After pulling off a major upset in Game 1 and stealing home ice from the Florida Panthers, the Washington Capitals have officially staked their claim as dark-horse title contenders. Despite being the last team in the Eastern Conference to nab a playoff spot, the Capitals are not to be taken lightly. Led by one of the greatest goal-scorers of all-time in Alexander Ovechkin, the Caps are now in prime position to pull off the ultimate upset and make another deep postseason run.

 

Granted it was just one game, but the Capitals also have battle-tested veterans like Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Tom Wilson at the forefront who can run with the best of them. As they seek their second Stanley Cup title in four years, the Capitals will look to build off their momentum from Game 1.

With that, we'll now take a look at the three bold reasons why the Capitals will play spoiler and upend the Panthers in the first round of the 2022 NHL Playoffs.

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Why Capitals will upset Panthers in first round of 2022 NHL Playoffs

1. This is familiar territory for the Capitals

On Tuesday night, the Capitals swarmed the Presidents' Trophy-winning Panthers and nabbed a 4-2 win with a ferocious comeback win on the road. After seeing them win the first game of this series, it brought flashbacks to 2018 when the Caps overcame incredible odds to win their first-ever Stanley Cup.

Thriving off a ton of momentum and great all-around play, Washington knocked off star-studded teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the upstart Las Vegas Knights. With Florida being the top-seeded team in the East, the pressure will continue to mount as their inexperience will be no match for Washington's championship pedigree.

Led by a couple of savvy superstars in Ovechkin and Backstrom, the Caps' grit and resilience will be too much for the Panthers to handle. Not to mention the Capitals have the best road record in the league at 25-10-6. To top it all off, their come-from-behind win on Tuesday marked their franchise's 20th third-period comeback victory in the postseason.

2. Alex Ovechkin will start to heat up as the series wears on  

Currently on a collision course with Wayne Gretzky to become the greatest goal-scorer in NHL history, Alex Ovechkin has been playing out of his mind all season. Add to that Ovechkin's assist from Game 1, which gave him 136 postseasons points and put him third amongst active players (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin) in that category. The only catch here is that Ovechkin suffered a shoulder injury late in the season and his health continues to be a major concern.

However, Ovie is still inching closer to becoming the NHL's all-time scoring leader. It also goes without saying that he's one of the most complete players the game has ever seen. Whether he's lighting up the scoreboard, dishing out assists, knocking opponents into the glass, or blocking shots, Ovechkin has come through for Washington time and again, and his stellar play of late is a further testament to this.

It's still remains to be seen if he'll be able to return to full strength during this series, and even though he did not fill out the stat sheet, Ovie still got off four shots on goal. So as the series goes on. it can definitely be expected that his points total will continue to increase with each game. Even if he doesn't post eye-popping numbers, Ovechkin will continue to impact the game in a multitude of ways.

3. Washington will continue to have a balanced attack 

Led by strong performances from Backstrom and Lars Eller, the Washington Capitals refused to back down in Game 1. On Tuesday night, the Caps had a grand total of nine points, consisting of game-altering scores and assists from Ovechkin, Backstrom, Eller, Kuznetsov, Oshie, Wilson, Anthony Mantha, Dmitry Orlov, and Justin Schultz.

In their quest to overtake the top-seeded team in the conference and make another deep playoff run, the Capitals will be giving the Panthers all kinds of trouble. This will continue to be the case with their balanced team play, elite puck movement, and lockdown defense. The Panthers best be ready, because this deep and dynamic Capitals squad isn't fooling around.