Eastern Conference Semifinal Preview: Caps vs. Bolts

Click here to see full-sized graphic

The Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning have taken road to the Eastern Conference Semifinals that are both different and similar in certain ways. It was a season of catharsis for both teams.

The Capitals lost a personally embarrassing series to the Montreal Canadiens last year, and head coach Bruce Boudreau decided that wasn’t going to happen again, putting in place a defensive system that would limit, maybe even stifle the offensive output of the amazing European talent on that team, but also ensure that they wouldn’t lose when they didn’t have to. The result was another successful regular season and Eastern Conference title, and a 5 game win over the New York Rangers, a team not too unlike the Canadiens of last season, in the first round.

As for the Lightning, well, they’ve spent three of the last four seasons out of the playoffs. They had been criticized for Vincent Lecavalier’s contract, and for trading Brad Richards for peanuts. They went through ownership troubles. But ever since Jeffrey Vinik bought the team, they’ve been on a tremendous uprising. New General Manager Steve Yzerman has led the way in the rebranding of the team, and the veterans have embraced it, as evidenced by Martin St. Louis’ Hart nomination. More recently, the Lightning defeated a Penguins team full of heart in the first round, and are riding the waves of momentum – and those of Dwayne Roloson – into their series with the Caps.

All that said, who has the advantage? The powerhouse team looking to get over their embarrassment and that has bought into the system, or the quickly rebuilt franchise that has actually won in the past?

Blogger Showdown: Scott Lowe for the Washington Capitals.

Related Posts:
- Caps and Bolts Should Not Lack Entertainment by Scott Lowe.
- Erskine has Earned His Keep by Scott Lowe.

Prax’s Take :
Am I the only one who doesn’t completely buy this sudden transformation of the Washington Capitals? I mean, what they’ve done is impressive, but really, what have they done? Had a similar regular season to the one they had a year ago, and defeated a crippled and inexperienced Rangers team. Don’t get me wrong, I stand behind my words that I thought the Rangers could be this year’s version of last year’s Habs, but at the same time, they didn’t have the experience of that group in Montreal, and they were suffering from some pretty significant injuries, including who I thought was their best overall forward, Ryan Callahan.

I’m not trying to discount what the Capitals have done under this new defensive system, just trying to figure out how that means that they will beat the Lightning, an experienced, rugged, tough group that’s just as determined to win as they are. The Bolts have an incredible group of forwards, and although they might be weak on defense, they have the willpower and a tremendous goalie. I see something in this team that simply screams for another round of playoff hockey.

Add to that all the insane injuries that the Caps have had, and the fact that I think Michal Neuvirth, as good as he is, still remains untested, and I believe this series is the Bolts to lose. That said, they will have to battle to win, and the Caps will take them the distance.
Prediction: Lightning in 7.

------------------------------
AROUND THE CHECKING LINE:

HockeyBroad: Washington is going to get it done this year. They're playing for pride, for their coach, for everything. The Caps owned the Lightning early in the season; some late-season games were much closer, but I still think Washington will have the edge.
Prediction: Capitals in 6.

Micheal Aldred: Dwayne freakin' Roloson, enough said.
Prediction: Lightning in 6.

Owen Durkin: I want to say Washington, but Roly the Goalie can be a game breaker and a Hell of a competitor, and the entire Bolts roster is capable of following the lead of their veterans, all of whom are proving to be difference-makers. They have bought in to Guy Boucher's system, and are laying it on the line for him, and each other. Then again, the same can be said of Boudreau's Caps. It's going to be a battle of wills, with the last man standing going on to round three, and in my opinion it's going seven. I'll go ahead and say Caps, who are healed up and chomping at the bit.
Prediction : Capitals in 7.

Adam Pardes: Despite a couple of hiccups in the road, the Capitals picked up speed at the end of their series with the Rangers and showed that they're true threats to win the Cup this year. Roloson has been clutch for the Lightning but Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin are just too much for the Bolts netminder to handle.
Prediction: Capitals in 6.

Jonathan Szekeres: The Capitals are a much better defensive team than last year. They may not score as many goals, but they keep them out, even with an unproven goaltender. The Lightning have a 41 year old in net, and had one of the worst goal differentials in the regular season. They score lots, with Martin St.Louis being an absolute beast, and a great supporting cast that includes Steven Stamkos, Steve Downie, Ryan Malone, Vincent Lecavalier, and so on. However, Stamkos tends to go into dry spells, Lecavalier is sporadic, and Downie crosses the line far too much with his play. Washington, on the other hand, also has a great star in Alex Ovechkin, and a sporadic supporting cast that includes Jason Arnott, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom. This will be a high scoring affair, especially on the Capitals side of business.
Prediction: Capitals in 5.

Alicia Sprenkle: Tampa does look very impressive right now, but there is just something about the Caps. Even though they only faced the Rangers, there are a lot of reasons to believe they are a far cry from the team they were last year. The Caps obviously have to offensive weapons, but their revamped style of team defense is what's impressive. I think the Caps are on their way to silencing the critics.
Prediction: Capitals in 6.

Adam Reid: This Washington Capitals team that Tampa will play is a much tougher team essentially than the Pittsburgh Penguins. Washington is all fired up after picking apart the New York Rangers. The Capitals will break down this Tampa Bay Lightning squad, and though the fight may be there from the Lightning, they just don’t have what it takes to beat the Capitals.
Prediction: Capitals in 6.

