If the Capitals keep this up, they’ll make short work of the Golden Knights and hoist their first Cup. They out-shot, out-hit, out-blocked, out-worked and out-everythinged their opponent to take a 2-1 series lead heading into their second home game. The return of Evgeny Kuznetsov gave the Caps a very noticeable advantage at center, and as a group they won 63 percent of the faceoffs. They’ve made life difficult for Marc-Andre Fleury with some not-so-accidental contact in the blue paint, and it looks like the Knights will only go as far as he takes them. The Caps should be favored to win Game 4, and if successful, they’ll be within one game of giving D.C. its first parade in 26 years.
Alex Ovechkin, WAS vs. VGK ($12,600): The Caps' captain is one of the all-time greats, and even if his Cup run isn’t successful, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer who’s no less a winner than any other member. He’s scored a point in each of the three games, and his next goal will give him sole possession of first place in playoff goals. It’s a very encouraging sign that he’s been able to score goals in a variety of ways, including a backhander from in-close after a scramble.
William Karlsson, VGK at WAS ($10,400): He was held without a shot for the first time in what felt like forever in Game 3, and his meager two points is off his usual pace. Perhaps Karlsson is just crashing back down to Earth at the wrong time after a tremendous breakout season, but Gerard Gallant has almost never broken up his top line during the playoffs and will continue to lean on Karlsson’s unit. In terms of opportunities, Karlsson will continue to get them. Whether he can capitalize or not is the gamble.
Braden Holtby, WAS vs. VGK ($7,900): Minus the forgettable performance in Game 1, Holtby has allowed just three goals in four games and continues to stymie the Knights offense. We’re still not exactly sure how he transformed a terrible regular season into a magnificent Conn Smythe-worthy run overnight, but his story is just as intriguing as Ovechkin’s after starting the playoffs playing behind Philip Grubauer.
Alex Tuch, VGK at WAS ($7,100): He was built for the playoffs with his size, reach and skill, and over the past two games he’s been one of the Knights’ better players, putting eight shots on goal while averaging over 16 minutes per game. On defense, the Caps collapse and block shots very well, making offense difficult to generate, but Tuch has the strength to plant himself close to the net and take advantage of rebounds or tips.
Jakub Vrana, WAS vs. VGK ($5,800): He’s a dicey pick, but Vrana’s a skilled player who can score goals when given the opportunity. He doesn’t get much ice time but he makes the most of it, having put seven shots on goal in the series, and he’s very lucky to be playing with an elite playmaker in Nicklas Backstrom and an unselfish wing in T.J. Oshie.
Shea Theodore, VGK at WAS ($5,600): The Knights power play didn’t score and Theodore finished with a minus-1 rating in Game 3, including a bad giveaway that led to a Caps goal, but overall, he’s been more positive than negative. The former Duck was a casualty of a crowded blue line in Anaheim, and his offensive ceiling is much higher than any other Knight defenseman. While Nate Schmidt leads in average ice time, Theodore continues to be their preferred quarterback on the power play and plays more at even strength than any of his teammates. If Vegas wants to get back in the series, they must capitalize on the man advantage because they’re getting outplayed at even strength.