The Wraparound: Capitals need to find another gear to extend series

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

Jordan Staal was fined $5,000 for a “dangerous trip” on Luke Kunin in Game 3. Anthony Mantha was fined $5,000 for goalie interference on Tuukka Rask in Game 4.

Want to catch up on each night’s action in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs? Read the NHL Playoff Buzzer.

This could be the last stand for this current version of the Capitals as we know them.

They enter Game 5 (7 p.m. ET; USA Network) of their First Round series against the Bruins facing elimination, coming off of an absolutely brutal Game 4 performance.

If they lose on Sunday (or at any point over the next three games) it would make the third year in a row with a First Round elimination. That has never happened in the Alex Ovechkin era.

In each of the previous two years you could at least rationalize it a bit and write it off as nothing to be overly concerned about. In 2019 they were coming off of a Stanley Cup run and lost an overtime Game 7 to a young, upstart team that was just starting its climb to the top of the league. In 2020, you had the NHL bubble situation that was just weird for everybody. You can not draw too many conclusions from that setting.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]

But this year seems a little different.

They let the top spot in the East Division slip away setting up a nightmare opening round matchup, to this point, has not gone well.

It also been a bit of a tumultuous season. Tom Wilson found himself in headlines for all of the wrong reasons on two different occasions; there are rumors that the team has grown frustrated with Evgeny Kuznetsov; they made a major roster-changing trade at the trade deadline; and Ilya Samsonov did not really have the season they were expecting from him in goal.

Add in the fact that Ovechkin is due for a new contract and the fact that the other core players (Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson) are all another year older. You know Ovechkin will return, and as long as he and Backstrom are on the roster there is going to be a commitment to trying to win a Cup. It is the only way to do build a team around those two, especially at this point in their careers. But if the Capitals lose this series, and if they go out as disappointing as they looked in Game 4, it is fair to question what the roster around those two will look like.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

SUNDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 4: Hurricanes at Predators (CAR leads 2-1), 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 4: Avalanche at Blues (COL leads 3-0), 5 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 5: Bruins at Capitals (BOS leads 3-1), 7 p.m. ET – USA Network (livestream)
Game 3: Oilers at Jets (WPG leads 2-0), 7:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)

MONDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 5: Islanders at Penguins (Series tied 2-2), 7 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 3: Maple Leafs at Canadiens (Series tied 1-1), 7 p.m. ET – NHL Network (livestream)
Game 5: Lightning at Panthers (TB leads 3-1), 8 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)
Game 4: Oilers at Jets (WPG leads 2-0), 9:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 5: Wild at Golden Knights (VGK leads 3-1), 10:30 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)

PHT’s 2021 Stanley Cup previews
Penguins vs. Islanders

Bruins vs. Capitals
Jets vs. Oilers
• Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens
Lightning vs. Panthers
• Hurricanes vs. Predators
Golden Knights vs. Wild
Avalanche vs. Blues

• Stanley Cup playoff predictions
• Why your team can (and can not) win the Stanley Cup this season
• NHL odds: Division winners, 2021 Stanley Cup champion
 Which NHL playoff series has biggest upset potential?

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.