For additional insight into the Eastern Conference Second Round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Craig Berube to break down the action. Berube will be checking in throughout the series.
Berube, 50, was the coach of the Philadelphia Flyers from 2013-15. He was a Flyers assistant coach for six seasons prior to being promoted to coach on Oct. 7, 2013. The Flyers were 75-58-28 under Berube. They made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and lost to the New York Rangers in the first round in 2014.
PITTSBURGH -- Among a plethora of positives the Washington Capitals should take out of their 3-2 loss in Game 3 on Monday is the fact that left wing Alex Ovechkin made his presence known in this Eastern Conference Second Round series in his typical dominating fashion.
Ovechkin had a goal, an assist, five shots on goal and 12 total shot attempts in the third period as Washington tried to rally from down 3-0 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center. His production in the third was in direct contrast to his first eight periods plus overtime in the series, when he had no goals and one assist with nine shots and 23 total shot attempts.
Craig Berube, the former Philadelphia Flyers coach, said he believes Ovechkin's dominance will carry over into Game 4 in Pittsburgh on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports), and that can only mean good things for the Capitals, who trail 2-1 in the best-of-7 series.
"He scored a goal, so he's going to feel better about himself," Berube said. "It's all just a matter of time for him to start getting these opportunities and scoring. He's just too good of a player. He's a powerhouse out there."
Penguins center Sidney Crosby has been the opposite of that through three games. It's not as if he's been bad, but he has no points and six shots on goal in the three games against Washington after getting eight points in five games against the Rangers
"I'm surprised he's been quiet this long," Berube said.
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Considering how Ovechkin turned up his game Monday, Berube wonders if the Penguins can defeat the Capitals on Wednesday if Crosby doesn't do the same, particularly because defenseman Kris Letang will not be in the lineup because he'll be serving a one-game suspension for his interference hit on Marcus Johansson in Game 3.
"It's going to be tough," Berube said. "[Crosby] needs to pick it up for sure. I didn't even see him get any real good opportunities [in Game 3]."
Crosby has played the first three games of the series with 5-foot-8 rookie Conor Sheary on his left wing. Berube said Sheary might be too small to play that big of a role against the Capitals, which means coach Mike Sullivan may have to rethink that strategy and use a bigger, more physical winger opposite Crosby and Patric Hornqvist.
"That would help, somebody that could take the body a bit, get in there and work for him," Berube said. "It's not that Sheary doesn't work hard, he does, but he's not big."
Berube mentioned Chris Kunitz as a possibility because he has played with Crosby for a long time. Eric Fehr is the other possibility. Kunitz and Fehr have been playing with Evgeni Malkin.
Berube said Sullivan should not consider breaking up the line with Nick Bonino playing in between Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin because it has produced in all three games and has been Pittsburgh's best line.
"Definitely some more size, somebody that can get there and take the body and create loose pucks for Sid would help," Berube said.
Maybe putting more size on Crosby's line will enable him and the Penguins to hang onto the puck longer. They weren't able to do that in Game 3 and it's a big reason for the 49-23 discrepancy in shots on goal and 85-36 discrepancy in total shot attempts.
"They didn't have it enough and they didn't execute good enough," Berube said. "They got the 3-0 lead and they just stopped playing."
The Capitals kept attacking, especially in the third period, when they had 21 shots on goal and scored twice to make it 3-2. They had 28 shots on goal through two periods. Berube, though, still feels Washington didn't generate enough quality second chances against Penguins rookie goalie Matt Murray, who made 47 saves.
If Washington is going to correct anything for Game 4, getting more bodies to the net should be it.
"I see a good chance, and then it's over," Berube said. "Just get there, don't hesitate. If they can get a better net drive and push the Penguins 'D' back a little bit more they'll get the rebounds and create more traffic around the net."
That might be easier to do against the Penguins in Game 4 because Letang will not be playing.
"It's not like they're going to replace that guy with anybody for the one game," Berube said. "They've got good players that will come in and compete, but they're not Letang."