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The Morning Narrative: No Panic, Top Line Shines and Sid’s Melon

Three things we’re talking about this morning when we’re talking about the Caps

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

1. As the saying goes, it’s darkest before the dawn. And before you respond with some “well, actually” Neil deGrasse Tyson quote (sure,the darkest part of any night is the midpoint between sunset and sunrise; whatever), the point here is that the Caps have twice now fought off elimination and made this series a best-of-one at Verizon Center on Wednesday night. Meanwhile, it’s a field day for fans of post-hoc narratives about mental fortitude... which isn’t to say that hasn’t played a part.

And now...

Indeed they are favored:

That said...

Pretty close, Geno.

Anything can happen in a Game 7... and it often does.

2. So how’d Game 6 - when it was still a competitive game - end up so lopsided?

The Caps’ top line and top defensive pair were simply terrific, particularly in their primary matchups against Sidney Crosby (more on him in a minute):

via Natural Stat Trick

Each of the Caps’ skaters who faced Crosby for more than three minutes at five-on-five beat him pretty handily in shot attempts and scoring chances (which, it’s worth noting, wasn’t the case with regards to Malkin). Speaking of...

(Yes, that was on the power play. Deal.)

There’s your top line. Here they are again:

If the hockey world didn’t know who Andre Burakovsky was before last night, they sure do now.

But it wasn’t a one-line or five-man effort. No, that doesn’t happen when you hold the League’s highest-scoring (and -shooting) club to nine shots on goal until you’re up 3-0 just over two periods into the game.

The Caps simply had a perfect game plan and executed it perfectly... and got commensurate results.

Oh, and Braden Holtby was, once again, Braden Holtby. Don’t sleep on that.

3. When Sidney Crosby was in the Pens’ lineup for Game 5, a number of commenters and fans wondered if he and the Penguins were taking his concussion diagnosis following Game 3 seriously enough. Game 6 did nothing to quiet those queries, as Crosby took a nasty head-long spill into the end boards, got up slowly and... really didn’t miss a shift.

Look, we’re not here to question the Pens’ medical staff - there are already enough people out there perfectly willing to do so. But whether or not Crosby is experiencing lingering effects from his Game 3 concussion or some other ailment or is perfectly healthy, he hasn’t been the same player in the last two games as he was in the first two. And maybe, just maybe, the Caps deserve some credit for that, too. They haven’t shied away from being physical with the Pens’ captain, and perhaps it’s thrown him off his game a bit:

If the Caps can lure Sid and, for that matter the rest of the Pens, into engaging, physically, they’ve achieved one of their goals, and it makes it easier to achieve the rest (and if the referees allow the stuff in the clip above, all the better for Washington). The Caps have managed not only a massive shot advantage in this series (200-133 in shots on goal, 423-270 in shot attempts, per Corsica), but also a huge edge in hits, out-hitting Pittsburgh 215-159. That’s a rare combination, and no doubt exactly what Barry Trotz wants.

Eh, agree to disagree.