How the Washington Capitals can even the series

Braden Holtby needs to get back in the playoff zone for the Capitals to be successful. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- Without a Bible in front of him, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz looked for a suitable replacement. He was making a point, and was so eager to convince us of his truth-telling he needed to put his hand on something.

So he settled for a cell phone on the podium in front of him, placing his hand on it. Maybe there was a Bible app on there.

"It's my swear-to-God moment," he said.

He was asked if the third period of Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins represented another moment when the Capitals were left wondering: What else can we do? They threw the kitchen sink at goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and he kicked it aside.

The Capitals have certainly been there before against the Penguins. But Trotz was adamant that Game 1 did not represent the start of another "Here we go again" moment in Capitals history.

"Absolutely not," Trotz said. "Seriously. That's the change in our team. We're not going to back off. We're not backing off. I think we've learned to go forward."

Sounds great. But you can understand why the question was being asked. There's just too much history built into this franchise for doubt not to creep in as soon as an early opportunity slips away in a game that was there for the taking.

Even with Sidney Crosby's great moment of two goals in 52 seconds, the Capitals had Game 1. If a puck doesn't hit Jake Guentzel, if Fleury doesn't miraculously save the day with his mix of athleticism and desperation, if the Capitals found their way on a single power play ...

Lots of ifs.

And yet they're down 1-0 in this Eastern Conference series between the two best teams from the regular season. The series resumes Saturday with Game 2, 8 p.m. ET, in Washington.

Trotz is right in that there's room for improvement. It wasn't like they played the perfect game and still couldn't find a way to win.

Where does it start? Here are a few ways the Capitals can get the momentum back:

1. Get better goaltending from Braden Holtby: Holtby didn't like Crosby's first goal. It's hard to pin too much blame on a goalie during an odd-man rush, especially with Crosby scoring on a one-timer, but Holtby was quick to take his share of blame after the game. It's an admirable trait of Holtby's, and the Capitals won't advance if Holtby continues to get outplayed by Fleury in goal.

Fleury is sporting an impressive .934 save percentage this postseason, well above his career playoff average of .908. He has made people forget about Matt Murray's injury. Holtby's save percentage this postseason, meanwhile, is .919, far below his past two postseasons of .942 and .944. Washington doesn't need Holtby to steal anything -- the Caps are good enough to win on merit -- but there can't be a gap between the two goalies. He most certainly can't have another game with an .857 save percentage, like he did in Game 1.

2. Find more ice time for defenseman Nate Schmidt: You just don't know how a player is going to respond to high-pressure situations until they're in them. Some are tentative. Some tend to try not to make mistakes. And then there's Capitals defenseman Schmidt. He's out there making plays.

He has been a bit of a revelation in this postseason since drawing in for the injured Karl Alzner. He took a knee-on-knee hit from Leo Komarov against the Toronto Maple Leafs and kept on going. He blocked a Phil Kessel shot in Game 1 that looked painful and kept on going. But perhaps most impressive was his ability to exit the defensive zone with the puck consistently against the Penguins.

According to data tracked by analyst Dimitri Filipovic, Schmidt was successful on 15 of 15 zone-exit attempts, leaving with the puck 13 times. It was by far the best among Capitals defensemen.

3. Draw the occasional penalty: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored but never did get an opportunity to set up shop on the power play, where he is most effective. However, there were certainly calls that could have gone Washington's way that didn't in Game 1 and these things have a way of evening out.

Normally, a team that has such an edge in possession numbers like the Capitals had in Game 1 -- naturalstattrick.com says the Capitals controlled 69.2 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, their best of the postseason -- finds its way to the power play considering how often they had the puck. Play the same way in Game 2, and chances are it happens for the Capitals.

But this is a concern against the Penguins, the faster team. According to Cosica.hockey, the Capitals have just six players with a positive penalty-drawn differential this postseason. The Penguins have 12. It's an area to monitor in this series.