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Backchecking the Pens: May 5. That’s Crosby’s Music!

(UPDATE: 12:15pm)

Per concussion protocol, Crosby must pass the final test tomorrow morning.

(UPDATE: 11:49am)

Analysis:

The Sheary-Bonino-Rust line is REALLY going to have its hands full. If Caps coach Barry Trotz can put Ovechkin against that line or throw Kuznetsov against it. Either way, it’s a major Capitals advantage. By the end of Game 5, the Hagelin-Cullen-Kunhackl line may well be pressed into more than 10 minutes of icetime as a way of defending the Capitals middle lines.

Add the trap the Capitals sprung on the Penguins, six minutes into the second period of Game 4, Trotz is upping his game. Sullivan outcoached Trotz last year. If the Capitals lose this series in five games, Trotz may not have a bench to coach, next season. He clearly is thinking outside the box, and the Capitals are better for it. Great moves.

(UPDATE: 11:30am) — Today at the Pittsburgh Penguins practice, Sidney Crosby was a full participant, centering a line between Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist.

You’ll also notice Conor Sheary as a full participant, as well. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be at full strength.

Analysis:

My Gawd–that’s Crosby’s music! The Capitals locker room is unlikely a happy place, today. They know they’re down 3-1, but without Crosby, the Capitals had to feel better about their chances. Crosby’s return only applies more pressure to the Capitals and must be somewhat demoralizing. Inevitability creeps into every series.

Crosby’s return may have just added inevitability to this one.

Conor Sheary is also on the ice today, in full rotation. In the coaching matchups and bench games, the Capitals tortured the Sheary-Bonino-Wilson line in Games 1 and 2 by matching up the Kuznetsov line. Johansson-Kuznetsov-Williams owned OVER 90% of the shot attempts against that line. Actually, 96% against Sheary.

With those stats in mind, it is a legitimate question if the Penguins are best served to reinsert Sheary into the lineup. The Penguins fourth line did not get much ice in Game 4, but it was solid. Tom Kuhnhackl was especially good, as he returned to his beast mode of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Carter Rowney may be the better play for Game 5. But… coaches. Coaches don’t like outside the box thinking.

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