Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Playoffs Series Preview & Prediction
Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Playoffs Series Preview & Prediction

Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning | NHL Playoffs Preview & Pick

Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Playoffs Series  Odds:

Tampa Bay Lightning (-190)
Washington Capitals (+165)
Betting Odds courtesy of BetDSI Sportsbook

Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Playoffs Series
Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Playoffs Series

The Washington Capitals will face The Tampa Bay Lightning as the NHL’s  Eastern Conference Playoff continues, starting on Friday May 11th, and continuing through Wednesday May 23, if 7 games are needed.  The Lightning are -190 favorites to win the series with Washington at +165.

Washington Capitals (+165)

The Washington Capitals knocked the monkey off their backs and killed the giant dragon when they put down the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now, the Capitals have to come back down to earth and get back to work in order to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. As the best Eastern Conference team throughout the season, Tampa Bay is a pretty sizable favorite to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2015. The Capitals are hoping to achieve that feat for the first time since 1998.

Braden Holtby has really been a postseason savior for the Capitals. After a lackluster regular season that was bad enough to put Philipp Grubauer in the net for Games 1 and 2 of the series against Columbus, Holtby has gone 8-3 with a 2.04 GAA and a .926 SV% in the postseason. He’s going to have to be that good or better for the Capitals to have a real strong chance in this series. Nicklas Backstrom missed the clinching game against the Penguins with a hand injury. He should be able to go in Game 1 on Friday night, but Backstrom’s most important attributes are stickhandling, passing the puck, and winning faceoffs. All three of those things are a real challenge with a beat-up hand. At least Alex Ovechkin has gotten it going in these playoffs with eight goals and seven assists. Evgeny Kuznetsov also has 14 points.

The weaknesses of this Washington team are all on the back end. The defensemen are okay, but not stellar, and goaltending has been an issue. The Lightning excel at playing keep away, which means that the Washington defenders will be under heavy pressure all series long. Washington has 24 goals at 5-on-5 in these playoffs, but has also allowed 20. The Capitals don’t rate nearly as well as Tampa Bay in just about every category. The biggest hope is if Holtby can outshine Vasilevskiy by a large enough margin.

Tampa Bay Lightning (-190)

The Tampa Bay Lightning organization played its inaugural season during the 1992-93 campaign and won a Cup in 2004. The Washington Capitals organization began play during the 1974-75 season and has never hoisted the Stanley Cup. Along with the fact that Tampa Bay is simply the better team, Washington has to avoid a letdown. It is nearly inconceivable to think about such an angle this deep into the playoffs, but the Capitals finally got past the second round and beat Pittsburgh to do it. The bigger prize is still out there, but that was a seriously huge hurdle the Capitals made it over.

Tampa Bay entered the playoffs as the best 5-on-5 team in hockey. Only Las Vegas has a higher 5-on-5 goal differential in this year’s postseason. The Lightning play an elite puck control style under head coach Jon Cooper and it is really no surprise that they are here. It really boiled down to how well Andrei Vasilevskiy was able to play and he has answered the call so far. Nikita Kucherov had 100 points during the regular season, with a team-leading total of 39 goals, and Steven Stamkos quietly racked up 86 points. Three other players had at least 60 points.

Tampa Bay is 8-2 in the playoffs. The two losses were rather lopsided, with 5-2 and 6-2 defeats, but the Bolts have looked like the team that rolled through the regular season. The power play has been pretty good at 26.3 percent, but the penalty kill has been awful at 74.2 percent. Fortunately, the Lightning have only allowed 12 5-on-5 goals in 10 games. Their puck possession metrics were exceptional during the regular season and continue to be in the playoffs. That is one of the many reasons why they are such a comfortable favorite here. Additionally Vasilevskiy has been better in the playoffs than he was in the regular season.

 

Pick & Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning (-190)  in 6 games

Washington really needs the puck and really needs to generate power play opportunities. Those opportunities are going to be few and far between in this series. In Washington’s defense, Tampa Bay played Boston, a team with some key defensive injuries, and New Jersey, the weakest team in the playoffs. So, the Capitals probably stand more of a chance than the numbers indicate. That being said, Washington’s defensemen are a concern outside of Carlson. Tampa Bay’s xGA/60 at 5-on-5 in these playoffs is just 1.52 goals per regulation time. Washington is up over 2.00. That will likely be the deciding factor in this series, unless the Capitals get an insane amount of power play time.

 

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About Rob Schwartz

Rob Schwartz has been a writer, video, and media producer of entertainment and sports news for over 20 years. Rob's strengths lie in clean and clear writing to create interesting stories and clarify difficult to understand topics. Feel free to contact Rob regarding stories or production requests.

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