Sunday, April 26, 2015

Washington Capitals -- Game 7: Law of Averages or the Curse of LaFontaine?

Over the first 12 seasons in the history of the Washington Capitals franchise, the Caps had never played in a Game 7 of a seven-game playoff series.  In 1987 that changed.  Washington took a three games to one lead over the New York Islanders in their Patrick Division semifinal series in that post season but could not close out the Islanders in either Game 5 or Game 6.  Game 7 would be the first Game 7 played by the Caps and the first on home ice.

As any Caps fan knows, that Game 7 in 1987 ended in excruciating fashion when Pat Lafontaine scored 8:47 into the fourth overtime to complete the comeback by the Islanders and send the Capitals on a journey of despair that has lasted almost 30 years. 

In all that time since that first disappointment, only the Boston Bruins have played more Games 7 on home ice (13) than have the Capitals (9).  No team having played more than five Games 7 on home ice in that time have a worse record than the Caps’ 2-7 record.  No team has a worse goal differential (minus-13).  No team has allowed more goals against overall (30, tied with Boston).  No team has allowed more power play goals against (7).

If the Caps’ “homes” over the last 28 years of post seasons -- in Landover and Washington -- were subjected to inspection, they would be condemned as uninhabitable.  The “home ice advantage” for which teams work so hard over the course of a season has meant next to nothing, an overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers in 1988 and a thrilling 2-1 win over the New York Rangers in 2009 being the only interruptions in the unremitting disappointment that has been Game 7 on home ice for the Capitals.

Here is the history in a table:

So, here we are on the eve of the Caps’ tenth post season Game 7 on home ice in club history.   They are where they began this trek, facing the New York Islanders.  Through 28 years, nine playoff series, two cities (Landover and Washington), three captains, and four coaches, the Capitals and their fans have known little joy when the horn sounded or the final goal was scored in a Game 7 on home ice.  A win on Monday night will not sponge away all the disappointment of those seasons past.  But it will make a dent in it -- a big one.  We are left to see if the ghost of Pat Lafontaine still lurks over this franchise, or if the Capitals can start writing a new history at the expense of a team who wrote the first chapter in the one that haunts them still.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal - Game 6: Islanders 3 - Capitals 1

Here we go again.  For the eighth time in their last ten post season series, the Washington Capitals will play a Game 7.  That fate was sealed when the Capitals lost what might have been the final NHL game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum this afternoon, 3-1, to the New York Islanders.

For the fifth time in six games in this series the Islanders opened the scoring.  This time it came less than seven minutes into the game when John Tavares collected a loose puck just outside the Capitals’ blue line, skated into the Caps’ zone, backing off defenseman John Carlson.  He then cut to the middle and fired a shot across his body that caught goalie Braden Holtby leaning the wrong way as the puck sailed short side to give the Islanders the 1-0 lead.

That lead held up for most of the rest of the period, through two Washington power plays. However, the third power play in the period proved to be the charm for the Caps just before intermission.  John Carlson started and ended the scoring play.  He started it by sending a long pass from his own end to Troy Brouwer at the Islanders’ blue line.  Brouwer skated in and snapped a shot that goalie Jaorslav Halak stopped but could not control.  The puck bounced out to Alex Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle, and he found Carlson drifting in on the right side.  From the top of the right wing faceoff circle Carlson let fly with a shot that beat Halak with just 4.3 seconds left in the period.

That did it for the scoring until the third period when the Islanders broke through.  John Tavares skated into the Capitals’ zone and carried the puck deep.  He was met behind the Caps’ goal line by Ovechkin and Karl Alzner, who separated him from the puck.  Ovechkin searched for the puck, but it slid around the boards to Nick Leddy along the left wing wall.  He found Nikolay Kulemin darting down the middle, and when Kulemin took the pass he had only Holtby to beat.  He took Leddy’s pass and curled the puck around Holtby’s right pad to give the Islanders the lead they would not relinquish with 9:27 left. 

