The Washington Capitals are in Game 7: Uh-Oh

The Washington Capitals should have won Game 6 in their Stanley Cup Quarterfinal series with the New York Islanders – instead of losing it 3-1. A win for the Caps Saturday would have spared their fan base from the upcoming Game 7 at the Verizon Center, and that fan base knows what I’m talking about. Since their inception, the Capitals are 2-7 at home in Game 7 Stanley Cup playoff showdowns and are 1-4 at home since 2008.

However, that was then and this is now. Sort of. A lot of the players taking the ice Monday night have not played in a Game 7 with the Caps; but Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, Mike Green, goaltender Braden Holtby and others all have. And sometimes, it’s not pretty – as in their ugly 5-0 loss at home in Game 7 of their second round series against the New York Rangers in 2013.

Ovechkin’s Take on Game 7

Capitals Game 7
The Caps need a way to rattle Jaroslav Halak in Game 7 (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

For his part, Ovechkin is staying optimistic about the Capitals’ chances.

“It’s going to be a seventh game Monday and it’s going to be fun,” said the Capitals’ superstar captain. “I think our fans are going to give us very good confidence.”

Holtby, who was in goal for the 5-0 loss against the Rangers two year ago, was similarly positive.

“We regroup and play the same game that we did in Game 5,” Holtby said, referring to his team’s 5-1 dismantling of the Islanders in the current series. “I don’t think we were tight enough defensively [in Game 6]. We had our chances, and we will have to make sure we have some heroes in Game 7.”

The Capitals must step things up a bit Monday or the recent trend of home-ice Game 7 horror shows may continue. Holtby currently shines in goal, but he needs a little help from his friends. Sometimes, the hard-hitting Caps’ defenders are so busy hitting they forget to keep an eye on the puck. The blue-liners must focus in Game 7, and it wouldn’t hurt for them to push forward and take a few more shots on goal.

Re-invent the Power Play

The Capitals need to experiment a little more on their power play too. The Islanders know exactly what to expect on the Caps’ man-advantage, because it’s the same setup each and every game – in the regular season and the postseason. After leading the NHL with their power play percentage, the Capitals sit at 15.4% in that department in the postseason. If they re-invent their power play for Game 7 – they will win the game.

Braden Holtby Capitals Game 7
Braden Holtby made 35 saves in Game 6 (Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Islanders’ defense is beaten up and inexperienced, and Washington must exploit that Monday. New York is wisely not giving their fill-in youngsters (Matt Donovan, Scott Mayfield and Griffin Reinhart) much ice time, but when these young defensemen are playing, the Caps need to get in their faces and force errors. They didn’t do that enough in Game 6. We saw how Donovan was easily rattled Saturday, and his inexperience showed when he rough-housed the referee for a 10-minute misconduct penalty.

Ultimately, the Capitals are perfectly capable of dispatching the Islanders and changing the recent history of Game 7 catastrophes. They need a varied power play, a focused performance from their D-men, and (of course) the offensive stars must shine. Oh, and they need Islanders’ goaltender Jaroslav Halak to have a bad day at the office – or – it’s 2010 all over again. Halak stood on his head that year for the Montreal Canadiens to help beat the Capitals in … Game 7 … at the Verizon Center.