Shahab Khan:This will be the most exciting series of this round. High scoring with tons of shots on net. The firepower on show in every game will mean many 5-4 nights. Roloson will keep the Lightning alive but in the end OV and his men will prevail
Prediction: Capitals in 7.

Steve Palumbo: Both teams can score goals and play a very entertaining brand of hockey, so if anything this should be fun to watch. The Caps finally appear to be over the playoff failure hump and looked posed to steam roll to the Stanley Cup finals. They looked mature and determined in the five game elimination of the New York Rangers and I expect the same against their division rivals "Alex the Great" looked so strong on his feet against New York. He will be the biggest difference in this series plus the Caps are well rested and salivating.
.Prediction: Capitals in 5.

Jason Pietroniro: No shortage of fire power between these two teams. Defensively, Washington is the better team. Surprised to be saying that about the 'Caps but it's true. Neuvirth has been good so far, and Boudreau has made this team a bit more well rounded that they were last year. Going to come down to who wants this more. My head says Washington but my heart says Tampa Bay. Gotta go with my Heart.
Prediction : Lightning in 6.

Kyle Busch: Looking into my crystal ball, I think Washington chokes again. Vinny Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos haven't shown up yet in the playoffs, so now would be a good time. The Bolts big defencemen will have to crash and bang everything that moves and make the Caps hurt. The fact that people underestimate Dwayne Roloson is always nice, because he proves you wrong a lot. I think Ovie and the Caps hit a wall.
Prediction: Lightning in 7.

Mark Trible: Ah there's nothing like a good old-fashioned Southeast division rivalry to make the playoffs the playoffs. Wait, what? Regardless of Roloson's undefeated record in elimination games all-time, the Caps will take the series in 7.
Prediction: Capitals in 7.

Larry D’Angelo: Special Teams will play a huge role in this series as Tampa's power play is hot right now and both of these teams are comparable in the penalty kill department. The goaltenders are at opposite ends of their careers, veteran Vs. rookie, it should be interesting to how this turns out. The Caps will have to stay disciplined in this series in order to take this in 6.
Prediction: Capitals in 6.

Rob McGowan: My former Islanders, Dwayne Roloson, Sean Bergenheim and Nate Thompson got the job done in their last series with the Penguins and will have to continue to be key players in this next series against the Caps. The Pens were without Crosby and Malkin, but the Caps still have Ovechkin and Semin. The series will definitely be that much harder for them, but I'm starting to smell an underdog in the East going to the Cup finals.
Prediction: Lightning in 7.

Andy Veilleux: Washington should be able to make fairly short work of Tampa Bay. Their defensive structure this year is sound, and all of their star players have even boughten into the system. Tampa struggled mightily against a neutered Pittsburgh side, and were taken to seven games by the Pens. That being said, Washington's offense is no slouch either, and they have some players on the roster who can score at will. Roloson has been so-so for The Lightning in their first round, and is an inconsistent keeper. Neuvirth is a rock in net, and has two Calder Cups to his name at only 23 years old. Tampa will find themselves in over their head against the new-look Capitals, who will take the series in six games or less.
Prediction: Capitals in 6.

Kim Pollock: The Lightning are heading into the Semifinals on a pretty good tear. Roloson came up huge in Game 7 against the Pens, and their offense has just been ridiculous over the last few games. It'll be tough to get pucks past Neuvirth, though, who has been fantastic in net for the Capitals. If Ovechkin keeps playing like... well, like Ovechkin, he's obviously going to produce a ton of offense. For the Bolts, veterans like Gagne and St. Louis will make a lot of difference, and if Lecavalier and Stamkos continue to play as well as they have throughout the season and in the last few games of round one, they'll be tough for Washington's defense to hold off.
Prediction: Lightning in 6

Evan Pivnick: It's going to be a fantastic series. If Roloson dynamite, the Lightning have the advantage. Neuvirth is still a young goaltender, not much experience in the playoffs. If Washington's offense shows up, the Caps have a shot at winning the series, but I think Roloson stays unbelievable.
Prediction: Lightning in 6.

Glen Miller: Washington showed a different side in their five game victory over my beloved Rangers. They played a very stingy defense and allowed little in the way of good chances. They also have big-time firepower up front. Tampa has far more offensive talent than the Rangers, so that will make Michael Neuvirth's life a little tougher in the second round. To me this is a tougher team mentally than previous editions.
Prediction: Capitals in 6.

------------------------
Tune back in in the coming hours for our last series preview, Flyers vs Bruins!

Canucks vs. Predators Preview

Sharks vs. Wings Preview

Flyers vs. Bruins Preview

4 Comments

SloweVechkin's picture

Prax, don't kid anyone, you are totally trying to detract from what the Caps have accomplished!

George Prax's picture
SloweVechkin wrote:

Prax, don't kid anyone, you are totally trying to detract from what the Caps have accomplished!

It's true, I didn't mention all the game 7s they've lost Wink

Glen Miller's picture

Trust me, I want Tampa to continue. I was thoroughly impressed by the Caps resiliency in their game 4 win over the Rangers. I do detest their team, specifically their troll of a coach, but think they will win this series unless Roloson is plain awesome.

George Prax's picture

hahah Boudreau's being out-trolled by Boucher now though. "The Capitals are a better team than us. Problem?"