitals will have their hands full with the Lightning power play, which is really clicking right now.

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