Can the Caps regain their form for the playoffs?
The Caps huge lead in the playoff race has been deadly to their performance in the last two months. Their record is better than their performance. Can the Caps regain their form for the playoffs? As Coach Barry Trotz and others have stated, it is not that easy to turn it on for the playoffs after playing lackluster hockey for the two months before the playoffs.
The Caps play against good teams does not inspire confidence that they will last long in hockey’s second season. The Pittsburgh Penguins beat them by 4 goals in a 2-6 loss on March 20th. The St. Louis Blues pasted them for a 0-4 loss at home. They rarely beat the San Jose Sharks and continued that tradition on March 12th in a 2-5 loss.
Alex Ovechkin, with 2 goals and 3 assists in his last 11 games, is not producing at his usual scoring pace although he may still be nursing that nagging injury. Evgeny Kuznetsov is on a 4 game goal scoring drought and had a minus-4 performance in Pittsburgh, which followed his 3 assist night versus the Nashville Predators.
Dmitry Orlov needs to mature in a hurry. His outlet pass that turned into a giveaway against the Blue Jackets is an example of the little stuff he needs to clean up. Those types of plays will get the Caps scored on in the playoffs.
T.J. Oshie is a critical component of this Caps team. He is the Energizer Bunny as Ovie says. He plays the game with an intensity that gets the rest of the Caps going. When he was out with flu like symptoms the prior two games against the New Jersey Devils and the St. Louis Blues, it was easy to see how much he is missed. The Caps need him at 100% throughout the playoffs.
Thankfully, John Carlson is back. He netted the game winner his first game back. It is obvious when Carlson is on the ice because the outlet passes out of the defensive zone are much stronger and get the Caps to the other side of the ice. The Caps need him to stay healthy.
The Caps have performed better in the first period in the last few games and won tonight against the 15th place Eastern Conference team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, which means they won it the Presidents' trophy. They also won it in 2010 and then bowed out in the first round. They need to remember that and keep getting in shape for the playoffs.
Let’s go Caps!