Cal Clutterbuck added an empty net goal with 52.6 seconds left to send the Islander fans home happy and with a winning memory of what could be their last visit to Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders winning by a 3-1 margin and forcing a Game 7 on Monday night in Washington.

Other stuff…

-- In the post-2005 lockout era, this was the third time that the Caps lost a Game 6 on the road with an opportunity to close out the series.  In the other two instances – against Montreal in 2010 and against the New York Rangers in 2013 – the Caps lost Game 7 at home.

-- This was the third time in the series in which the Caps outshot the Islanders (39-38), the first of those games that the Caps lost.

-- Alex Ovechkin was on ice for all four goal scored in the game.  That, of course, is not a good thing in that he was on ice for all three goals against.

-- The Caps had a 40-33 edge in the faceoff circle, but that is somewhat deceiving.  Jay Beagle accounts for the margin, going 15-for-19 (78.9 percent).

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov had six shots on goal, giving him 13 in his last two games and 20 for the series.  He is second to Ovechkin (27) in shots on goal.

-- Tom Wilson, who has been a physical presence in this series, skated only seven shifts and 3:41 in this game.  A third of that came on one shift in the second period (1:12).

-- This was the first time that the Capitals scored a power play goal in a playoff game and lost since they dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals, a game in which they went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.  The Caps had gone five straight games with a win when scoring a power play goal.

-- Despite the loss, Braden Holtby’s save percentage inched up ever so slightly.  Saving 35 of 37 shots (.946 for the game) left him at .945 in five games in the post season, fourth in the league.

-- John Carlson had 11 shot attempts for the game to lead all players for both teams.  He is fourth among NHL defensemen in shots on goal in the post season (17).

-- The Caps killed the only Islander power play they faced, making them 13-for-13 in this series, the only team to have a perfect penalty kill in the first round.

In the end...

If practice makes perfect, the Capitals will come out on top on Monday night.  They will be playing their eighth Game 7 in the last eight years, their sixth on home ice.  Of their previous five Games 7 on home ice they have won just once, riding a late Sergei Fedorov goal over the glove of Henrik Lundqvist to beat the Rangers, 2-1, in 2009.  In the other four games the Caps were outscored by a 16-5 margin.

The Caps get a chance to drive a stake through the heart of the demon who made their lives miserable in one of those Games 7 – Jaroslav Halak -- who beat the Caps in Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinal as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.  The Caps will not have a grizzled veteran such as Sergei Fedorov to lead them in that quest.  No, this one is on the players who studied at the master’s knee when they beat the Rangers back in 2009.  It is their turn as veterans to lead now.  For Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, their time has come.  We will see if they are up to that challenge.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Caps Win! -- Some More Thoughts on Game 5

You can read our recap of the Washington Capitals' 5-1 win over the New York Islanders in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series here, but here are few more fun facts to impress your friends to start your day...

-- This was the 16th time in the Alex Ovechkin/Nicklas Backstrom era in which the neither Ovechkin nor Backstrom scored in a post season game.  The win made the Caps’ record in such games 4-12. 

-- The five goals in a win was the first time the Caps scored more than four goals in a playoff win on home ice since beating the Montreal Canadiens, 6-5, in overtime of Game 2 of the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov’s two goals was the first time a Caps rookie scored twice in a post-season game since Marcus Johansson had a pair in a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers on April 20, 2011.

-- Jay Beagle won seven of 12 faceoffs last night.  By itself that is not overwhelming, but he is third in faceoff winning percentage among all NHL skaters in the post season (62.0 percent).  Nicklas Backstrom is fifth (59.8 percent).

-- The 41 shots on goal for the Caps was the first time they cleared 40 shots in a playoff game that ended in regulation since they recorded 42 shots on goal in Game 7 of the 2010 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens and goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who they torched for five goals last night.

-- The Caps have held opponents to fewer than 30 shots on goal at Verizon Center for six consecutive games (the Islanders had 23 shots last night).  The last team to hit the 30 shots on goal mark on Capitals ice was the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, a 3-1 Capitals win.

