Three keys to Capitals-Lightning

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THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES

1. All the trappings of fun series

Watch the Lightning play in the neutral zone and you’ll either be amazed by their structure or bored by how they’re not really doing much. Tampa Bay sits back in a 1-3-1 trap and tries to force turnovers, so the Capitals understand the need for quick passes. “It’s no secret - the coaches will have a great game plan for us and if we do it and do it the way we’re supposed to, we’ll probably be successful,” forward Matt Bradley said.

2. Testing Neuvirth

Michal Neuvirth was a star in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs series, but the offensively challenged New York Rangers didn’t give him a whole lot to worry about. The Lightning, who feature Hart Trophy finalist Marty St. Louis, former No. 1 overall pick Steven Stamkos and plenty of other weapons, certainly will ratchet up the pressure. “They’ve got more game-breakers for sure than the Rangers have, and I think their special teams were an awful lot better than Pittsburgh’s, so that’s probably the difference,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.

3. Hit the ice running

By the time the series starts Friday at Verizon Center, the Caps will have had five days off. Tampa Bay is coming off a Game 7 victory Wednesday night and flew straight to Washington from Pittsburgh. Players are split over whether rest is an advantage or disadvantage in the playoffs, but the Caps seem to think getting time off will do well for them. “It tires you out, but the same thing is they got the rhythm now - they know exactly what to do, they played every other night,” forward Marco Sturm said. “We had a week off. It’s going to be a big challenge.”

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Caps RW Alex Ovechkin vs. Lightning C Steven Stamkos

The two offensive superstars might not see a lot of each other on the ice, but they’re likely to share spots on the score sheet. Ovechkin had three goals and three assists in the first round against the Rangers, while the Penguins limited Stamkos to two goals and two assists. If either or both break out, it’ll be fun to watch both defenses try to contain them. “You grow up and you have to shadow guys every now and then, always the best players, and [Stamkos is] one of those guys you have to be within a few feet of so you can try to take that time away,” defenseman Karl Alzner said.

PROJECTED CAPITALS LINES

Forwards

Brooks Laich-Nicklas Backstrom-Alex Ovechkin

Marco Sturm-Jason Arnott-Alexander Semin

Jason Chimera-Marcus Johansson-Eric Fehr

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