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.