-- Brooks Laich’s goal was a particularly welcome occurrence.  He had not scored a post season goal since May 7, 2012, in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers.  It was only a six-game streak without a goal, owing to Laich’s injuries in 2013 and the Caps missing the post season in 2014, but it seemed like a long time.

-- Karl Alzner is tied for sixth among defensemen in points in the post season (3), tied for first in goals (2).  He leads all defensemen in shooting percentage (40.0).

-- No team has allowed fewer third-period goals than the Caps in the post season (1).

-- The Caps are 8-3 in series in which they won Game 5.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Things to Think About After Four Games

Four games into their first round playoff series, the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders are tied in games won, 2-2.  Though they are even, one would not say that they got to their position in the same fashion.  For the Capitals, one can see what they have done well and, just as important, what they need to do better.  For example…

-- Scoring at even strength.  The Islanders have ten goals in this series, nine of them scored at five a side, the other into an empty net.  On the other side, the Caps have seven goals in the series, six at full and even strength, one on the power play.  A 5-on-5 goals scored/goals allowed ratio of 0.78 (11th among 16 playoff teams) is not a lasting recipe for success.  They need to do better here.

-- Shots.  We have long been of a mind that shots matter.  In the Islanders, the Caps are facing a team that finished second in the regular season in shots per game (33.8, second to Chicago’s 33.9).  The Caps have shaved a couple of shots off that average in the first four games, the Islanders averaging 31.8 shots per game (ranked seventh).  The total shot attempts favor the Islanders, but not by as large a margin as one might think for a team whose principle traits include speed and possession.  New York is averaging 64.4 shot attempts per 60 minutes in the series, while the Caps are averaging 62.1 attempts per 60 minutes.  It is an area that could stand improvement for the Caps, but the situation here is not of the dire sort.

-- Forward scoring.  The Caps have seven goals from forwards in this series.  That is a bit disappointing, but the problem here is the utter lack of balance.  Nicklas Backstrom has half of the goals from forwards (three), Alex Ovechkin has a pair, and Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera have one apiece.  Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Jay Beagle, and Evgeny Kuznetsov all are averaging more than 15 minutes of ice time a game through four contests, and none of them have scored.  Ward has a pair of assists, and Beagle has one among that quartet, but the Caps have to start getting production out of the second and third lines in this series.

-- Power play.  The best power play in the league this season (25.3 percent) is getting few chances (seven in four games, tied for fewest among 16 playoff teams) and is converting at barely half the regular season rate (14.3 percent/11th).  The Islanders have been able to muffle the Caps’ man advantage, allowing only 11 shots on goal in 12:54 of Capitals power play ice time.  And that has been a product of limiting the shots on goal from Alex Ovechkin, who has four of those 11 shots on goal for the Caps.

-- Penalty killing.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the special teams divide, the Caps are the only team (knock on wood) with a perfect penalty killing record in the post season.  The Caps are 10-for-10 over the four games.  In getting to that mark they allowed the Islanders 20 shots on goal in 20 power play minutes.  A big part of that has been holding the Islanders’ top power play goal scorers – John Tavares (13) and Brock Nelson (10) – to a minimum of shots.  Nelson has four power play shots in the four games, and Tavares did not register his first power play shot on goal until Game 4 (he finished with two).

-- Momentum.  This is a feature that one might be prone to viewing through rose-colored lenses, but consider this.  The Islanders outscored the Caps by a 7-2 margin over the first 94:09 of the series, a 4-1 win in Game 1 and a 3-1 lead they took in the second period of Game 2.  Since then, the Caps have outscored the Islanders by a 6-3 margin over the last 157:15 of the series.

-- Best of three.  Home cookin’ isn’t an advantage if the cook can’t boil water.  On paper, the Caps should have an advantage.  But be careful here.  The Caps were 6-6-0 in their last 12 games of the regular season, and in the post-2005 lockout era they are just 17-16 in playoff games at Verizon Center (1-1 in this series).  It is the Caps' inability to win on home ice that is arguably the biggest source of disappointment in their post season record since the 2005 lockout.

