Let’s get physical: Expect Capitals-Lightning rematch to be a rough one

J.J. Regan
NBC Sports Washington

Lets get physical: Expect Capitals-Lightning rematch to be a rough one originally appeared on nbcsportswashington.com

Last season the Capitals came up against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. The Lightning were heavily favored, but the Caps walked away victorious in seven games. One reason was because of the physical play. Washington flat out pushed the Lightning around.

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On Saturday, Washington and Tampa Bay met for the first time since the Conference Final and the Lightning clearly made an effort to show that this year, things would be different.

Tampa Bay officially outhit the Caps 33-23 as they threw their bodies around at everything dressed in white. Alex Killorn's second goal of the night came on a play in which he physically pushed Nick Jensen off the puck on his way to the net. At one point, Ryan McDonagh even had T.J. Oshie in a headlock.

That's not to say that Washington was pushed around. Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson were giving as much as they took. Wilson hit Mikhail Sergachev with a thunderous hit in the first period and he was ready to drop the gloves with Erik Cernak late in the third after the two exchanged jabs.

So what does this all mean? It means we are in for one heck of a rematch on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN).

Game notes:

Familiar foes

Wednesday's game marks the second of three games between Washington and Tampa Bay in the month of March. They had not played one another prior to Saturday's meeting.

Back-to-back

The Caps are back in action on Wednesday after playing the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. For the season, the Caps are 5-5-2 in the second game of a back-to-back. While that's not terrible, a number of Washington's worst losses have come on the backend of a back-to-back including a 6-0 loss to New Jersey on Oct. 11, a 7-2 loss to Nashville on Jan. 15 and a 3-0 loss to Columbus on Feb. 12.

The good news is that the Caps were able to stay relatively fresh on Tuesday against an injury-depleted Devils team. The time on ice for all the team's forwards ranged from 12:03 to 18:26 as Todd Reirden did his best to roll all four lines. On defense, Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen carried most of the load each playing for over 21 minutes. John Carlson meanwhile was held to 20:55. None of the other three defensemen played over 20 minutes. Brooks Orpik and Braden Holtby each had the night off as well.

So while this may be a back-to-back, Washington did just enough to get the win on Tuesday while staying fresh for Wednesday's game.

The Presidents' Curse?

Tampa Bay has already clinched the Presidents' Trophy for the season before any other team in the East has managed to clinch a playoff spot. The season the Lightning are having is incredible, but Washington fans know better than anyone that regular season success does not necessarily mean anything for the playoffs.

Of the 32 winners of the Presidents' Trophy, 11 of those teams have reached the Stanley Cup Final and eight of those teams have won the Cup. Fans usually point to this as evidence of a "curse," but to be able to pick out one team out of 16 and give that team a 35-percent chance of reaching the final is actually pretty good.

One funny note though, the Lightning clinched a playoff berth in just 68 games, tied for the second fastest in NHL history. The 2008-09 San Jose Sharks also needed just 68 games clinch while the 2009-10 Capitals were the fastest with just 67 games. Both of those teams lost in the first round of the playoffs. Just something to think about.

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