|Get in the man's head. Please.|
Summary of Season Series: The Caps won the season series 4-1-1, and outscored the Bolts 19-8 in the process, but two of those wins were blowouts that came without Dwayne Roloson in net for Tampa. Roloson shut out the Caps twice in his first two starts against them, but allowed four goals in one loss and then a single goal in a shootout loss. Overall, it was a very evenly matched series, and the Caps need to be ready to bring their A game. Like, really bring it.
By Positions: The Lightning and the Capitals are pretty even up top; Tampa is able to counter the star power of Alex Ovechkin and company with Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and other top-flight offensive players. If Mike Knuble is missing for an extended period of time, however, this matchup swings more in their favor. The Capitals hold a distinct advantage on defense, where they are younger and more dynamic, especially with John Carlson and Karl Alzner. In goal, the Lightning have a slight advantage, as Dwayne Roloson is playing very well right now; he esentially stole that series from the Penguins. Michal Neuvirth is obviously playing brilliantly as well, but Roloson has never lost an elimination game in his career.
Key Player: You knew it was going to be Roloson. Tampa Bay's star goaltender is at the top of his game right now, and he faced over 240 shots in round one. He's not a pretty goalie, but his reflexes are ridiculous and he always finds a way to stop the puck. He shut out the Caps in two of his four starts against them this season and allowed one goal in another. Washington has to make him work, just like the Penguins did, and get in his face, making him frustrated and rattled. If he gets in a groove early, much like Henrik Lundqvist, it is going to be very hard for Washington to watch, because he will steal a series. He's done it his whole career.
Key Matchup: Washington forwards on the Tampa Bay fefense. This may sound very broad, but hear me out. With the exception of Victor Hedman, the Lightning defense is older and much slower than Washington's; they don't have a Mike Green or a John Carlson type player. If the Caps are able to set up their forecheck well and establish good offensive zone pressure, they should be able to wear down the Tampa blue line and get good open looks because of it. Offensive zone pressure will not only get the Caps chances, but it will prevent the Lightning's awesome transition attack from getting too many good rushes off poor zone entries.
Game one is Friday night at 7.