2011 NHL Playoffs, Capitals Vs. Lightning Preview, Prediction: Washington In Six Games

We preview the upcoming Capitals vs. Lightning 2011 NHL Playoffs second-round series in six parts and offer our prediction on the outcome.

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NHL Playoffs 2011, Lightning Vs. Capitals Prediction: Washington Will Defeat Tampa Bay in Six Games

The 2011 NHL Playoffs second-round series schedule between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning has now been set. Here is our six-part preview of the series. In the final part of our series, we make a series prediction.

This is the second time that the Caps and Lightning have met in the playoffs and the first time since 2002-03. In that first round series, the Caps blew a 2-0 series lead and lost in six games.

The Caps cannot allow their six days of rest to stop their momentum. Tampa Bay has momentum of their own on their side, having erased a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins, but only gets one day off between series. Game 1 Friday will be incredibly important for setting the tone for the rest of the series. The series schedule features four games in six days, including back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday, so there will be little time to dwell on each game.

It will be Tampa Bay's offense v. Washington's defense. The Lightning are capable of blowing their opponents out with relative ease, so the Caps' defense must stop them. With that in mind, the Caps must rattle Dwayne Roloson. He has shown that he is susceptible to poor performances, but he can also steal games. Look for the Caps to play a style similar to what worked against the Rangers and find a way to stymie the Lighting's top scorers. The Caps will move on to the Eastern Conference Finals by disposing of the Lightning in six games.

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2011 NHL Playoffs, Capitals Vs. Lightning Preview: Penalty Kill An Asset To Caps, Lightning

The 2011 NHL Playoffs second-round series schedule between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning has now been set. Here is our six-part preview of the series. In Part V, we look at both team's penalty kill units.

The Capitals' penalty kill during the regular season was one of the best in the NHL and that continued into the playoffs. Yet, they may have met their match against the Lightning.

Washington went 19-for-20 on the PK against the New York Rangers (95 percent), but Tampa Bay went 34-for-35 against the Pittsburgh Penguins (97.1 percent). Both teams had lofty numbers during the regular season as well, with the Caps ranking second at 85.6 percent and the Lightning ranking eighth at 83.8 percent. The Caps will not need to worry about defending their end of the ice as much when on the power play; the Lightning scored only one shorthanded goal all season. Washington had seven shorthanded goals of its own from seven different players.

Tampa Bay's power play is potent with a 20.5 percent success rate during the regular season and 29.6 percent during the playoffs. The Caps have not allowed a power play goal at home during the playoffs and the Lightning have not allowed one on the road, so something has to give. The Caps have proven this season that the penalty kill is just as dangerous as their power play (when it's not slumping) so they must continue to block shots and get quick line changes to keep the Lightning at bay (no pun intended).

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2011 NHL Playoffs, Capitals Vs. Lightning Preview: Caps Need Power Play To Contribute Against Lightning

The 2011 NHL Playoffs second-round series schedule between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning has now been set. Here is our six-part preview of the series. In Part IV, we look at both team's power play units.

Tampa Bay's power play is incredibly effective. On the other hand, the Caps have struggled on the power play all season. This might be the area to watch for in this series.

Tampa Bay scored eight power play goals in 27 opportunities during its series with the Pittsburgh Penguins (29.6 percent), while the Caps were just 3-for-16 with the man advantage against the New York Rangers (18.8 percent). In the first round series with the Rangers, the Caps had the luxury of playing a team whose power play was as inept as theirs during the regular season, but that is not the case against Tampa Bay. A 20.5 percent success rate during the regular season. Steven Stamkos was second in the NHL with 17 PPG, while Vincent Lecavalier was eighth with 12. Stamkos' favorite spot to fire from is the left faceoff circle and his laser-like slap shot is tough to stop.

The Caps haven't had to rely on the power play this season or against the Rangers, but they might have to against the Lightning. The Caps had only 25:29 of power play time against the Rangers, which is the second-lowest total of any team remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (Detroit Red Wings). Washington will have to draw penalties to give it a chance to score and must take advantage when the opportunity presents itself.

