Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Resilient Caps an Unfamiliar Postseason Foe for Pens

This time, the Capitals aren’t in the process of blowing it. This time, they’re on the verge of taking control.

Embed from Getty Images

It’s gotten ugly already and it may get uglier yet.

But what really separates this increasingly combative Penguins-Capitals playoff confrontation from the two postseasons that preceded it is what the Caps have already established.

“This is a different Capitals team,” NBC’s Pierre McGuire insisted after Washington’s dramatic, 4-3 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena.

Added NBC’s Mike Milbury: “They can infuse believability into their team.”

That’s the major development through the first three games.

It’s an even bigger deal than Tom Wilson’s head-hunting.

The Caps have traditionally been a postseason punching bag, a fatal flaw for an organization that’s consistently put skilled teams on ice that were otherwise good enough to win division championships and Presidents’ Trophies.

And the Penguins have traditionally taken full advantage.

But this season the Caps have for the most part flown under the radar.

After losing the likes of Justin Williams, Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt and Marcus Johansson from last season’s supposed juggernaut, and in the wake of a second consecutive postseason checkout at the hands of the Stanley Cup-bound Penguins last spring, the Capitals were a relative afterthought this season.

Now they’re halfway to becoming the story of the 2018 postseason.

And their character is showing.

Washington opened the playoffs by losing Games 1 and 2 at home in overtime against Columbus, a double-barrel gut-punch that would have devastated a lesser collection.

The Caps responded by winning the next four games in succession.

That hadn’t happened before in NHL history.

They opened what had become an annual exercise in frustration against the Penguins by losing at least one of the first two games at home.

But this time, by virtue of Alex Ovechkin’s almost-last-minute heroics and a collective effort that was uncharacteristically determined, Washington will emerge from Game 4 on Thursday night facing something other than a three-games-to-one nightmare.

That hadn’t happened before in either of the last two postseasons.

This time, the Capitals aren’t in the process of blowing it.

This time, they’re on the verge of taking control.

Lost, potentially, in the aftermath of all the emotional fallout associated with Wilson’s assault on Zach Aston-Reese, is the Caps’ transformation that’s been on display through the first three games.

“I think this group has learned to not look too far ahead, not to get too comfortable,” head coach Barry Trotz maintained. “We’ve had to work hard to sort of get a little bit of an identity. This group continues to forge a little bit of an identity.

“We’ve got, I’ll say, some confidence in our group, they have confidence in each other and they have trust in each other.”

The Penguins know the value of such intangibles.

If they haven’t already, they’d better recognize those characteristics in the Caps.

“They’re playing for keeps,” Trotz added.

That doesn’t make the Capitals invincible.

But it will demand the absolute best the Pens can muster if this keeps up.

That means Matt Murray will have to be better, the Pens will have to stop hemorrhaging odd-man rushes against, the power play will have to be heard from consistently and someone other than Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Patric Hornqvist or Kris Letang might have to score a goal.

None of that is beyond the Penguins’ grasp.

But this time even all of the above might not be enough.

And for the Caps and the Pens, that’s as different as it can get.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Mobile Service To Connect Hungry Pitt Students to Free Food

PittGrub app will send folks in need to events with leftovers.

What's It Like When You Go from Laborer to Being The Boss?

Pitt's Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence has been teaching business strategies to startups and century-old companies for 25 years.

The 400-Word Review: The Equalizer 2

An unnecessary sequel to the Denzel Washington action flick arrives for a quick beat-em-up fix.

The 400-Word Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The sequel to the 2008 ABBA musical is far from perfect, but might have enough charm to keep you on board.

You're Going to Be Upside Down a Lot on New Kennywood Coaster

Kennywood has revealed its replacement ride for “The Log Jammer” which will be located in a new portion of the park entitled “Steelers Country.”

Restaurant Review: Poulet Bleu

Richard DeShantz steps it up with a move from Downtown to Lawrenceville and shows Pittsburgh how to make French dining fun.

Pittsburgh to Host Nation’s First Black Beer Festival

Day Bracey and Ed Bailey of Drinking Partners Podcast and Mike Potter of Black Brew Culture online magazine will bring 12 black-owned breweries to Pittsburgh in August for Fresh Fest.

Coming Clean: Why We Aren't a Green City ... Yet

Pittsburgh is no longer a smoky city, but that doesn’t mean it has cleaned up its act. Pittsburgh's air quality still ranks among the worst in the nation. What steps are being taken to reduce Pittsburgh's ongoing dependence on fossil fuels?

Ultimate Comfort Food: The Joy of Dumplings

Why our dining critic thinks dumplings might be his ultimate comfort food.

Our Seven Favorite Dumplings in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, of course, is best known for the pierogi. Our love of dumplings extends beyond that, however. These seven dumplings are our favorite restaurant versions of their various styles.

The Tailor's Dumpling: Kreplach

A Pittsburgh chef and his family continue to craft a family recipe with roots in Poland.

The Pittsburgh Region's Top Dentists 2018

Our annual list, which contains 376 dentists across 11 specialties, as determined by topDENTISTS.

A Weekend Mission of Mercy in Pittsburgh

More than a thousand people come to PPG Paints Arena once a year for free dental care, thanks to an ambitious, all-volunteer effort.

Jump Into the River: Open Waters Beckons Strong Swimmers

It takes a strong swimmer and the right timing to dive into the three rivers. for those up to it, the difference between the pool and open water is profound.

Pirates Are Still a Long Way From a Hollywood Ending

Despite an 8-1 winning streak going into the All-Star break, the Bucs are in desperate need of a sequel, not only to win back some credibility with fans, but also to convince their owner not to sell off more pieces of the team.