Stanley Cup Final: Game 4
Monday, June 4, 2018 - 8:00 p.m. ET
Capital One Arena - Washington, DC
Watch: NBC - NBC Sports App - NBCSports.com
Washington Capitals Keys to Victory
- Shot Suppression: Washington’s defense corps did a fantastic job of stifling the Vegas Golden Knights offense in Game 3. The defense was particularly strong against the Golden Knights top line, not allowing William Karlsson or Reilly Smith a single shot on net. Washington held Vegas to just 22 shots on net which made it an easy night for goaltender Braden Holtby. Another defensive effort like the one seen in Game 3 will result in a 3-1 series lead for Washington.
- Kuznets-on! Evgeny Kuznetsov played in Game 3 after being knocked out of Game 2 with an arm injury. His presence was felt all night, as he had a multi-point game including a decisive second goal in which he beat Marc-Andre Fleury far side. He may be Washington’s most important player outside of Alex Ovechkin and he will need to again step up in Game 4. His offensive presence on his line is Robin to Ovechkin’s Batman. His production in Game 4 needs to be at the level it was in Game 3.
- Focus on Faceoffs: After being significantly outbattled in the faceoff dot in the first two games, Washington won 63% of draws in Game 3. Controlling the face off dot means controlling the game, especially in the offensive zone. Nicklas Backstrom was especially good on draws, winning 61% and being a strong facilitator with the puck. Winning at the dot needs to be a focus of Washington’s in Game 4. - Justin Lape
Vegas Golden Knights Keys to Victory
- Responsible defense: Vegas has been able to rely on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to bail them out on bad plays throughout the postseason. However, the Capitals have been able to convert on these chances, putting Vegas in its first series deficit going into game four. The Knights defensemen need to pinch less, or at least pick better places to pinch. The Caps have been able to create breakaways and odd-man rushes in the series using speed and by winning the puck around their own blueline in the defensive zone. This is exactly what happened in Game 3 to give the Caps a 2-0 lead. Kuznetsov got the puck in his own zone high in the zone and it led to a three-on-one which he buried.
- Has Fleury’s Luck Run Out? This brings me to the next point. Kuznetsov scored on the three-on-one from a less than ideal angle underneath Fleury’s blocker, the third goal of the series that went in under his blocker. The specific goal from game three is a save he has to have. The defense played the odd-man rush correctly and took away the pass, but Fleury anticipated the shot and played it wrong. Had he made the stop, the game is still 1-0 in the second period and it could have also sprung a counterattack odd-man rush. Instead, the Caps led 2-0, the crowd was going insane and the Knights were tasked with trying to come back from a multiple goal lead against a scorching hot Braden Holtby.
- Top Line Woes: Coming back from a multiple-goal deficit is doable for Vegas when their top line is humming—however, they are anything but at the moment. The top line, which had been averaging over a point per game and nearly a goal per game, has not recorded a point since the first game of the series. The Karlsson-Smith-Marchessault pairing is the driving force of the Golden Knights offense, and without them it is going to be nearly impossible for them to win. The Knights need to work to try to get favorable matchups on the road with quick changes to try to make sure they can get the top line going. Their ability to get to a pivotal Game 5 on home ice may depend on it. - Zeke Lukow