In the end…

The Caps – both this team and as a franchise – have been here before.  Twice since the 2005 lockout the Caps have returned home to a Game 5 having split the first four games of a series.  In 2009 they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3, in overtime on an own goal:

In 2013 the Caps won Game 5 against the New York Rangers, 2-1, in overtime at Verizon Center, courtesy of Mike Ribeiro:

We would just as soon the Caps make quick work of the Islanders in this contest, but there are things that the Caps need to work on to make that happen and take a stranglehold in the series.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

One for Our Backy...and One More for the Road...

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal - Game 4: Capitals 2 - Islanders 1 (OT)

The Washington Capitals ground out a hard 2-1 win on the road last night to even their playoff series against the New York Islanders at two games apiece. For the second straight game it took extra time to settle the affair, this time the ending being happier for the Caps.

It was Nicklas Backstrom who settled things 11:09 into the first overtime on one of the stranger plays of the series. It started with a faceoff in the Islanders’ end to the left of goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Neither Backstrom nor John Tavares could win the draw cleanly, but Backstrom was a bit quicker on the second pull, directing the puck to Alex Ovechkin at the edge of the circle. Ovechkin got a shot off, but it was muffled by Tavares, whose stick appeared to break as a result. The puck went to the corner where Joel Ward beat Johnny Boychuk to it and slid it up the boards to Backstrom. From there, Backstrom skated the puck up the wall with Tavares in his wake. Tavares had to drop his broken stick, and he tried to push Backstrom off the puck. That failed to work, and the push created separation between the two, giving Backstrom room to fling a shot at the Islander net. Ward created enough of a screen on Halak that the goalie never saw the shot coming from the right point, and the puck sailed past his blocker to give the Caps the win.

Before Backstrom’s highlight, the teams exchanged first period goals. Alex Ovechkin scored what would be the Caps’ first first-goal of the series 13:06 into the opening frame. Off a Backstrom faceoff win in the Islanders’ end, John Carlson threw the puck at the net looking for a rebound. Instead, Ovechkin skated across the slot as the puck was going through and redirected the puck past Halak’s blocker to give the Caps the lead.

New York tied the game with just 12.6 seconds left in the period when Casey Cizikas put back a rebound of a Cal Clutterbuck shot that knuckled just enough to give goalie Braden Holtby difficulty in directing the rebound out of harm’s way. That would do it for the scoring for more than 50 minutes, until Backstrom would end things in happy fashion for the Caps and send the series back to Washington tied, the Caps regaining the home-ice advantage.

Other stuff…

-- Nicklas Backstrom, who had gone 24 consecutive games without a goal, now has a goal in three consecutive games in this series. It is the first time he scored goals in three consecutive games since going three straight, March 16-20, 2014. It is the first time he scored goals in three consecutive games since he had a three-fer against Pittsburgh, May 6-9, 2009 in Game 3-5 of that series.

-- With his two-point night, Backstrom took over the league scoring lead for the post-season (3-3-6).

-- Alex Ovechkin also had a two-point night, his first multi-point game in the post season since he had a goal and an assist in a 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 3 of their opening round series in 2012.

-- Ovechkin had 18 of the Caps’ total of 66 shot attempts and eight of their 30 total shots on goal. Backstrom had five shots and eight shot attempts, giving the duo 13 of 30 shots and 26 of 66 attempts.

-- The Islanders won the possession battle again, at least in terms of shots and attempts, out-shooting the Caps by a 37-30 margin and out-attempting them, 88-66.

-- For the second time in this series the Caps were awarded only one power play. Only St. Louis, with six power play chances so far, has fewer power play opportunities than the Caps (7) in the post season.  Oddly enough, the Caps won both games in which they were held to a single power play opportunity.

-- The Caps got the overtime winner, but they managed only a single goal in regulation, the sixth time in seven games they were stuck on that number in regulation against goalie Jaroslav Halak.

