Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semis: Capitals-Lightning Series Preview

2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
Eastern Conference Semifinals
#1 Washington Capitals vs #5 Tampa Bay Lightning
Friday, April 29, 2011-Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Best of seven series format, 2-2-1-1-1
Series odds: Capitals -175 / Lightning +155
Series Schedule (all times Eastern)

Friday, April 29 at Washington, 7:00 p.m. VERSUS, TSN
Sunday, May 1 at Washington, 7:00 p.m. VERSUS, CBC
Tuesday, May 3 at Tampa Bay, TBD VERSUS, TSN
Wednesday, May 4 at Tampa Bay, 7:00 p.m. TSN
*Saturday, May 7 at Washington, 12:30 p.m. NBC, TSN
*Monday, May 9 at Tampa Bay, TBD VERSUS, TSN
*Wednesday, May 11 at Washington, TBD VERSUS, TSN
Southeast Division foes Washington and Tampa Bay meet in the Eastern Conference semifinals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

If you like a lot of scoring and superstars in your hockey then this series is for you. Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicholas Backstrom, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, and Vincent LeCavalier will all be on the ice in this series. These two Southeast division foes know each other very well. Washington won 5 of the 6 regular season meetings, 2 in overtime or shootout. Three of Washington’s wins were by 3 goals or more.

To get to this match-up, Washington beat the #8 seeded New York Rangers in 5 games. Last year Washington was also the 1 seed but lost in 7 games to the Canadiens. In fact before the series against the Rangers, the Capitals had played 4 straight playoff series that went the full 7. It was a relief for the Caps to finish off a team that they should beet in such a quick manner. The Caps ahve tended to underachieve in the playoffs, and have not reached The Conference Finals since 1998. They have an excellent chance this year but can’t overlook a dangerous Lightning team. Against the Rangers, the Capitals showed some grit by winning two games in overtime and two more by only two goals. In game 4, the Caps were down 3-0 before they came back and won in overtime 4-3. If the Rangers would have won that game the series would have been tied at 2-2 and it would have been a completely different series. The Capitals finished them off in game 4 with a 3-1 victory at home.

Tampa Bay was down 3 games to 1 against Pittsburgh in the first round. Many people thought Tampa had a chance to pull off the mild upset since the Penguins were playing without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Lighting stormed back to win the series by winning the last 3 games. Impressively, 3 of their 4 wins occured in Pittsburgh. Goalie Dwayne Roloson acquired from the Islanders at the trade deadline was brilliant in game 7¬† with 36 saves in the Lightning’s 1-0 victory. you might remember Roloson from a few year ago when he led the Oilers to an improbable Stanley Cup Finals run against the Hurricanes. The Oilers lost that series in 7 games, but Roloson was injured in the first game against Carolina and didn’t play the rest of the series. With Wednesday’s victory, Roloson improved to 6-0 in playoff elimination games in his career.

Left Wing Alexander Ovechkin has 6 points so far in the playoffs, including 3 goals to lead the team in both categories. Defenseman Mike Green has 5 points and 4 assists to lead the Caps. Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson, and Alexander Semin have 4 points so far during the playoffs. During the Playoffs young netminder Michael Neuvirth has been simply brilliant. In his first year starting for the Caps, he only allowed 8 goals in 5 games against the Rangers. He has a GAA OF 1.38 during the playoffs and a .946 save percentage. and 1 shutout. He played every minute of the Rangers series. He will be tested a whole lot more against Tampa Bay because they are much better offensively than the defensive minded Rangers. So Far Washington is scoring 2.60 goals a game during the playoffs and giving up 1.60 goals a game. The Caps only have 2 power play goals in the playoffs so far in 9 tries. They only allowed 1 power play goal to the Rangers.

Nine Lightning players have at least 4 points in the playoffs, led by Martin St. Louis with 8 points and 4 goals. Right Wing Steve Downie has 7 points and 6 assists to lead Tampa Bay. Simon Gagne also has 7 points with 5 assists. Vincent LaCavalier has 6 points. Teddy Purcell and Eric Brewer both have 5 points. Roloson has been stellar in the net with a 1.77 GAA and a .949 save percentage. Tampa bay is scoring 3.14 goals a game and giving up 2 goals a game so far in the playoffs. Tampa Bay scored 8 power play goals against Pittsburgh for a 29.6% success rate. The Lightning have allowed only 1 power play goal in the playoffs and even have a shorthanded goal.

Though Washington has had some success against Tampa Bay this year, the Capitals tend to underachieve in the playoffs. However this Washington team might be different as they are much better at defense and goaltending. The Capitals must slow down the Lightning’s lethal power play. I think this will be a close series. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Lightning pulled off the upset, but I will take the Capitals.


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