The Washington Capitals will advance to the second round after wrapping up the first round with a 6-3 win in Game 6 versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. It is the second time in as many years that the Capitals made it past the first round, and also the second time in those years that they will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in their next match-up.
The Capitals came out of the gate cold, losing their first two games 4-3 and 5-4, respectively. And they lost both games at home, which gave the Blue Jackets a lot of momentum coming into their two home games.
But the Capitals quickly got that momentum back, winning games 3 and 4 on the road. Game 3 was a double-overtime thriller which ended with a game-winning goal from defensemen Lars Eller.
— Stadium (@WatchStadium) April 18, 2018
Game 4 was much less exhilarating, with the Capitals taking an easy 4-1 victory. One of the biggest benefits from this victory was that they now had momentum heading back home, something that every team wants following a road trip.
One of the reasons Washington lost the first two might have been due to the goaltender play of Philipp Grubauer. He was the backup to Braden Holtby for the beginning of the year, but when Holtby’s game-by-game performance turned shaky, coach Barry Trotz turned to Grubauer to be Washington’s starter for the first two games.
After losing the first two, Trotz decided they might as well try putting Holtby back in. He won the Vezina trophy for being the league’s best goalkeeper in 2016, and he is an incredibly talented player. He immediately turned back into his 2016 self, getting 35 saves on 37 shots and leading the team to their first victory of the series. He didn’t look back, playing at a similar level for the remaining four games of the series.
Many considered the Capitals goners after losing the first two games of this series. But they rebounded quickly, winning four in a row and clinching the series.
They have a tough road ahead, especially considering how much they have struggled against Pittsburgh in recent years. But if they can play at the rate they played at in the back end of their first series, they will be very hard to beat.