Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Tom Gulitti of NHL.com,
1. PLAY WITH URGECNY
The Capitals are looking to come back from a 3-1 deficit for the third time in their history and first time since their 2009 first-round series against the New York Rangers. If they don't win Saturday their season is over. That should be all the motivation they need to come up with their best game of the playoffs.
Although the Penguins have won the past three games, they don't want to take anything for granted. They also were up 3-1 against the Rangers in the first round and finished that series in five games. They'd like to do the same against the Capitals.
"When you have a team in that situation you want to make the most of the opportunity," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said Saturday. "We have to have the same type of approach as we would with any other playoff game, but just understand the situation and know what to expect."
from Damien Cox of the Toronto Star,
Crosby has one assist in the series. Ovechkin has one goal. But because the Pens have won three of four, Crosby’s lack of production isn’t as meaningful as Ovechkin’s.
Washington’s No. 8 is getting lots of shots, and lots of hits, and even got away with a nasty slash to Crosby’s hands in Game 4. It’s not like he has been invisible or uninvolved.
But if the Caps go down, none of that will matter. Ovechkin will attract more than his fair share of the blame, which is what happens when you make the big bucks and wear the “C.”
All that will matter is that once again, Washington won’t have made it past the second round of the Stanley Cup tournament, something the franchise hasn’t done since 1998.
This was supposed to happen very differently this spring. GM Brian MacLellan went out of his way to add personnel like ex-Kings Justin Williams and Richards, players who understood the difference between playoff success and failure and how to help Washington get out of its cycle of playoff disappointment.
It is a testament to the greatness of Ovechkin and to the greatness of his rival with the Penguins, Crosby, that we can debate the notion of legacy in these rare head-to-head confrontations.
And even though the scorecard historically has been dominated by Crosby, what makes Saturday so compelling is that Ovechkin has it within his grasp to draft a new script, to defy the past.
Just as he has had those opportunities in the past but could not change the narrative.
-Scott Burnside of ESPN where you can read more on Crosby/Ovechkin.
Game 5 is tomorrow night in Washington and the Penguins will win the series 4-1 with a victory.
Capitals winger Tom Wilson says they’ll continue to pound the rock and play the brand of hockey that got them to the top, because you have to win four games to advance.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
"We're going to stress the positives in a couple ways,'' Trotz said Thursday. "You just have to worry about winning the next game. We were in a reverse situation last year where, you know, in Game 5 we had a team basically pretty well down and out, and they threw a puck to the net and it hits one of our defensemen, goes in and they end up winning in overtime and that sort of changed it. Right now, everything's come a little harder for us. Pitt's doing a really good job. I'm not going to take anything away from them. ...
"But we have to find another way to not really reinvent the game, but just execute better, be a little sharper. If we get a chance to score, we've got to bury our chances. Those are the things that are going to matter, and then we've got to stay with it. You've got to have the belief that if you win one -- win the first period, keep going. If you win one, then things can change. I mean, we were prime candidates to see it firsthand in the Rangers series last year. Hopefully, all we can do is just look at the game in front of us and just take it from there."
...Pittsburgh has been outshot 144 to 136 in the series, with high-danger scoring chances — those that originate in the slot or crease — also in Washington’s favor (51 to 42). According to Emmanuel Perry, after adjusting for shot location and volume, the Capitals should be outscoring the Penguins 12 to 11, and be tied in the series after four games. Instead, it’s the Penguins who have the lead on the scoreboard thanks in part to potting goals that have low probabilities of success in the first place.
-Neil Greenberg of Fancy Stats at the Washington Post where you can read more from the analytical side of this series.
from Dan Steinberg of DC Sports Bog at the Washington Post,
Washington’s season-long “stick to the script” mantra now gets more complicated now, because the script has been covered with graffiti and red scribbles. Letang will be back Saturday night. Washington’s power play has been one of its bedrocks, but that unit now is 1 for 12 in this series. And it gets ever more difficult to argue that Vezina Trophy front-runner Braden Holtby gives Washington a significant advantage in net, not when Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray has looked so unshakable. For the second straight game, he stoned breakaway wizard Oshie alone in front of the net, and he out-dueled the more heralded Holtby.
Washington’s comfort with adversity was supposed to be another edge. The Capitals were 27-6-8 in one-goal games during the regular season, the league’s best mark. In the playoffs? They’re now 2-4. They showed backbone, sure, tying the score after Justin Williams won a puck in the corner, and surviving that Alzner penalty despite the absence of two of their top penalty killers. I promise you that those moments will not be fondly recalled if the Caps lose this series.
“We’ve been in some tough spots before,” Alzner said. “It just comes with the job. You find a way to get over it as fast as you can.”
Of course, it isn’t over quite yet. Washingtonians are plenty familiar with blown 3-1 series leads, and the Capitals will get at least one more chance to back up their Presidents’ Trophy. But it’s hard to imagine they won’t look back with regret on this game – against a shorthanded team, and with desperation supposedly on their side.
It’s the kind of game that would have looked great in a Road to the Stanley Cup commemorative book. Because it’s the kind of game a champion might have won.
Don Cherry and Ron MacLean takes a look at the slash on Sidney Crosby and how it could have been prevented by taking out the instigator rule.
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Riddle me this: If the Washington Capitals, the NHL's best regular-season team by a country mile and a team seemingly built for its best chance at Stanley Cup glory, cannot beat an injury-depleted Pittsburgh Penguins team in a crucial test, what hope do they have to win three straight to stay alive in these playoffs?
The simple answer in the wake of the Penguins' dramatic 3-2 overtime victory Wednesday is that the Capitals, for all their resolve and success and talent, are once again staring into the abyss.
That's how good the Penguins are proving to be, no matter who is in their lineup. And that's how big an opportunity the Capitals let pass in Game 4, a game that was fully set for the taking but which still somehow eluded them, just as previous playoff successes have always seemed to settle just outside their grasp.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
Alex Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals are now standing in front of a mirror. What do they see?
Is it the long past of playoff heartbreaks, or the fortitude they claim to have fostered these last several months while compiling the NHL’s best regular season record?
They will spend the next two days hearing about both possibilities before facing a must-win Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins back at Verizon Center on Saturday. This will be an uncomfortable time.
Missed the action from last night? Watch below...
Washington @ Pittsburgh 8:00 PM ET NBCSN, CBC and TVAS
The Penguins are up 2-1 and you would have to think the Capitals need this game more than the Pens.
Feel free to discuss...
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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