The Caps’ Playoff X Factors

Posted April 17, 2019

(Caps Outsider)

The race for the 2019 Stanley Cup has been blown wide open with the hockey world stunned by Columbus’s upset of the President’s Trophy winning Tampa Bay Lightning. The same night, playoff regulars the Pittsburgh Penguins were bundled out by the Barry Trotz-led New York Islanders. The favorites are tumbling and brackets are in disarray, but the Capitals are still in the hunt on their quest for back to back championships. So what do the Capitals need to do to capture that X-Factor that was so prominent in the 2018 cup run?

The Capitals are currently locked in a battle with the feisty and fast paced Carolina Hurricanes who many thought would be an easy first round match up. The first two games of the series proved to be a grind with the Capitals taking a 2-0 series lead with a 4-2 victory in Game 1 and a tight 4-3 Overtime win in Game 2. Game 3, however, was one to forget as the Capitals got outshot, out-skated and blanked 5-0 by the Canes, with a 28-2 shot total across the second and third periods.

The Capitals lost their mojo in Game 3 but they have plenty left in the tank and know what it takes to go all the way. So what are the X-Factor keys for the Caps going into Game 4?

Alex Ovechkin
It goes without saying that the GR8 captain is a driving force behind the Capitals’ success. Ovechkin leads by example and creates opportunity after opportunity, setting up scoring plays and blasting goal after goal himself. Perhaps the well covered, analysed (and at times criticized) fight with Canes rookie Andrei Svechnikov got into Ovechkin’s head and threw him off his game. However, you can be assured that the NHL legend will be working hard and ensuring both he and his team recapture the rhythm and chemistry that drives their game.

Team Chemistry
If you follow the Capitals on any form of social media, you would be well aware of their pre-game pump up rituals, off ice traditions such as the ‘hot lap’ (which made a welcome return this week) and on-ice antics. This is all part of the Capitals’ team chemistry. Never underestimate the power of fun and chemistry in a championship team. Players such as T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson and new Capital Carl Hagelin are known for their on and off ice humor and away from the game itself, this is a key X-Factor for the Capitals game chemistry.

They say that defense wins games. The goalie having key support in defense is key to any winning team formula. For the Capitals, All Star defenseman John Carlson is a key part of this puzzle. He has the ability to play strong two way hockey and is one of the most skilled and level headed defencemen in the modern game. The Caps also have strong defence depth. Dmitry Orlov is rediscovering his game, Brooks Orpik scored a key OT game winner in Game 2. When the Caps defense finds their groove, they are hard to get through.

Past Experience
There will be no easy games for the Capitals in the remainder of this series with a young and hungry Canes outfit looking to follow in Columbus’ footsteps and pull off another playoff upset. But the Capitals have won a cup. They have also been on the losing end of playoff series’ losses on many occasions. The elation and despair of these two contrasting experiences will no doubt drive this Caps outfit who will look to come out firing in Game 4.