Often in the playoffs, even the minor plays make quite the difference. That was ever more prevalent in game one between the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Caps lost game one due to the little things the Lightning were able to accomplish. A lesson Tampa learned and carried over with them from the seven game win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Caps were rested and a bit out of playoff mode with a 5 day lay-over from round one to the Conference Semi-finals tried to do too much and broke from their system that had such success in their five game win over the New York Rangers. It was the small things that doomed them and in the end it cost them game one. It would all start on the first goal of the game.
The play started below the goal line right of Michal Neuvirth. Mike Green had a chance to gobble up the loose puck and work it out of the zone. But instead of moving the puck with urgency, he gets stick checked by Sean Bergenheim. The puck was shoveled to the front of the net and Green makes the second mistake of not taking the man behind him, Bergenheim. The Lightning forward pushed Green into his own net and the loose rebound went right to Bergenheim's stick and into the back of the Caps net.
Instead of the simple play of quickly upping the puck or keeping the puck below the goal line, Green exposes the puck to allow the Bolts keeping the play not only in the zone but right to the front of the net. And Green being shoved into his own net is just a lack of awareness of that player near him. The Caps' defender should have been tying him up rather than just coasting to the crease.
It is the simple play that the Caps are failing to make. It also works on the offensive end. Of the five power plays the Capitals had, the last two were the most important. But they didn't produce much in way of shots let alone goals. Bruce Boudreau alluded to the fact that the Caps got away from their philosophy of getting pucks to the net and grinding it out. With shots not getting through or shot wide, the Caps offense did not do the simple things to produce offense.
Game five against the Rangers was a perfect example of what the Caps wish to achieve. They were doing the little things like frustrating the Ranger forwards through the neutral zone and playing transition hockey. They were making good on their chances and not looking back. But in game one, there was a sense of wanting to go chance for chance especially at a pivotal time of game one in the second period. It would lead to a lucky goal by Steve Downie and a power play goal by Steven Stamkos.
The Caps are capable of playing a good system and make the simple play. It might take a little time for them to get back into playoff mode after taking some time off between rounds. But if they take care of the details of the game, they could give the Lightning fits and put a choke hold in the third themselves.