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Insider Only Round 2: Will this year finally be different for the Capitals?

Penguins – Capitals Meet Again in Round 2

With a 6-3 win in Game 6 over the Columbus Blue Jackets Monday night, the Washington Capitals won four straight to punch their ticket to another second-round matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Will this year be any different?

Everyone knows the history…….

The Penguins have won nine of 10 series vs the Capitals and are 3-0 in the Sidney Crosby era with the Capitals losing two Game 7’s on home-ice by a combined 8-2 score.

Last year seemed like the year the Capitals should have finally got the job done.

Pittsburgh was without their No. 1 goaltender, No. 1 defenseman and even lost Sidney Crosby to injury for Game 4.

Yet in Penguins fashion when these two teams get together, Pittsburgh won Game 4 without Crosby to go up 3-1 in the series, then lost control of the series as the Capitals pounded Pittsburgh in Games 5-6 with the Capitals doing Capitals things in choking on home-ice in Game 7 with a 2-0 loss and being lifeless in the third period of Game 7 when trailing 2-0.

This year feels like it again where if the Capitals are not going to knock off a vulnerable Penguins team in the Alex Ovechkin Era, it may never happen……

— While the Blue Jackets are still a club learning how to win, the Capitals showed a lot in Round 1 in dealing with adversity to win four straight that included two overtime wins (Games 3 & 5) and two dominant wins (Games 4 & 6).

Alex Ovechkin who gets bad a rap in the playoffs because of his teams’ lack of success come postseason, was great in Round 1 with 5 goals (8 pts), including 2 goals in Game 6, 34 shots on goal/65 attempts in the series and was at 57% in Scoring Chance For%. He’s going to be a factor in Round 2, the Penguins know it.

The bigger question marks surround others among the Capitals core that will dictate whether they finally solve the Penguins.

— A big development for the Capitals was Braden Holtby regaining the net in Game 3 and looking like the Vezina caliber goaltender he is paid to be.

Holtby went 4-0 with a .932 save percentage in the series.

Yet, what tipped the scales for the Capitals against the Blue Jackets was the center advantage.

Nicklas Backstrom, 2 goals and 6 assists, while Evgeny Kuznetsov with 4 goals and 4 assists was a major matchup problem for CBJ.

Matt Murray has won Two Stanley Cups, has never lost a playoff series, yet, there still seems to be a large faction of the fan base and local/national media who feel he still needs to prove something this series.

All of the pressure is on Braden Holtby not Murray.

On a sidebar, it’s nice to see a traditional media outlet actually come to the defense of Murray for once as Jason Mackey of the Post-Gazette did in today’s paper, explaining why Murray doesn’t get enough respect.

Holtby has a Penguins problem that is one of the top storylines in this series on whether that continues or not.

Braden Holtby vs Penguins in 2017 Playoffs: 3-4, .887 SV%

Braden Holtby vs Penguins in 2017-2018 Regular Season: 1-2, .897 SV%

Injuries entering the series, more so on Pittsburgh’s end will be a factor.

For Pittsburgh, it’s the health of Evgeni Malkin and a lesser extent Carl Hagelin who has a Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

Aside the Capitals having to get the goaltending from Holtby, I look at three players who will sway this series for Washington in either direction:

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About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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