Maybe if he didn't have to count on Nicklas "Geico" Backstrom, he'd be in a better position. Geico never does anything in the second round. He did the same disappearing act vs us last year and the other match-ups. He's a above average first center who is superb regular season. But outside of a couple of great first rounds, Geico never shows up in the Conference Semis. He's destroying the Caps again. If they go out in a whimper, they might want to explore moving him. Kuznetsov has also had a very poor postseason. He's not scoring. I've seen more compete from him than Geico. But he needs to hit the score sheet. Williams finally did something last night setting up Carlson's tying goal.
Ovechkin has tried like hell to carry them. But he only has one goal in the series. Murray has beaten him. He has been brilliant. Ovi was denied on a great set up in the slot by an aggressive chest save. Murray also beat him on mini-breaks earlier in the series. It's the 21-year old netminder who has stepped up his game, outplaying the would be Vezina winner Holtby, who called out his teammates. Considering that he gave up a softy right thru the wickets to Cullen like Lundqvist and also allowed Hornqvist's winner thru the wickets, maybe he should change his name to Holetby. Not saying it's his fault. But he's been the shakier and more beatable goalie.
In this round, the Caps' best player is Oshie. He scored twice in their only win including the brilliant wrap around. He's been terrific. Dangerous every shift. Responsible. I always felt he was underrated in St. Louis. Not overrated. Watch him during shifts. He competes the way you have to. If more Caps played with his urgency along with Ovechkin, they wouldn't be in this situation. Also, worth noting that Oshie and Carlson are good players. Neither should be their best in the second round. Bottom line. They need Ovechkin to score in Game Five and a big performance from Holtby. And anything out of Geico or Kuznetsov. Their season depends upon it.
One other point. I feel like Trotz has been out-coached by Sullivan, who did the same to Vigneault. Trotz has waited too long to break up the top line. He tried Ovechkin for a few shifts with Kuznetsov in Game 3. But remains loyal to Geico (Backstrom). He did double shift his top six a lot in the second part of the third last night. But they were unable to beat Murray.
I see the same thing from the Pens I saw in Round One. Better compete. Better hustle and willingness to get dirty. More speed. Better defensive team even minus Letang, which speaks volumes about Sullivan. And also the Hawks' foolishness tossing away Daley. Rutherford got so much criticism last year for awful moves. Well, a year later everything he's touched has turned to gold. Fires the miscast Johnston and replaces him with Sullivan. A more old school coach from the Tort book who's not afraid to discipline even his best players. He called out Malkin in Game 3 last round and benched him for 6:00. Malkin responded since with his best work since his Conn Smythe. Sullivan's willingness to trust guys he knows from Wilkes Barre/Scranton playing fast and gritty youngsters Rust and Sheary. His fingerprints on the Perron for Hagelin swap which helped both the Ducks (until playoffs) and Pens. He knew Hags from here. And look at how Hags plays. Balls to the wall. He's made all the difference with Kessel. Sully also moved Bonino into the second center slot when Malkin went down and now it's their most cohesive fore-checking line.
If you also notice, you don't see as many frustration penalties from Crosby and Malkin, who still gets away with murder. His hit that injured Winnik should've been called and merited a review. That's the league folks. Then there's Letang, who got one game for his dangerous hit on Johansson. But Johansson returned. As for Letang the hockey player, there's no more valuable player on the Pens. He is playing ridiculous minutes. Letang has topped out at 35 minutes. In my estimation, he's a better defenseman than Karlsson, who in his own right is excellent going a point-per-game on a playoff-less Ottawa team. I feel like Letang should be up for the Norris. But can't disagree with who they selected.
I guess what it comes down to is sometimes, a coaching change is needed to wake up a team. The Pens were easy to play against. They were going nowhere. They made a great decision and now look like the favorite coming out of the East. Who can beat them? Do the Caps still have a chance? Well, they lack the Rangers' mental makeup that allowed them to come back last year. Ovechkin did it once to the Rangers in Tort's first year here. The infamous Gatorade incident with the fan that turned that series. The Caps' mindset has to be, 'No way we're losing Game 5 on our home ice. Get to Murray early. Create doubt.' If it's not, then they're done. Win Game 5. Make the Pens think about it. They don't want to return for Game 7. Honestly, I don't think the Caps have it in them. Prove me wrong.