The Eastern Conference Finals is set and this year, it will feature the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning took care of the Boston Bruins in five games in their quarterfinals series; whereas Washington took care of the two time defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Tampa won the series two games to one including one of those wins in overtime. Which means that the Lightning captured four of a possible six points, and Washington got three of a possible six points with the overtime loss.
Battle In The Crease
This series is going to depend on which goalie is better in the net. Which may give Washington a slight edge because Braden Holtby has been superb since coming in for Phillip Grubauer in the Columbus series. When Holtby starts the Capitals have eight wins and two losses, that is something that cannot be ignored. Neither can his 2.04 Goals Against Average and .926 Save Percentage.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has also been great. And that is also partly thanks to his defense because they have been one of the best defensive squads in the entire playoffs to this point.
A Series That Will Be Decided By Depth
This is one element that some overlook, but this is an element that propels teams to championships. As an example, the Penguins showed strong depth in their last two Stanley Cup championships. And both of these teams have plenty of depth players to go around.
And while I say that, in my opinion, Tampa Bay has more depth. They are just relentless when it comes to their talent 1-through-25. Among their depth players who have been making an impact are, Cedric Paquette, Anthony Cirelli, and Yanni Gourde. All of those guys made life a living nightmare for the Boston Bruins in round two.
If you ask me, Washington cannot match that. The best they have that may compare is Lars Eller and Brett Connolly. But even then that is not as deep as what Tampa has. Not even close to being honest.
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The Stars Need to Shine
This goes without saying I suppose. But even more so in a series where the goaltending is so good. Noth of these teams will need their stars to be the difference makers.
I especially think it is imperative for the Capitals to get the most out of their players, given their history of not performing in the clutch.
Even if the Lightning does not get the offense they expect to; you can still count on the defense to make up for it. Tampa has the best defense left out of all of the teams left.
I am going with Tampa in five games.
To me, the Capitals are going to need Braden Holtby to steal them the series, that or Alexander Ovechkin is going to have to be lights out in the series with an onslaught of goals. Otherwise, I just think Tampa is too strong for the Capitals or any team in the Eastern Conference.
Tampa is too stacked and talented and it is hard to envision them not being in the finals. I have said since the trade deadline that Tampa was the best team in the Eastern Conference. And they have thus far proved me right. They even made Boston look weak, which shocked me because I thought Boston would give Tampa Bay a good fight.