The Washington Capitals are one win away from history.
They are one win away from shaking the D.C. sports postseason demons for good. They are one win away from hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.
From the beginning of these playoffs, this team felt different than all of the other Caps playoff teams of the past. In their first series against Columbus, they ripped off four straight wins after going down in the series 2-0. They were able to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins and get past the second round for the first time in 20 years. They fought back from a 3-2 deficit to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. Now, after losing Game 1 of the finals, the Caps are just one win away from being crowned Stanley Cup Champions.
One word defines this playoff run for the Caps: resiliency.
With that being said, the Caps do have another example of dubious history to overcome.
But like I have said before, I think that this team is different. They are playing a really physical brand of hockey beginning with their leader, Alex Ovechkin, which trickles down to the rest of the roster. The forwards are getting in on the forecheck and are truly buying into being the most physical team on the ice. The backcheck is also firing on all cylinders. And what can be said about Braden Holtby’s play. I mean there was “the save” in Game 2, and that was just one memorable example of how well he is playing in this series. John Carlson setting himself up to become a very rich man come this offseason with his stellar performance. American hero T.J. Oshie is playing a physical brand of hockey and scoring the puck. Lars Eller has stepped up big time and has been able to play more than just the checking line center when Nick Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov dealt with injuries. Hell, even Brooks Orpik has found the fountain of youth. He knows this is probably his last chance at the cup and he is playing like the player that he was when he was in his prime with the Penguins. So far, knock on wood, there hasn’t really been a weak point on this team.
For the Vegas Golden Knights it has been a storybook season. As a first-year franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights have set many records for a first-year team. Maybe the most significant is that of the four major sports, the Golden Knights are the only team to make it to the championship round of the playoffs in their debut season. Still, they have an uphill battle to get that Hollywood ending.
As we approach puck drop of Game 5, history could be made. The Stanley Cup will be in the arena in Las Vegas during Game 5 as the Caps could clinch the “Lord Stanley” on Thursday night. The Golden Knights must win out in order to have their names engraved on the trophy.
So how do the Caps win Game 5 and, in the process, the Stanley Cup? It’s quite simple actually: don’t fix something that isn’t broken. This team seems like they are in the heads of the Vegas players. They are the more physical team and quite frankly they have wanted it more in the first four games of this series.
On top of that, they can’t stoop down to Vegas’s level. Vegas is starting to play extremely dirty. They are trying to do everything they can to get the Caps off their game. It started in Game 3, but was really apparent in Game 4, especially with this hit that Brayden McNabb laid on T.J. Oshie. He cross checked Oshie into the boards from behind with the outcome of the game already decided. This was a very dangerous and stupid play and it should have been a game misconduct and probably some sort of further discipline from the league.
The league seems to want to let the boys play since they didn’t suspend Tom Wilson for his late hit earlier in the series on Jonathan Marchessault. Fine, whatever. But the important thing going forward is that the Caps cannot retaliate whatsoever. I am talking to you Tom Wilson! I get wanting to stick up for your team, but with a three-game lead in the finals, you can’t be taking dumb penalties. They still have to play hard and physical, but the Caps cannot retaliate after the whistle and make trips to the sin bin.
As for the Golden Knights, it’s a lot more murky. First of all, they have to step up the physicality between the whistles. They may not be able to out-hit the Caps, but they need to be tougher. Secondly, they have to do more with the second-chance scoring. The one knock on Braden Holtby this playoffs is that he has let up some pretty big rebounds for second chance-scoring opportunities. So far, Vegas hasn’t been able to do much with them. Marc Andre-Fleury has to stay balanced and not give up as many openings. Finally, Vegas you need to QUIT with the ridiculous pregame middle school plays and just stick to hockey. No more gimmicks, can’t afford it. You need to win out so you must focus solely on hockey.
The path to the Stanley Cup is now pretty simple. For the Caps, you only have to win one more game. Vegas, you have to win out. One way or another, this series is going to end with history.
Here are the WTS staff Game 5 picks:
My pick- Caps win 3-1.
They finally breakthrough and win their first Stanley Cup in another dominating physical game. Ovechkin scores at least one goal. Tom Wilson and Ryan Reaves get into a fight and serve 10 penalty minutes each. Vegas puts on a longer twenty minute version of their pregame middle school play to try and further distract the Caps. My final prediction: you thought that Philadelphia was bad when they won the Super Bowl? Well at least one of D.C.’s monuments will be brought down in the celebratory riot after a D.C. sports team finally wins a title for the first time in 91 combined seasons.
Noah Gross– Vegas wins 4-2.
Kevin Brown – Vegas wins 5-0
“I want to see Caps win at home. I never like seeing teams win at the opposing arena. That being said, I do think Vegas comes out firing early and Caps fold this one.”
Alex Murphy– Vegas wins 4-2.
“Going back to DC for Game 6. Bellamare scores, Neal scores two, Marchessault scores. How’s that for a prediction? Caps score first, Vegas ties the game in the first. Caps take lead in second, Vegas scores two, empty net goal in third. Ovi and Kuz score for DC.”
Abbi Klein– Vegas wins 4-2
Abbi is absolutely convinced that the Caps are going to blow this 3-1 lead. She predicted the Caps were going to lose prior to the start of the series and she doubled down on that prediction just yesterday.
Alex Flum (ISP Podcast Guest)– Caps win 4-3 in OT
“Ovi scores the winner.”
It seems most of the staff is pretty convinced that this series is going to at least six games, and that the Caps are going to lose 4-2 tonight. I guess only time will tell. I know I will be on the edge of my seat and by the time it’s over I will be left with no fingernails. One thing is for sure, Game 5 is going to be a wild ride. Don’t forget to buckle up.