ECSF Game 4 preview: Washington Capitals (1) at Tampa Bay Lightning (5)


WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7 PM EDT | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Sun Sports, NHL Network (Cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Japers' Rink, Rock The Red, Caps 'Round the Clock

For the second time in 24 hours, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Washington Capitals are set to square off.  Of course, aftershocks of last night's 4-3 win will be playing out over the next several hours before game time (more on that in a bit), but the only issue that should resonate right now is the amount of energy both teams have.

They have another 60 minutes of playoff hockey yet to play...  Are both teams able to go full-on tonight?  Can Washington take it up to another level and stave off elimination?

Strike that last remark, as it shouldn't be a question.  It's something we've seen in this series and it's something we've been made vastly aware of during the regular season:  The Caps have another gear.  The problem is, they have trouble sustaining themselves at that higher tier of play for longer stretches of play.

Boltosphere member and Kukla's Korner contributor Jon Jordan, remarked on Twitter during game two:

Caps imploding. Lucky it's only 2-1. Washington fans should be embarrassed. Games one and two tell me they still don't get it.

This remark I could not exactly take comfort in.  Not when I know full well that the Capitals can strike quickly at any given time.  But Jordan was right; the Caps third period was not of the same caliber as the previous assaults of the first and second.  We saw that exact same issue last night.

There was a difference, however:  The Bolts didn't simply hang on.  They strode ahead and took what they could.  This wasn't a theft.  This was victory, and it was rightfully theirs.

As for aftershocks from last night's game, Bruce Boudreau sets the tone...  Well, if this is tone setting, the Capitals are indeed in trouble:

"If you look at it, Malone's driving the net and he pushes our player (defenseman John Carlson) into our goaltender and he can't kick out his right leg to make the save,'' Boudreau said. "It's a no-goal, no penalty call. It's one of the best referees in the league and I fully respect him, but I don't think it should have counted.''

Bruce wouldn't think to correct officials on Brooks Laich goal in game 2, where Mike Lundin is conveniently shoved into Dwayne Roloson to enable the Caps opening tally, now would he?

But, at this point, it's moot.  Both goals are in the rearview mirror and Game 4 is all that matters.  It's thisclose to clinching for Tampa Bay, it's thisclose to drowning for Washington.  The Capitals are not going to go down without a fight.

There's an argument to be had here, however, regarding game 4. It centers on the crease for both teams:  Do you start Neuvirth and Roloson yet again tonight?  Or do you go to your rested backups in Semyon Varlmanov and Mike Smith?

In the Capitals instance, going to Varlmanov is an easy call -- Neuvirth has not been otherworldly.  Getting the rested goaltender in the crease to compensate for a worn down D is the right call to make.  Hell, they could start Brandon Holtby again, the rookie goalie who beat the Lightning on March 7th, it'd still be the right call.

There is talk, and there will remain talk, that Dwayne Roloson starts in net for the Lightning tonight.  This, I find as the  wrong call to make.  It tempts fate.  The Lightning defense in front of Roloson is worn down.  The Capitals have nothing to lose, and will be throwing everything at the crease that they have left.  Why go with the netminder that faced 32 shots just last night?  The 41-year-old who has carried this team through the series?

Is it a testament how little faith the Lightning have in Mike Smith?  Or is it a testament of how much faith they have in Roloson?

Damian Cristodero pointed out via Twitter that Roloson's si game win streak is the longest by a goalie over the age of 40 since Jacques Plante's 8-game win streak in the 1969 NHL Playoffs.

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

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