ARLINGTON, Va. --
The Capitals claim they are not shaking their heads and wondering how to beat Jaroslav Halak
now that the Canadiens goalie has stopped 90 of the 92 shots he's seen over the last two games. But you have to wonder how much truth there is to that considering that, well, Halak has stopped 90 of the 92 shots he's seen over the last two games.
If it weren't for the Slovak sensation, it's fair to say the Capitals would be preparing for the conference semifinals against Philadelphia. Instead, they have to play Game 7 against the Canadiens on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN, RDS).
They've lost two in a row to get to this point, so what needs to turn for the Capitals to avoid the scarlet letter that comes with being labeled a first-round bust?
Here are five things the Capitals could use in order to win Game 7:
1. Solid first 10
They don't necessarily have to take a lead, but how about not giving up two goals in the first 10 minutes for a change? The Canadiens have scored within the first 9:09 in each of the last two games and it changes everything about the contest. As Capitals right wing Eric Fehr
said, when Montreal has the lead it can sit back and play what is, in effect, a neutral-zone trap. When the Habs are trailing, they can't sit back because they have to score and that usually opens space for the Capitals to work their magic. Washington has to get out of the first 10 minutes without giving up a goal, and scoring first Wednesday night is just as imperative.
It took their 51st shot to finally score on Halak in Game 6. Hopefully for the Caps it doesn't take that long in Game 7, but no matter what they have to keep firing away at the Habs' net and hope the dam breaks at some point. The key, as Mike Green
pointed out Tuesday, is getting traffic in front of Halak. They scored in Game 6 when Green's shot was re-directed by Fehr right at the doorstep. If no one is in front of Halak, he's proven he's going to stop the puck.
3. A power play goal
Imagine, if you will, that the Capitals got a power-play goal in Game 7. Now, imagine if it came early in the game -- say, the first period. It might be hard to do right about now considering the Capitals are 1-for-30 on the power play in this series, but what a huge lift it would give the team to get one in the most important game of the series. This was the League's best power play in the regular season and it's seriously broken right now. There's no better time to fix it than the present. If not, they might not get another chance to score a power-play goal until October.
4. A goal from Alexander Semin and/or Tomas Fleischmann
Similar to the power play, a goal from Semin or Fleischmann in Game 7 may not be an absolute must-have for the Caps to win, but boy would that ignite them. Semin scored 40 goals in the regular season, but now has gone 13 straight playoff games without scoring. Fleischmann had 23 goals in the regular season, but has just 3 goals in 22 career playoff games. Semin leads all players in the playoffs with 36 shots on goal, but he is tied for last in goals with a big fat zero. Fleischmann has eight shots in the series, but his last two have been splendid chances that he just missed on. An interesting stat about Semin is this year he went six straight games without a goal twice, but he broke out of both slumps with 2 goals in the seventh game. Well, he's gone six straight games without a goal now, so does he have a pair on his stick Wednesday night?
5. The timely saves
For two games rookie Semyon Varlamov
has been good, but not great. He has made several important saves, but not the key one at the right time. If Varlamov plays -- and Boudreau on Tuesday gave enough hints to make everyone think he will -- he can't give up a soft goal like the one he gave to Michael Cammalleri
9:09 into the game Monday. Similarly, he has to find a way to stop the Canadiens when they get an early good look from the slot like Travis Moen
got in Game 5. These are not easy saves to make, but they are the ones goalies have to stop in order to give their team a chance. Again, Varlamov has been effective in this series, but effective isn't good enough when the goalie on the other end is lights-out.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl