1. Take a quick look at something...
Desperation. You can’t fake it. And if you don’t match your opponent’s intensity this time of year, there’s a good chance that you’re not going to come out on top.
“They played like it could be their last game and we played like it might be our last game or it might not be.”
Tonight might be the Golden Knights’ last game and you can bet that they’re going to play like it. And it might be the Caps’ last game or it might not be. But if they play that way, the commensurate result will probably follow. If so, the Caps will regret having botched the opportunity to close out their opponent when they had ‘em down. Just ask Jon Cooper, Steven Stamkos and the rest of the Lightning — those are their quotes following Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final. And we all know what happened the rest of the way in that series.
Except... it isn’t.
2. Was that a little intense? Maybe. Anyway, yeah, the Caps can win the Stanley Cup tonight. Pretty cool. And the Caps have had a knack for closing series out on the road (sorry not sorry, D.C.-area Caps fans):
They’ve also been (credit to the coaching staff) particularly strong on the back-end of their three previous series:
In Games 5-7 in series this spring, Washington is 6-1, lone loss coming in Game 5 of the Tampa series. 4-0 in Games 6 and 7.— Ted Starkey (@TedStarkey) June 6, 2018
That’ll be cold comfort, should the Caps go with Plan B tonight, but... yeah, no “but” — win tonight.
By my math, Braden Holtby in elimination games (for either team) so far this postseason: 4-0/0.98/.964/2 SO. 109 saves on 113 shots against.#Brademption— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) June 7, 2018
3. The Caps’ shot-blocking efforts over the last couple of games has drawn a lot of attention and praise (and even before Game 4):
Great quote by Holtby on the importance of lanes while attempting to block shots. pic.twitter.com/ePGIjP4APk— Joel Gauthier (@TendyCoach) June 4, 2018
Further to my previous tweet on shot blocking lanes, here's an example of WSH doing a great job of staying in the "inside lanes". As the puck goes D-to-D, notice the route that the shot blocker takes to remain in that "inside" lane.... https://t.co/xsvstVp3vX— Joel Gauthier (@TendyCoach) June 5, 2018
But what do we always say about blocking a lot of shots? That’s right — it only happens when the other team is taking a lot of shots... and that ain’t good. To wit, the Golden Knights’ five-on-five shot attempt rate over the last two games has been the fifth- and ninth- highest against the Caps this postseason (fourth- and eighth- if you look at all situations).
Bottom line here — you can believe in the Caps’ ability to get in lanes and staying out of Braden Holtby’s sightlines and so on and still think they’re giving up way too many chances. Or at least just the latter.