By: Josh Cohen, GZ Sports Report Contributor
Following a tough 4-3 double overtime loss on Saturday, the Washington Capitals will look to take a 2-1 lead in the series as it shifts to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The Caps looked strong in Game 2 and showed that they are the better team in the series, but small mistakes and poor defensive zone play led to a heartbreaking loss in the second overtime period.
Here’s what the Caps need to do in order to secure a victory tonight and take back the series lead:
- Start Fast: Coming off of a double overtime game, fatigue can play a role. Washington needs to grab a lead early to prevent any momentum from carrying over from Saturday to Game 3. As the series moves to Toronto, Leafs fans will be fired up and the Caps can’t afford to fall behind for the third game in a row. If the Caps can grab a one or two goal lead in the first period, it is likely that Washington will take Game 3.
- Defend the Trapezoid: In Game 2, Washington played poorly behind Braden Holtby. The Caps defenseman struggled to gain possession behind the net and often left Toronto forwards all alone behind Holtby to quarterback plays in the offensive zone. It was only fitting that Kasperi Kapanen’s game winning goal came from a behind the net pass from Brian Boyle. If the Caps want to take a series lead tonight, they must be able to defend the Leafs behind the net. They will also need to be stronger on loose pucks and do a better job at getting pucks out of the zone once they do gain possession.
- Star Power: I said it in my last article and I’ll say it again, if the Caps want to win this series, their star players need to make it happen. The Caps top line netted 2 of their 3 goals, with the third coming from first line defenseman, John Carlson. The Caps’ stars looked true to form in Game 2 and if they can continue that trend tonight, and grab an early lead on Toronto, the Caps could be in for a much better performance.
- Don’t Panic: This one goes for everyone; players, coaches, and fans. It’s Game 3, the series is tied 1-1. The Caps are not down 3-0, looking to make a miraculous series comeback. The Caps looked much stronger in Game 2 than they did in Game 1 (which they won), and have no reason to doubt themselves. Any game that goes to double overtime has the “anything can happen factor” and nobody should take that loss as an indicator for the rest of the series. If Washington can play with some fire under them, they should have no problem beating this young Leafs team tonight. The Caps played fast, physical, and better than Toronto did, but struggled to capitalize on their big scoring chances, which led to a loss. If the Caps can grab a win in Toronto tonight, they should be able to roll through the rest of this series. Look for the Caps to come out skating strong and getting pucks to the net early as they try to close the door on the Leafs in the first 20 minutes tonight.