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Rematch of East Final - Caps V TB

March 16, 2019, 8:09 AM ET [2 Comments]
Marcus Boutilier
Washington Capitals Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
It’s the true test of the season for Coach Todd Reirden’s Washington Capitals. The last time the Capitals played at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay they punched a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final as they took game 7 over the Lightning on their way to a championship. Tonight, the 42-22-7 Caps will play a 54-13-4 Lightning team that looks poised to determined to exact revenge on them as they have made a playground out of the league so far this season as the runaway regular season favorite with 10 more wins and 17 more points than anyone else. The two teams will face each other two more times after today before the playoffs begin. We can expect Tampa to be a little sour after last springs early exit.

Tampa will certainly provide a stiff litmus test for the Capitals defense as they are the highest scoring offense in the league registering 277 goals with the next closest team (Toronto) 10 goals behind. That is 3.82 goals a game and their goal differential is an incredible +90 as they play a stingy defensively responsible game as well allowing the 4th fewest goals in the league. The Caps offense, sitting 6th (245) can play with the Bolts but will have to continue to trend in the right direction on the defensive side of the puck to take the two points tonight as they have only allowed 2 goals or more twice in their last 8 games. Braden Holtby will get the start and he has been hot allowing only 14 goals his last 7 starts (4 in one game vs Pittsburgh).

The Caps have been playing better with 8 wins over their last 10 but are still in a dogfight with the Islanders for the Metro Division crown sitting 2 points up on New York with 91 points (Isles have a game in hand) and Pittsburgh is just 4 back in 3rd place.

Special teams will be vitally important today for the Caps as they are facing the leagues best power play sitting at 29%, however, over the last month, both teams power play units have been 7th in the NHL 25%. The Caps PP will be in tough as the Lightning penalty kill is the best in the league as well. In fact, over the last month (13 games), the Lightning have allowed one PP goal for a 91.3% efficiency rate. Meanwhile, the Caps penalty kill has improved vastly with the additions of Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen. Hovering near the bottom of the league for most of the year, the Caps PK units were 12th with an 83.3% rate over the last month (13 games).

Obviously, the Caps will need to mitigate scoring chances as the Lightning score in bunches. Nikita Kucherov (115) leads the NHL in scoring and it’s not even close as he holds a 15-point lead over Connor McDavid (100) and is the favorite for the Hart Trophy.

Alex Ovechkin hasn’t scored in 4 games but still holds a four-goal lead on Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (42) with 46. Tom Wilson reached the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career vs Philadelphia on Thursday to join Ovechkin, Jakub Vrana, and TJ Oshie in that club. Brett Connolly is coming off a 2-goal game in Philly to sit at 19 and both Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov have 18 so the Caps can bring that total to 7 players likely before the season ends.

Connolly, who is set to become a UFA this summer is having a career year. The former 1st round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010 is getting a lot accomplished with fewer posh minutes. He plays little to no power play time, does not kill penalties and does not get top 5 on 5 minutes either playing on the 3rd line but is still the teams' 7th leading point getter and 5th in goals.

Game time is 7:00 PM EST from Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.

Capital Gain:

It’s been a tough year for TJ Oshie. Luckily, he avoided injury here…

Some good news for Caps prospect Alex Alexeyev while we await his injury diagnosis...

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