Bolts @ Caps: Game 3

Alright, alright, I know I’m late with this. The thing is, I have to go to work all day and make a paycheque, then work on this. I love doing this, but without employment both me and Trev wouldn’t be able to do this at all.

I was busy during the first period, doesn’t matter what I was doing (I just forgot to put the game on) but I tuned in at the start of the second. 1-0 Bolts, nothing other than a PP one-timer from Holtby’s right. Steven Stamkos. I saw the replay, that thing had eyes, and Holtby’s eyes had no clue where it went.

Early second, Lars Eller makes a bad move and closes his hand on the puck. Tampa powerplay. Smell that? I know you smell that. Pass to Hedman on the point, pass to the left of Holtby for a one-timer from the other danger. Nikita Kucherov. 2-0 Tampa, and even if they hadn’t scored, that power play would have scared the Capitals. Constant pressure. But that’s what Tampa does, they score on the powerplay. Stop giving them powerplays.

Less than two minutes later, puck ends up in the Caps corner for what looks like will be the beginning of more TBL pressure. Before any extended time hemming the guys in red in their own zone, the puck pops out of the corner to Kucherov, who looks like hes going to shoot – Holtby bit, I bit, I think every person in the arena bit – but he dishes to a streaking Hedman who one times it from the hash marks into a wide open net. Washington looked lost at this point, building got quiet, and you could see the face of Barry Trotz turn the same colour as the Washington home jerseys as he blew a gasket on the bench at his team.

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Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post

I was discussing this with Trev during the game. I posed the question “at which point do you just put a man on the one-timer threats for the entire penalty kill, and instead of playing 4-on-5, that takes out one player for them as a threat and you’re now down to 3-on-4 for the rest of the ice. Or if you’re playing Tampa, man-on-man Stamkos and Kucherov to eliminate the one times, play 2-on-3.” Covering Tampa is a little harder, 2 defenders on three attackers I imagine is very difficult, but it can’t be worse than the utter domination you’re seeing right now if you’re the Capitals. I’m not a coach, but at this point I might try that.

Brett Connolly. That’s the guy who’s going to give the Capitals hope? Guy is out here looking like Ovie, takes his own one timer and puts it by Vasilevskiy. Now, this didn’t have the heat of a Stamkos/Kucherov/Ovechkin shot, but it got the job done and he was in roughly the same area of the ice. The building is alive. The crowd is into it! For 5 minutes and 32 seconds.

Because at that point, on a seemingly broken play in front of Holtby, a bouncing puck in the legs of four players lands in front of Braden Point who smacks it between a Capitals legs and by the netminder. This was a good play by Point but a very stoppable puck. Bad look on Holtby, 4-1 Tampa, and everything is quiet again.

At this time in the game I’m thinking two things. First, as much as I want Washington to succeed (just one cup for Ovie), I can’t just expect the Bolts to roll over, there has to be some pushback, and that is what we saw last night. Second, as a Leafs fan, do I really think our team has what it takes to surpass these two teams? Can I honestly propose to anyone that our defense could prevent these one times if the top penalty killers from the Caps and the Lightning can’t stop each other? Bluntly, the answer is no. These teams would steamroll the Leafs. Honestly this is another topic for another article, maybe one I could throw in some of the reactions to Gardiner’s poor play in game 7 against Boston, both rational and outrageous.

In the third, Washington gets another. Oshie enters the slot, looks like he is going to shoot, but he spies a wide open Kuznetsov to Vasy’s left, close to the goal line. Vasilevskiy has committed to Oshie, and Timothy Jimothy realizes it, moves the puck to Kuznetsov, who receives, pauses, and fires the puck top corner far side. The crazy thing about this is that Vasy almost got it.

That’s a screen grab I took from the NHL app. Do you see the puck slightly above Vasilevskiy’s mitt? Well, it goes in. Before the pass was made, Vasy was squared up almost facing the camera that took this replay. I’ve seen some blaming of the young Bolts goaltender for games one and two, but do you not remember this save? Or similarly, this one? Stop. I don’t want to hear any of that garbage.

4-2 would be as close as the Capitals would come. Jon Cooper was asked some ridiculous question in the post game. Something along the lines of “if you had the choice, would you start off a series on the road and give up home ice? I mean as the coach of the team with more points, would you prefer that? Because the home team has lost every game in this series.” The response from Cooper was much more rational than mine. I can’t believe you could cover NHL hockey and propose this, especially after only three games. I was losing my mind when I heard that.

This was an exciting game, makes this an exciting series, and tonight we have a thriller in Jets/Knights. I love the playoffs

– Bob Zagozewski

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