In the first round, the Capitals held the Rangers to a paltry eight goals over the course of five games. While Washington is undoubtedly pleased with its defensive performance in the playoffs thus far, it also knows that the Lightning has more explosive offensive options than New York.
“They’ve got more game-breakers, for sure, than the Rangers have,” said Coach Bruce Boudreau. “They’ve definitely got more than Steven Stamkos. They’ve got [Martin] St. Louis, who’s one of the best players in the league again this year; [Vincent] Lecavalier almost had a bounce-back season, playing with more enthusiasm. A lot of their players really grew up and are pretty good.”
Tampa Bay’s offensive depth — six players scored at least two goals in the series against Pittsburgh, while seven more chipped in with one — will certainly pose a different challenge for the Capitals.
Washington does have the advantage of familiarity after six games against the Lightning this season, though, and they shouldn’t be caught off guard by anything one of their foes is capable of. From the skilled players like Stamkos, St. Louis, Lecavalier and Simon Gagne to the role-players and physical presences who also can put the puck in the net like Dominic Moore, Ryan Malone and Steve Downie, Tampa Bay has plenty of scoring options.
Not to mention that the Lightning sometimes dress only 11 forwards, electing to use seven defensemen, and rotate line combinations freely.
“They can change their lines, their first line can have tons of different players on it, and a lot of guys can play in those spots, so it’s going to be tough for us, especially in their building, to get the matchups that we want,” Karl Alzner said. “So it’s going to be about playing the systems. It’s not just John [Carlson] or me doing the job shutting guys down, it’s the forwards, the other D-pairs, it’s Neuvy. It doesn’t really matter who we get out against, we just have to play the way we’re supposed to play and hopefully it all falls into place.”
The Capitals did have regular-season success in limiting some of Tampa Bay’s larger threats, though. In six games between the two teams this season, Stamkos and St. Louis were each held without a point four times Lecavalier, who only played in five of the meetings, went scoreless three times.