Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: Conference Finals Predictions

2018 Eastern Conference Final Preview: Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay showed how strong it can be when on top of its game as it eased past Boston in five games, winning Game 5 by a count of 3-1.

Alex Ovechkin had a power-play goal and an assist in his Eastern Conference finals debut, leading the Washington Capitals to a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning Braden Holtby stopped 19 shots and Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle and Lars Eller also scored for the Caps, who are alive beyond the second round of the playoffs for the first time in Ovechkin's 13-year career. "I haven't been around a team like this", general manager George McPhee said.

Unfortunately, the Lightning present a whole new problem for the Caps. The Washington Capitals organization began play during the 1974-75 season and has never hoisted the Stanley Cup.

If Winnipeg makes it to the Stanley Cup Final, it will become the sixth of seven NHL-based teams to do so in the past 25 seasons, making the Toronto Maple Leafs the only Canadian-based team who has not advanced past the conference finals.

By advancing this far the Jets bandwagon will pick up supporters across the country and even more if they can squeeze past the Golden Knights and into the final.

"It's great competition to play against the best players and then against your countrymen", Kucherov said.

This goes without saying I suppose. "They were on top of us. It's nice to see".

The biggest favorite in the west, last year's Stanly Cup finals runner up Nashville Predators suffered a bitter defeat in the hands of up-and-coming Winnipeg Jets in a gruesome seven game series.

"We are going to need to rely on our depth as well and stay disciplined". The goal and it was waved off, and Washington went on the power play.

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Ovechkin expects the Atlantic Division winners to be a stern test, too.

They couldn't control the injury that deprived them of star center Nicklas Backstrom for a second straight game.

"That has to be in our mind and we have to play as a group, not play individually". Later, as Alex Ovechkin turned the Capitals into a perennial contender, his teams were dogged by the notion that their path to the playoffs was a cakewalk through overmatched division "rivals".

He skated Thursday at the Capitals' practice facility in Virginia, working on some stickhandling and passing, but he did not practice. And there was some of that as the Caps scored a couple of goals that were a direct result of fluky bounces after fanning on shots. "There's other ones that get the starry-eyed, saucer-eyed (look) and they have to sort of work through that", Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "The guys that are going well, you use, and the other guys wait for another opportunity". "We know it's a play that they do". The Capitals have won five of their last six games and nine of 11. 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.

"So I think we're just playing on the road".

They can continue to get contributions from everyone, not just from Ovechkin, Oshie and Kuznetsov.

The series starts at Tampa Bay's Amalie Arena. The Lightning are -190 favorites to win the series with Washington at +165.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said earlier in the week the Lightning can not make a habit of losing Game 1 of the series.

This series is the definition of a toss-up.

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