Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson (43) chases the puck against Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek (34) during the third period of Game 2 on Saturday, April 13, 2019, in Washington. The Capitals won 4-3 in overtime. AP
1. THE MATCH GAME You’d normally look at coming home for Game 3 as a chance to get the matchups you want, and that as a key to getting the Hurricanes’ struggling stars going, but the Capitals loaded up with John Carlson and their top defensemen so heavy at home that there doesn’t figure to be much of a change on the road. Rod Brind’Amour isn’t a huge matchup coach anyway, but he would be advised to look for any little advantage he can get with last change.
2. MRAZEK MAN By the underlying analytics – shot quality faced and goals allowed – Petr Mrazek is the worst goalie in the playoffs. Anecdotally, he’s been more than sharp and timely enough since Nicklas Backstrom’s long-distance goal to open the series, the Brooks Orpik winner in Game 2 coming at the end of a long series of Carolina breakdowns. Brind’Amour seemed to leave the door open at least a hair to giving Curtis McElhinney a shot, since McElhinney has often exerted a calming presence on a defense that has been a little scrambly, but that may be more likely if the Hurricanes are facing a 3-0 deficit in Game 4.
3. START ON TIME The old Bill Peters line about “starting on time” applies here; going down two or three goals to the Capitals in the first period is a recipe for disaster. The issue was special teams in Game 1, five-on-five (and Justin Faulk) in Game 2. Another slow start could effectively end the series.
4. FLIP THE POWER The so-called second power-play unit with Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin has had better chances than Faulk’s ponderous first unit. It’s long past time for the second group to become the first group, at least until those forwards show a little more initiative.
5. STAY THE COURSE The Hurricanes have a 102-62 shot-attempt advantage at five-on-five through two games. If they can play the special teams to a draw and get a few big saves, they’re already doing most of what they need to do at even strength to compete in this series. If they can take it back to Washington tied 2-2, all the pressure will be on the Capitals.