NHL: Why the Capitals are 2 wins away from reaching Stanley Cup Final

Are things finally setting up as ‘This being the year’ for the Washington Capitals?

The Capitals with a 6-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals have stormed out to a 2-0 series lead.

Washington taking both games in dominant fashion on the road has been even more impressive in doing it without second-line center Nicklas Backstrom.

This was supposed to be a series where the faster, more skilled Lightning team would prove to be too much for the Capitals.

Instead Washington is beating Tampa Bay at their own game.

The Capitals are excelling at the more skilled game and they’re playing faster than Tampa Bay, something many did not see coming in.

Washington has outscored Tampa Bay 7-2 during 5-on-5 play in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Still a ways to go but the Capitals are finally showing all the ingredients of a club putting it together at the right time to win a Stanley Cup:


Capitals best players have been great

Alex Ovechkin has looked possessed in trying to lead his club to a Stanley Cup. He has 10 goals, 9 assists in 14 games and has been a physical force to deal with.

Evgeny Kuznetsov is finally playing like a No. 1 franchise type center needs to in the postseason to win three or four rounds. He’s been even better than his stat line of 8 goals, 19 points in 14 games. Kuznetsov has 5 points in the series so far and 10 points in his last five playoff games.

Nicklas Backstrom prior to getting injured vs Pittsburgh had 13 points in 11 playoff games.

John Carlson was phenomenal in the Penguins series and that has continued vs Tampa Bay. Not only does Carlson have 14 points in the playoffs, he has been elite defensively.

Facing elite talent like Panarin, Crosby, Malkin, Stamkos, Kucherov so far this postseason, Carlson has been on the ice for just 5 goals against this postseason during 5-on-5 play.


Depth Scoring

The second-third level scoring for Capitals has also been at a level you have to get to win a Cup.

Lars Eller last postseason – 5 Points.
Lars Eller this postseason – 11 points.

T.J. Oshie 10 points in 14 games, Tom Wilson 9 points in 11 games, Jakub Vrana 2 goals, 6 points, Brett Connolly/Devante Smith-Pelly each have 3 goals, Jay Beagle/Chandler Stephenson each have 2 goals.

Beyond depth scoring, numbers that really stand out is how the Capitals lower level players have not been liabilities like previous playoff runs.

When the Brooks Orpik has been on the ice, the Capitals have outscored the opposition 10-4 during 5-on-5 play.


Goaltending

Braden Holtby who didn’t even start the playoffs as the Capitals starter, is 10-3 with a 2.04 GAA and .926 save percentage.

He’s right in the neighborhood of providing Stanley Cup winning goaltending based on past Cup winners:

2017 Postseason: Matt Murray .937 SV% | Marc Andre Fleury .924 SV%
2016 Postseason: Matt Murray .923 SV%
2015 Postseason: Corey Crawford .924 SV%

 

Jung Ho Kang to rejoin Pirates

Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang who has not played in the Majors since the 2016 season, has been granted a work-visa to re-enter the United States.

Kang, 31, will report to Bradenton and remains on the restricted list, per the Pirates.

STATEMENT FROM PIRATES PRESIDENT FRANK COONELLY

“After a lengthy process, we are pleased that Jung Ho has been allowed to re-enter the United States. We are encouraged by the steps that Jung Ho has taken to date and are hopeful that having the game he loves taken away from him for more than a year has driven home the reality that he must make better life decisions as we move forward together. As we have communicated to him throughout the process, we will work to provide Jung Ho with the resources and support necessary for him to meet the high expectations that we have for him as a member of our organization and our community.”

 

Draft Buzz: Baker Mayfield Going No. 1?

While USC’s Sam Darnold has been the consensus No. 1 pick for weeks due to being the safest pick the Cleveland Browns could make, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports on the morning of the draft there is a “mounting belief” around the league from head coaches and general managers that Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield will be the first overall pick.

Mayfield going No. 1 will send ripple effects to the top of the draft.

The Browns have had 28 different starting quarterbacks since 1999. Tyrod Taylor will be No. 29 to open the 2018 season and Mayfield the likely pick will certainly be No. 30 at some point in 18.

 

Round 2: Penguins – Capitals Series Schedule

Round 2 of the NHL Playoffs is Set:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Boston vs Tampa Bay

Pittsburgh vs Washington


WESTERN CONFERENCE

San Jose vs Vegas

Winnipeg vs Nashville


PENGUINS – CAPITALS ROUND 2 SCHEDULE
Game 1: Thursday April 26th, 7:00 p.m.
Game 2: Sunday April 29th, 3:00 p.m.
Game 3: Tuesday May 1, 7:30 p.m.
Game 4: Thursday May 3, 7:00 p.m.
Game 5: Saturday May 5, TBD
Game 6: Monday May 7, TBD
Game 7: Wednesday May 9, TBD