Tonight, the Washington Capitals head to Florida where they will take on the president trophy winning Panthers for Game 5. After an up and down series for both teams, the series is currently tied at 2 a piece, after a 3-2 overtime victory in favor of Florida on Monday night. That game got Capitals fans like me disappointed, after Garnett Hathaway’s missed empty net shot which would have ended the hockey game. However, tonight brings us 3 key questions. Will Tom Wilson play after a lower body injury in Game 1? Will Alex Ovechkin starting playing to the abilities he’s capable of? Will Sergei Bobrovsky fold like he has in all odd number games of this series or will he play very solid in net? Those 3 questions, and a prediction will be answered!
For Washington, they will most likely be missing Tom Wilson who despite flying with the team to Florida, did not participate in the morning skate. Even without one of their All Stars, Washington still has a chance to get a win this game. If I’m Peter Laviolette, I would plan a very similar game plan to what they did in Game 4 despite a loss. Making hits at the blue-lines is a very important factor. The advantage Florida has is speed and athleticism over Washington and giving the Panthers open space on the ice to operate is not a good idea. Also, get off to any early start and don’t make penalties. Washington would not have not blown their 2-1 lead last game if they had time to extend it or keep their players energized. But they didn’t! Florida had not 1 or 2 but 3 power plays in the 2nd period. If Washington can get off to that early start and not make penalties, this game should go to the road team.
I think Alex Ovechkin will step up, making this game a fun one. Washington may also win if they can improve on their power play. After countless chances with a 2 minute man advantage, Washington went scoreless on their power plays and has not done a great job on it all season. Their power play unit ranked 23rd in the NHL during the regular season, despite All Stars Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov running the show.
Speaking of power plays, Florida can now take more risks knowing that Washington’s power play has had trouble operating. Especially if their down, Florida has to take risks using their speed and athleticism, which again is their main advantage on the Caps. If I’m coach Burnett, taking risks is more important, even if it means sacrificing penalties, considering they have an okay penalty kill unit. I would extend this game as long as possible if I’m Florida, even if that means going to overtime. When it comes to quickness of being able to score, Florida has the advantage. They also should give Washington open space, since unlike themselves, the Caps do a much better job at one timers and slap shots than they do in a fast pace, back and fourth offense games.
I think Sergei Bobrovsky will have his inconsistent moments as he usually has, and will not have an amazing night in net overall.
This is going to be a competitive game. The winner of the series is going to be 1 game away from moving onto the 2nd round. For Florida it would be their 1st time in the Quarter-Final since 2012 and for the Caps it would be their 1st time since their Stanley Cup championship year in 2018. I personally have Washington winning this game. I think their aggressiveness, strategy and talent is good enough to beat a young, gritty Panthers team. However, no matter how it goes, I expect it to be a fun one.