East Finals Game 1: Capitals Too Satisfied to Overcome Lightning

Dana Lane

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 6:16 PM UTC

Wednesday, May. 9, 2018 6:16 PM UTC

Fittingly enough, the two Eastern Conference division winners face off in Game 1 of the East Finals on Friday night from Tampa. The home team has won 20 of the past 27 in the series.

Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay LightningFree NHL Pick: Lightning MLBest Line Offered: BetPhoenix

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Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals starts Friday at Amalie Arena after the Tampa Bay Lightning survived a "licking" by the Boston Bruins to send them home in quick fashion, while the Washington Capitals exorcised their demons against the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. We’ll see who can put their second-round series behind them the quickest when the puck drops at 8 p.m. ET. The NBC Sports Network will be your television home Friday night.

The Capitals have now dropped 9 of their last 11 playoff series against the Penguins, but luckily for them one of those series wins came this week. The monkey has been lifted, a relief that you can literally see on the face of Alexander Ovechkin. After watching the reaction from the Capitals, it made me wonder how they’re going to turn the page against the Lightning, who have something the Capitals don’t: Stanley Cup experience. Had it not been for a injury to Steven Stamkos in 2017, they may have added to that pedigree. Jon Cooper’s team is back to the conference finals for the third time in four seasons.

Tampa has looked unstoppable in the postseason in winning 8 of their 10 games against New Jersey and Boston.

“We get a chance against another opponent and we’re going to have to be at our best as it goes along here,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. There’s going be four teams left and you don’t get these opportunities too often.”

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Wherever you go, our city and the greater Tampa Bay area has put us on their backs.

We’re in this together. #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/vRjNctEGZ8

— #GoBolts (@TBLightning) May 9, 2018
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There have been three meetings between the two clubs this season, with the Lightning taking two. The most recent matchup resulted in the Lightning doubling up the Capitals, 4-2, at the Capital One Arena. Tampa put that one away early striking for three early goals, two by Brayden Point on three total shots. One interesting note: the Capitals did hold the Lightning to 8 shots or fewer, but the NHL is turning into a quality or quantity league. Last time out at Amalie Arena, Tampa handed Washington a 4-3 overtime loss but that was way back in October so the relevance is minimal.

The opening number, according to the SBR odds page, suggests that the Lightning are much better than the Capitals with the opening number at -175. Money hasn’t moved this number much, indicating that most are waiting until after Game 1 to back their opinion with a portion of their bankroll. The total opened at 6 (-105), and like the side it doesn’t seem to be getting much attention early on.

Puck possession will be an advantage for Tampa Bay. They are a better team in the faceoff circle, especially in their defensive end where they’ve won almost 55% of their draws in the postseason. This against a Capitals team that has lost 46.8% of their offensive zone draws.

In the end, I think the Lightning will have the better of quality scoring opportunities as they march into the Stanley Cup Finals -- and win Game 1.

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