Three things to watch for in Penguins-Capitals Game 6
The Penguins are literally in a must-win situation in Game 6 of the Metropolitan Division finals against the Washington Capitals on Monday night. Lose and their season's over.
The Capitals might as well be in a must-win situation themselves.
In franchise history, Washington is 4-11 in Game 7s, including an 0-3 mark against the Penguins and an 0-5 record beyond the first round. They want no part of a winner-take-all game Wednesday night in Washington.
Add it all up, and the desperation level of both clubs should be off the charts when the puck drops just after 7 p.m.
“Our opponent, anybody who gets their backs against the wall, you get their best game,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “We're going to need our best game too.”
Here are three things to watch for in Game 6.
1. GOALIE FORECAST
Sightings of the playoff version of Matt Murray who patrolled the Penguins crease each of the last two postseasons have been rare so far this year. His playoff save percentage of .905 is just OK and his .898 against the Capitals is worse than that.
Stats indicate he might be in for a stronger performance Monday night, however.
Murray has made six starts with the Penguins trailing in a series in his NHL career. He's 6-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
Murray has started three games with the Penguins facing elimination. He's 3-0 with a 1.46 GAA and .934 save percentage.
If he struggles with his back against the wall on Monday night, it will be a first.
2. TIME MANAGEMENT
Coach Mike Sullivan has a critical decision to make as he hands out ice time to his defensemen in Game 6.
In the previous two home games in the series, Sullivan wanted Kris Letang on the ice against Alex Ovechkin as much as possible. Twenty-three of his 38 minutes of five-on-five ice time in Games 3 and 4 came with Ovechkin on the ice.
The Penguins, however, have been outscored 9-4 at even strength when Letang has been on the ice in the series.
Sullivan must decide whether he will continue handing the game's hardest assignments to Letang or split up those minutes more evenly among his other defensemen.
3. PHIL IT UP
Phil Kessel has been ineffective for much of the series against the Capitals, and he's clearly operating at less than 100 percent physical health, but his production has begun to trend upwards.
Kessel had a pair of power-play assists in a 6-3 Penguins loss in Game 5. With assists in each of the previous two games as well, he has, against all odds, put together a three-game scoring streak.
A resurgence from Kessel could make a massive difference for the Penguins in Game 6.