Midway through the second period of game one’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Washington Capitals made a tactical error, they continued to force the puck through Tampa’s 1-3-1 zone defense. It was a horrible decision to try and play like it was a regular season contest and the loss puts them in a crucial situation heading into game two on Sunday night. That task is likely to be even tougher as injured Capitals defensemen John Carlson is a game time decision with an undisclosed injury. If #74 can’t go, then Sean Collins will likely get the call for Caps Coach Bruce Boudreau.
What Boudreau’s crew should have done, and should definitely do going forward, is when the Caps have the lead have their defensemen be patient and pass the puck back and forth between them to make Bolts Coach Guy Boucher have to change his scheme and send another forward into the offensive zone. This hurts the Lightning and their coaching staff knows it. Keeping two forwards back hides a terribly slow blue line so the last thing they want to be doing is have their forwards puck chasing and opening up holes in the neutral zone. There should have been NO reason that the Caps should have let Tampa continue to stay in their 1-3-1 once they had the lead. Tampa is extremely comfortable in that scheme and realizes it is the only way they can win.
So the Caps task on Sunday is to get a lead, and they can do that by turning up their intensity and being more physical early on. Washington was too passive and did not do a good job of getting the cycle game going against the Bolts. They also stopped getting to the front of the net as the game went on. A part of that was Tampa was able to conserve energy in their scheme and they made it difficult for the Caps to get in the zone and get the puck. Again, Tampa got to play a game they are very comfortable with. If Washington wants to win this series, they have to adjust, like Boudreau did in that tilt in Tampa back in February. The Caps need to work hard to get the lead, and then make Tampa come out of their 1-3-1 scheme, like a basketball team with the lead would do to their opponents. In addition, Washington must get their feet moving and that will cut down on the other area where the Bolts can beat them, the power play. The Caps must stay out of the box because the Bolts snipers are red hot right now. Keeping the game at even strength, playing more physical, and getting an early lead is the recipe for getting the Bolts out of their comfort zone and winning on Sunday for Washington.