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Game 5 X’s, O’s and Uh-ohs!



Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby. By Michael Miller (Own work) | CC BY-SA 3.0

(UpdateL 6:41pm): You have any doubt Crosby is playing?  The biggest question is–what will this do to the Capitals mental state?

(Update: 6:10pm): Sidney Crosby was seen working out and stretching in the Penguins hallway. A VERY good sign #87 will play tonight.

The Pittsburgh Penguins ran into a trap, Wednesday night. Six minutes into the 2nd period, the Capitals fell back into a Downey-soft trap. The Capitals 1-2-2 became indistinguishable from a 1-4 because four Capitals fell back to the defensive blue line, leaving just one directional forechecker.

The Penguins hit a brick wall. They had just seven shots over the final 36 minutes. Ooch. The Capitals, in the most Capital-y, Capitals thing they could do, peppered goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for only enough offense to tie the game. Despite utter domination, the Capitals never led and the Penguins won. Again.

Our newest linemate, Mike Necciai wrote a great piece today on tonight’s line match-ups. Read it here.

If the Capitals trap the Penguins in Game 5, the Penguins will not be able to play a puck possession game, and their counter attack will in some ways be thwarted, if the Capitals are defensively responsible (not always the case with a few shot happy power forwards…).

The Penguins will, until they get a lead or are able to draw the Capitals out of the trap, will need to play a classic dump-n-chase game. Or, Chip-N-Chase for you youngin’s.

A dump-in game will place emphasis on winger’s speed away from the puck; players like Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Patric Hornvist, Chris Kunitz and Tom Kuhnhackl will be charged with chasing down loose pucks, thus beginning an offensive possession.

Notice I didn’t include Carl Hagelin or Phil Kessel. Grinding in the corners isn’t exactly Phil’s game and Hagelin hasn’t yet resumed his

The Penguins essentially gave up, in Game 4. The red line seemed like an oasis on the horizon for much of the third period.

I didn’t count the icing calls. I don’t have that much time.

If indeed the Capitals do go for the defensive trap, and abandon the physical forecheck which the Penguins have countered, the three keys will be patience, patience, and back-side speed.

Oh, and the defensemen pinching in, too.  Olli Maatta may or may not have hinted to some reporters that is part of the plan tonight.

Grab a beer, grab a stress ball, and breath deep. This is going to be a wild one. You don’t think the President’s Trophy winner is going quietly in their own building, in front of 19,000 fans hitting 114dbs, do you?

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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