Only one series in the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs will play back-to-back contests: the Capitals and Bruins.
Games 5 and 6, as everyone well knows by now, are 24 hours apart on Saturday in Boston and Sunday in Washington. While both teams are accustomed to a busy schedule from the regular season, playing back-to-back and three games in four nights in the playoffs makes for a more compact pressure cooker.
“It’s a little different in the playoffs, isn’t it? I guess we’ve got to manage our game,” Dennis Wideman said. “Fatigue might come into play a little bit, so hopefully, we’re playing well and we can get good starts and get the lead and we can roll. If we get behind them, then we’ve got to shortening up our bench to get more of our offensive guys going a little bit, and that might come into play a little bit later on, so we’ve got to make good starts and everybody is playing well and we can just roll.”
Regardless of how Saturday’s contest turns out, one team will be on the brink of elimination on Sunday. In the span of these two days and games, one team could punch its ticket to the second round and the other could be booking tee times.
With all that at stake, Brooks Laich said that after the Capitals won on Thursday to force at least a six-game series, even with the schedule there’s no reason they shouldn’t be revved up.
“There should be no fatigue at all,” Laich said. “I know I’m waking up in the morning before my alarm with a smile on my face ready to play the hockey game. It’s a really enjoyable time. So just got to keep your focus and make sure you take care of yourself physically and also mentally get some rest, because it is a bit of a grind. But have some fun with it.”
Jay Beagle agreed with that assessment: “There’s no room for pacing yourself.”
For what it’s worth, in the regular season the Capitals went 7-4-2 in the first game of back to backs and 5-6-2 in the second.