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After the Capitals blew a lead and lost in OT in each of the first two games of this series, they went ahead and shut up the haters by rattling off four consecutive wins to stun, and eliminate, the Blue Jackets. The Caps got the series-clinching win on Monday night in Columbus, taking down the Jackets with an emphatic 6-3 win.
Washington has yet to make it out of the second round in the Alexander Ovechkin era, which dates back to 2005. To be fair, the Capitals have had some tough matchups with the Pittsburgh Penguins -- they who have won three Cups in that timeframe -- and may meet Pittsburgh in the second round once again this year. They'll first have to get through the Jackets, who are looking for their first postseason series win in franchise history.
Let's take a look at how this series breaks down from all angles. Stick around for predictions as well.
How to watch
(All times ET)
* - If necessary
Game 1, Thursday, April 12: Blue Jackets 4, Capitals 3 (OT)
Game 2, Sunday, April 15: Blue Jackets 5, Capitals 4 (OT)
Game 3, Tuesday, April 17: Capitals 3, Blue Jackets 2 (2OT)
Game 4, Thursday, April 19: Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 1
Game 5, Saturday, April 21: Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 3 (OT)
Game 6, Monday, April 23: Capitals 6, Blue Jackets 3
NHL Playoffs odds
The Capitals' offense ranked ninth in the league while the Blue Jackets ranked 16th, but Washington only scored one goal more than Columbus at 5-on-5 this season. That being said, the Caps have a guy named Alex Ovheckin...you may have heard of him. He led the NHL in goals this season with 49, and he's out to prove that his team can (finally) get it done in the playoffs. Washington is strong down the middle -- their top nine features Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and Lars Eller -- and that can work as a strong advantage for them in this series. Columbus has an excellent top line with Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson and a top defensive pairing that is great at generating offense, but depth isn't their strong suit and secondary scoring could be an issue.
The Capitals have a pretty solid top four with John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitri Orlov in the mix, but Columbus has one of the best pairings in the league with Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Those two are a force when it comes to driving play and generating offense. We'll see how the Blue Jackets' second pair in Ian Cole and David Savard handle shutdown duties against Washington's weapons, but they've been solid in tough minutes this year. The depth edge goes to Columbus.
Edge: Blue Jackets
Philipp Grubauer over Braden Holtby in net for Washington. For as good as Grubauer has been this year, and he's been really good, the Blue Jackets still have reigning Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky, who had another great season in Columbus this year. If there's one argument against Bobrovsky, he's got very shaky playoff numbers with an .887 save percentage in 18 career postseason games. Still, he's the guy I'd trust in this series.
Edge: Blue Jackets
A good rule of thumb is to assume that any power play that has Alex Ovechkin carries a special teams advantage, but that's sort of understating things here. The Blue Jackets have had a pretty miserable year on special teams, as their power play ranked 25th in the league and their penalty kill ranked 26th. The Caps fared much better, ranking seventh with the man-advantage and 15th on the kill. Also, Ovechkin.
Blackburn: I worry about Washington's goalie situation, but not enough to overlook their advantage when it comes to offensive depth and special teams. So often poor special teams play can make or break a team's chances in the postseason, and Columbus is leaning heavily towards break. Capitals in 6.
Benjamin: Look, John Tortorella did a nice job turning the team around in time to get back to the playoffs, but it seems like Washington is especially geared up for a run -- and probably because they're finally not favorites. Alex Ovechkin is still very much a difference maker here. Capitals in 5.
Skiver: The Blue Jackets will need to wait another year for their franchise's first postseason win, as the Capitals looked dominant in the Metropolitan Division. The goalie by committee approach worries me in the playoffs, but whether it's Braden Holtby or Philipp Grubauer in net, I think Rocket Richard Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin can lead the Capitals to a series win. Capitals in 5.