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2011 NHL Playoffs, Lightning Vs. Capitals Preview: Michal Neuvirth's Youth v. Dwayne Roloson's Experience

The 2011 NHL Playoffs second-round series schedule between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning has now been set. Here is our six-part preview of the series. In Part III, we look at the youth of Michal Neuvirth v. the experience of Dwayne Roloson.

In the first round series against the New York Rangers, Michal Neuvirth took command of the series with his stellar goaltending. Neuvirth led all goaltenders who started a minimum of five games with a 1.38 GAA and was second with a .946 SV%. The five games of the Rangers series were Neuvirth's first five career playoffs games. The same can't be said about the goaltender he will match up against: Dwayne Roloson.

Roloson, who is 18 years older than Neuvirth, has played in 40 career playoff games and sports a 22-14-1 record in those games. Roloson is second with a 1.77 GAA and first in the NHL with a .949 SV% for goaltenders with a minimum of five games. The Lightning acquired Roloson from the New York Islanders January 1 and he shut out the Caps in his first start January 4. Eight days later, he did it again in a 3-0 win. Washington eventually solved the Roloson quagmire in the final two meetings of the season against Tampa Bay, scoring seven goals.

Neuvirth must continue his fantastic play if the Caps have any chance to advance. Much like they did against the Rangers, the Caps will have to crash the net and pressure Roloson. When they did, he unraveled quickly. And even threw punches.

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2011 NHL Playoffs, Capitals Vs. Lightning Preview: Caps' New-Look Defense Will Oppose Lightning's Experienced Defense

The 2011 NHL Playoffs second-round series schedule between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning has now been set. Here is our six-part preview of the series. In Part II, we look at both teams' respective defensive corps.

The Washington Capitals' defense might be their strongest asset right now and stopping the Tampa Bay Lightning's high-flying forwards will be key. Washington shut down the Rangers' potent scorers by clogging the neutral zone and not allowing them to get close to Michal Neuvirth. Tampa Bay has many more scoring threats than New York did and the Caps must be aware of that.

Offense will not be a priority for the Caps' defensive corps. The six defensemen who played combined for eight points in five games with Mike Green having five of them and the only goal. The Lightning, on the other hand, got four goals from their defensive corps against the Penguins, so it won't only be the forwards that the Caps must watch. Tampa Bay may also have an edge in experience on the blueline. Pavel Kubina has won a Stanley Cup and Mattias Ohlund has played in 909 career regular season games and 59 playoff games. Scott Hannan will be integral to the Caps success. He is the most experienced defenseman and must keep his fellow D in check. In fact, he is the only defenseman that played for the Caps against the Rangers that has made it past the second round.

Four Lightning defenders (Ohlund, Eric Brewer, Victor Hedman and Brett Clark) are in the top ten in blocked shots in the playoffs, so breaking through them will be tough. Despite the high-scoring nature of these two teams, both the Caps and Lightning's defense have the ability to change the series.

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2011 NHL Playoffs, Capitals Vs. Lightning Preview: Caps Need Scoring Touch Vs. Steven Stamkos' Lightning

The 2011 NHL Playoffs second-round series schedule between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning has now been set. Here is our six-part preview of the series. In Part I, we look at both teams' offense.

If there's an offense in the Eastern Conference that can possibly rival the Washington Capitals' typically high-powered offense, it's the Tampa Bay Lightning. Featuring several skilled forwards, the Lightning can find several ways to score.

The Lightning feature two of the NHL's top five scorers during the regular season: Martin St. Louis (99 points) and Steven Stamkos (91 points). Stamkos' 45 goals are down from last season's 51, but despite going through a major slump (he scored 31 of his 45 goals during the 2010 portion of the season), he is one of the most dangerous scorers in the NHL. St. Louis led the Lightning with four goals and eight points in their series win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Tampa Bay has 10 double-digit goal scorers that range from the skilled (St. Louis, Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne) to the gritty (Ryan Malone, Steve Downie, Nate Thompson). For the Caps to compete, they might have to rely on their offense as much as their defense. Washington scored 13 total goals against the New York Rangers, but Tampa Bay scored 25 against Pittsburgh, including an 8-2 drubbing in Game 5. Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin each had three goals against the Rangers and will have to do more to beat the Lightning. This series could become a shootout very easily and the Caps' scorers will need to be on their best game. 

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