Obviously, the Capitals win Saturday was huge. It put them through to the second round for only the second time since their trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998. It was also the first playoff series in the Ovechkin/Boudreau era to be settled without having to go the full seven games. The Capitals have played four seven-game playoff series in the past three years. It’ll be nice for the Caps to have the extra time off to rest and heal for a change.
As we wait to see who the Capitals will face in the Conference Semifinals, I want to highlight what I think is a huge change from series from the past three years: The Capitals went 3-1 against the Rangers when they held the series lead. Over the four series in 2008-2010, the Capitals went 2-5 in games where they held the series lead. That’s pretty bad. It gets even worse when you realize that both of those wins came early in their respective series. The Caps won game #2 against the Penguins in ’09 to take a 2-0 series lead. Last year, they won game #3 against the Canadiens to take a 3-1 series lead. In both of those series, the Capitals proceeded to lose the next three games. They eventually lost both series.
So when the Caps lost game 3 and we’re down 3-0 at the start of the 3rd period in game 4, it certainly seemed as if the Capitals we’re going to choke away another series lead like they had the past two years. Instead, they came out for the third period and played like their backs were against the wall. And while the Capitals’ have sucked at defending a series lead, they have played very well well when facing elimination – 6-3 to be exact in the past three years.
If the new-and-improved Caps can combine their traditional talent of playing from behind in the series with the ability to
drive nails into coffins win games when they have the series lead, the Capitals will be a very hard team to beat this year.