For the second straight year, the Caps will be engaged in a two-city, back-to-back playoff set against a team from Pennsylvania. Just like last year against the Philadelphia Flyers, two straight wins by the Caps over the Pittsburgh Penguins will earn them a spot in the next round.
The Pens are feeling confident after their game three OT win and for good reason: they were the better team on Wednesday night. But the Caps must take that sickly feeling and turn it into 120 minutes (or more) of retaliation to make their season one of the best success stories in franchise history. (It only would be the third conference finals berth in franchise history.)
Before any eggs are hatched, though, the Caps must work like they've never worked before against a hungry Pens squad. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Pens can't duplicate their game three effort. But let's not forget that Pittsburgh reached the Stanley Cup finals last season with mostly the same squad that they're fielding. And they faced an elimination game in Detroit where they played a perfect game (that they won in OT) similar to Wednesday's effort.
So the Caps must work for everything, storm the crease and, perhaps most importantly, not let the Pens (especially Evgeni Malkin) roam free in their zone. It will take a total team effort, something they are fully capable of producing.
If the Caps try to skate by again (they clearly have not produced a 60-minute effort yet in this series), then their season might take a severe downturn over the next two games. If they put forth their best, then the Caps could be celebrating as early as Saturday night.