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Round-Robin Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning

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Breaking down the matchup between the Caps and their first round-robin opponent

NHL: DEC 21 Lightning at Capitals Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2020 postseason will be unlike anything we’ve seen before, and it starts for the Caps on Monday when they kick off their round-robin tournament against the top teams in the Eastern Conference. And while the tournament merely determines seeding, the Caps will have their hands full with a trio of tough opponents.

First up? A Monday afternoon meeting against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Let’s break it all down.

Season Series: Caps 3-0

Playoff History

  • 2001 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Lightning win, 4-2
  • 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals: Lightning win, 4-0
  • 2018 Eastern Conference Finals: Capitals win, 4-3

Three Tampa Players to Watch

  • Nikita Kucherov: A guy who has scored at least 85 points in each of his last four seasons, and who has 23 points in 20 games against the Caps? Yeah, you probably want to keep an eye on him.
  • Ryan McDonagh: It wouldn’t be a postseason without the Caps getting to face blueliner McDonagh, first with the Rangers and now with the Bolts. He’s had the upper hand most of the time (and he’s done some regular-season damage against them, as well)... until 2018, that is.
  • Brayden Point: Only 14 players finished the 2018-19 season with at least 90 points, and Point is one of them. He was on track to come fairly close to that mark this past season, as well, before the NHL hit the pause button.

Key Injuries

Steven Stamkos - Stamkos has been sidelined since teams returned for training camp, and is questionable for the first round-robin game

Special Teams

  • Tampa power play: 23.1% (t-5th)
  • Capitals penalty kill: 82.6% (6th)
  • Tampa penalty kill: 81.4% (t-14th)
  • Capitals power play: 19.4% (17th)

Bottom Line

On paper, the Lightning are probably better, deeper team than the Caps. After some early-season blues (perhaps a bit of a hangover from that little first-round sweep the previous spring) they started to hit their stride and were starting to look like the Tampa juggernaut of seasons past when everything came to a stop.

Still, the Caps have always matched up pretty well against the Bolts - or at least they have in recent years (do we need to bring up 2018 again? Yes) - and never seem to be intimidated by them. In a one-game matchup (and with the Caps continuing to have the physical edge over Tampa), that can only work to their advantage.

So... who you got?