We are down to the Final 4 in the NHL playoffs and this year we have 4 new teams in the conference finals and 3 of the 4 teams did not even make the playoffs last year. For me, that is very exciting to see new teams and get to know new players. The Washington Capitals were finally able to defeat their nemesis, the 2-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins and after losing the first game at home, the Tampa Bay Lighting won 4 in a row versus a very good Boston Bruins team.
This is a familiar spot for Tampa Bay as the Lightning return to the conference finals for the 3rd time in the last 4 years and the Capitals are making their first appearance here since 1998. Now that the monkey is finally off their backs maybe this is the year the Capitals can win their first Stanley Cup.
Series Odds: Tampa Bay -200/Washington +170
Odds to win 2018 Stanley Cup Champion (5dimes)
Friday, May 11, 8 p.m.: Capitals @ Lightning
Sunday, May 13, 8 p.m.: Capitals @ Lightning
Tuesday, May 15, 8 p.m.: Lightning @ Capitals
Thursday, May 17, 8 p.m.: Lightning @ Capitals
*Saturday, May 19, 7:15 p.m.: Capitals @ Lightning
*Monday, May 21, 8 p.m.: Lightning @ Capitals
*Wednesday, May 23, 8 p.m.: Capitals @ Lightning
Both teams have plenty of guys that can put the puck in the net but the depth of Washington is an issue and I would give a slight edge to Tampa Bay. But defense is where the lightning have the real advantage as they held the high scoring Bruins in check. Over the last 4 games against Boston, the top scoring line of Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak were held scoreless. If the Lightning are able to do the same to the Capitals top line of Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Wison this will be a short series.
Advantage: Tampa Bay
Both power play units have been very good this postseason with Washington ranking second at 30.9% and Tampa Bay fourth at 26.3%. Buth the difference has been on the penalty kill where Tampa Bay ranked 28th in the regular season at 76.1% and have been worse this postseason at 74.2%. If the Lightning find themselves killing a lot of penalties this series, they could be in big trouble.
Braden Holtby has been fantastic this postseason after an underwhelming regular season. His save percentage has risen from .904 in the regular season to .926 in the playoffs and his GAA has also improved from 2.99 to 2.06. Andrei Vasilevsky wasn’t all that busy in the last series but has also performed better in the playoffs after admitting to being fatigued over the last few weeks of the regular season. This is a matchup Holtby has to win if the Capitals want to reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
I have been on the Capitals since the playoffs started and I’m not getting off now. I think the power play and Braden Holtby will be the difference as the Caps advance to represent the eastern conference in the Stanley Cup finals. I look forward to cashing that futures ticket on the Wshington Capitals at +550. If I didn’t have that wager I would be on Washington +170. The series odds should be much closer to even in this series as I could see it going either way so I will take the underdog. Caps in 6