The Washington Capitals penalty kill unit has done a stellar job against the high-powered Penguins power play unit. The Caps have allowed just goal to Pittsburgh with a man-advantage. Washington had an even bigger power play to kill off as veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik has missed the last three games due to a vicious his on Pens defenseman Olli Maatta.
The Caps were on the verge of elimination, potentially losing all three games Orpik would be suspended for. However, they were able to slightly kill off the penalty, so to say, and force a pivotal Game 6 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. Washington now gets the proverbial man out of the box and will look to Force a Game 7 and avoid early fishing trips.
Orpik will likely be paired with fellow defenseman John Carlson on the second line for Washington. This gives the Capitals back their defensive depth, something that has shown to be an issue during the first five games of the series. Will there be a target on Orpik’s back or will the Pens retaliate with a win and elimination of the Caps? His return will be one of the x-factors that determine if this series goes the seven-game distance.
Another thing that will be of note for Game 6 is the Penguins sticking with 21-year old rookie Matt Murray between the pipes. Game 5 was only Murray’s second loss in the postseason as he is 6-2. He has a .937 save percentage and a 1.96 goals-against average. Normally, Marc-Andre Fleury would be starting in net for the Pens, but he has been out for over a month after receiving his second concussion of the season. He is healthy and cleared to go, but Pittsburgh is sticking with Murray with the luxury of having Fleury as his backup.
If Murray leads the Penguins to the Eastern Conference Finals and potentially a Stanley Cup, that presents the Pens with an interesting dilemma. Would they fully commit to Murray, who is going to eventually be the franchise net minder? Would they look to ship Fleury and acquire a nice package of players and draft picks? That is a question will have to be answered after the conclusion of this series. The Penguins have to make it to the next round first.
The power play units haven’t been as big of a factor as many were thinking they would be entering the series. In Game 5, the two teams combined to score thee power play goals, with the Caps scoring two of them. Alex Ovechkin rifled a shot past Murray on the power play in the early goings of the game to set the tone. When Pittsburgh responded with a power play goal of their own, scored by Kris Kunitz, it snapped an 0-14 power play drought.
In Game 6, whichever power play unit provides more success will be the key factor to determine if we will see a Game 7 or a Game 1 between the Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Washington came out firing on all cylinders to start Game 5 and it proved to help them in winning and forcing a Game 6. If they are able to come out with that same up-tempo style of play, it will force the Penguins to adjust. For the Penguins, all the pressure is on them to take care of business in front of the home crowd. Pittsburgh’s stars of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin need to have a strong presence in this game in order for the Pens to emerge victorious and advance to face the Lightning.
The return of Orpik could very well be the difference in this series. What kind of an impact will he be able to make in the biggest game of the Capitals season? Will Murray suffer back-to-back defeats, sending the series to an extremely unpredictable Game 7? All these questions will be answered Tuesday night in the Console Energy Center when the puck drops at 8 pm.