In game one the Pittsburgh Penguins looked to have an advantage in odd man rushes. It seemed that they could get a two on one or three on two through the neutral zone as the Caps defense stepped up on them. It led to a slew of chances for the flightless fowl and it resulted in a lot of shots on net for them as they out-shot the Capitals 11 to 8 in the first period and held them with out a shot through the first 9 and a half minutes of the game.
The Caps defense is not about to take a lay back attitude when it comes to the Penguins. With their offensive talent, the Caps would rather step up on them in the neutral zone than allow them to set up a play inside their zone. The Capitals' high risk aggressive play has created prime chances against them.
"They've got some great offensive players out there," Mike Green told Pierre McQuire after the game. "If we sit back and let them do what they can do we will be in trouble. As long as we play aggressive on their top guys we will be fine."
Washington did do a good job of disrupting the play in the neutral zone, but if the defender that stepped up was beaten then the Caps found themselves in a little bit of trouble. Instead of just sitting back and let the Penguins come at them, they want to keep up the effort but play a smarter and simpler game.
"The more simple, the better," Dave Steckel told reporters at Kettler. "When we turn the puck over we are not as successful as a team. They can come the other way and score in a heart beat, so we have to make sure we keep it simple."
The best line in game one was the line of Steckel, Matt Bradley and Brooks Laich. The "Allstate" line (because when you play them, you know you are in good hands) was able to keep the Penguins deep into their zone. Their aggressive forecheck and ability to keep puck low was key for them against the Penguins' top line.
"Anytime you can get it deep and work it down low - even if you don't score - you are tiring them down a little bit," remarked Bradley.
It seems teams that are the higher seeds in their second round series won their first game at home, but lost the second. Every series besides the Washington/Pittsburgh series is tied at one game a piece, with the away team winning game two. The Caps are looking to break that cycle and be the first team to reach two wins in the second round. To do that, they will have to keep at bay a very good team.
"We thought [the Penguins] played really good [in game one]," Bruce Boudreau told reporters at Caps optional practice on Sunday. "This is a team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals and knows what it's all about. They are going to ramp it up a little bit."
The Penguins made it no secret that the Capitals' rookie goaltender was their number one target in game two.
"You have to put pressure on a goalie to see if he's cool or not," said Pens top center Sidney Crosby after practice at Verizon Center. "We did a pretty good job of that and he made some good saves. Early on we had some really good chances, we didn't execute. Whether that was him or us, who knows? I think we felt we could have made it more difficult on him."
Meanwhile Alex Ovechkin conceded that we haven't seen the Caps' best, yet.
"We didn't play our game I think all game," Ovechkin told reporters. "We didn't play well all game. Yeah, we played sometimes good, especially in the first 10 minutes in the second period, but we have to play that same way every game. You can feel good or bad, but you have to say, 'OK, right now it's time to jump.' "
The Caps power play and penalty kill was not an area of concern for them. Special teams have already played an important role in this series. The Penguins can not afford to take penalties and have to stay disciplined against the Capitals potent power play. While the Caps' penalty kill was able to kill all five minor penalties, it would unwise for themselves to take careless penalties against a Penguins team that is just looking to turn its power play around.
Washington has found ways to put some offensive pressure on the Penguins. While they will stay secret about the keys to some of their successes, Bradley offered his technique:
"I got a rule," Bradley said straight faced. "If I ever have a chance to pass it to a Russian I do it, because good things will happen."