The Washington Capitals will be playing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the third straight year. It’s become a running joke that the Capitals can’t make it out of the second round, especially when playing against the Penguins.
Despite having a solid team the last few years, the Capitals have nothing in the postseason to show for it. This season, goaltending was a slight issue for the team in the second half. Braden Holtby who is one of the best goalies in the league looked like he might have lost his touch as the season ended. His backup, Philipp Grubauer, started the first two games in the first round but, because neither games were wins, Holtby became the starter for game three. He and the Capitals went on to win four straight games and now face the Penguins in the second round.
The key to this series will be looking at all parts of both teams. This series will showcase how both teams are on par with each other on all levels, including goaltending, defense, offense, and special teams. Star forwards Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have proved to be just that so far; Crosby had six goals in the first round and Ovechkin had five. For either team to win the series, these players need to play like they have been.
Both teams will start the series without a few key players. Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin are out for Game 1 for the Penguins. Malkin didn’t play in Game 6 against the Flyers due to a lower-body injury and Hagelin was injured in that game sustaining an upper-body injury. It is possible that Malkin may start for Game 2 but Hagelin is ruled out entirely. Both of these injuries should be great concern for fans, considering players usually play on dangerous career-risking injuries just to help advance their team in the playoffs. Malkin and Hagelin’s injuries must be serious for them to miss one or more games.
On the other side, Capitals forward, Andre Burakovsky, sustained an upper-body injury in Game 2 of the first round, which required surgery. He’s week-to-week and not yet ruled out to play in the second round. While the Capitals have shown that they might not need him (winning four straight games without him in the lineup), they will be facing an entirely different and more skilled team in the second round. They’ll need to bring all of the offense power they can.
Looking at the first round, it seems the Capitals have had a far bumpier road to the second round than the Penguins. Four of their games against the Blue Jackets went into overtime while the Penguins easily dominated the Flyers in almost every game. So far, the Capitals have played far more hockey than the Penguins and, while this sounds like a bad thing, it might actually be an advantage. They will be going into the second round ready for anything and everything, they’ve already battled hard against the Blue Jackets so they’re in the right mindset while the Penguins have breezed past the Flyers and might not be prepared for what’s in store.
This series will be just as entertaining as it always is, but despite the goalie drama and the injuries, everyone’s main concern is if the Capitals finally win. Will they move on to the Eastern Conference Final or will they be eliminated and continue to be stuck in this limbo of ‘almost there’?