The Capitals’ top line got the better of the Penguins’ top line in Game 1, but don’t expect Pittsburgh to avoid that matchup going forward. Head coach Mike Sullivan saw plenty to like from his line’s performance.
Barry Trotz has shown all season that he likes putting his top line out against his opponents' and it has worked thus far in the postseason.
Sullivan, however, isn’t concerned.
“No, I’m not going to avoid it,” Sullivan said when asked if he would try to free his top line from the Caps’. “We don’t mind that matchup. I think Sid’s line can play against anybody and he's done that all year long and they've produced.”
But they didn’t in Game 1.
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The Penguins’ line of Connor Sheary, Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist tallied zero points and each player finished with a minus-3 on Thursday. It was much the same for the Caps who were able to completely shut down the top line of the Philadelphia Flyers in round one, holding Brayden Schenn, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds to only five total points in six games.
The key for the Caps has been going power vs. power, matching their top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie against their opponent's’ top line. It is a strategy that has worked on both ends of the ice (see Oshie’s hat trick in Game 1).
Despite the lack of production, however, Sullivan remains pleased with the top line’s performance.
"Even though they didn’t score the other night doesn’t mean that they didn’t have quality chances or have a fair amount of offensive zone time so we liked a lot of what Sid’s line did and we feel as though if they continue to play the game the way that they're playing they're going to end up on the score sheet.”
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