-- The game might have turned in a 7:12 span of time in the second period.  The Caps took three minor penalties, giving the Islanders six minutes in power play time.  The Caps put on a clinic killing off all three penalties, allowing the Islanders six power play shots, seven in all over that 7:12 span of ice time.  It ran the string of consecutive power plays nullified to ten in this series and 13 overall, dating back to the regular season finale against the Rangers.

-- It was a tale of two zones for Backstrom on faceoffs.  He was 7-for-11 in the offensive zone (63.6 percent), 1-for-8 in the defensive zone (12.5 percent).

-- Braden Holtby had another fine game, stopping 36 of 37 shots.  Among goalies appearing in more than one game, he is second in save percentage (.943) to Chicago’s Scott Darling (.969).  He is the only goalie having appeared in more than one game whose save percentage against the opponent’s power play is 1.000 (19-for-19).

In the end…

If the Caps win this series, that 7:12 span of time killing penalties on the road could very well be viewed rightly as the turning point.  It took the wind out of the Islanders’ sails, the New Yorkers recording only 16 shots on goal in the last 40:25 of the game following that sequence. 

At the other end, the Caps fulfilled the adage that at this time of year the stars have to play like stars.  Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin did it in ways that are not at the top of their signature moves list, Ovechkin with a greasy little redirect from the slot and Backstrom with a whip-like shot from long range through a clot of bodies hassling the goaltender.

It was a case of winning by any means possible, by going outside the box to find a way to win.  At this time of year, the easy, tried-and-true recipes do not always and, in fact, less frequently work.  Teams and players have to find other ways – harder ways – to find success.  The Caps did that and took their home ice advantage back.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Eastern Conference Quarterfinal - Game 3: Islanders 2 - Capitals 1 (OT)

The Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders met on Sunday afternoon to break a 1-1 series tie in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.  It took extra time to break that tie, but precious little of it as the Islanders scored 15 seconds into overtime to take a 2-1 decision and a 2-1 series lead over the Caps.

The game held to form in one important respect in that the team that dominated the possession numbers skated off with a win.  The Islanders did just that from the drop of the puck, dominating in shots in the first period, 16-5 overall, and in shot attempts, 29-13.  If not for the effort of Caps goalie Braden Holtby, who returned to action after missing Game 2 to illness, the game might have been over early.  Holtby stopped all 16 shots he faced to allow the Caps to escape to the first intermission in a scoreless tie.

It would be the Islanders breaking on top, though, when Lubomir Visnovsky wired a shot from the top of the right wing faceoff circle that Kyle Okposo redirected past Holtby to make it 1-0 12:37 into the second period.

The Caps were unable to solve Islander goalie Jaroslav Halak in the first 40 minutes, but they broke through late in the third period.  Nicklas Backstrom started the scoring sequence from behind the Islander net.  He chipped a pass to Mike Green backing through the right wing circle, Green returning the puck to Backstrom circling out and around the faceoff circle in Green’s wake.  Backstrom curled out to the high slot where he fired a shot that snaked its way through a maze of bodies screening Halak and into the back of the net to tie the game with 6:06 left in regulation.

That did it for the scoring in the 60 minutes of regulation.  But on a day that was the 28th anniversary of the end of the four-overtime “Easter Epic” between these teams, extra time would end in a blink.  Johnny Boychuk fired a shot into the Caps’ end that was gloved down by Holtby, who swept the puck off to John Carlson in the corner to his right.  Carlson received the puck and in one motion sent it up the right wing boards, but not out.  Nick Leddy kept the puck in at the blue line and fired it toward the cage from the point.  Nikolai Kulemin tried to redirect the puck past Holtby, but Holtby managed to steer the puck off to his right.  As luck – Caps luck – would have it, the puck ended up on the tape of John Tavares who snapped it back behind Holtby’s back and into the far side of the net to give the Islanders a 2-1 win on the scoreboard and a 2-1 lead in games.

Other stuff…

-- The end in overtime is always like a thunderclap, but in this instance it was a lot of little things that went wrong for the Caps and right for the Islanders in those 15 seconds of overtime.  There was John Tavares beating Nicklas Backstrom on the draw to open the overtime (Backstrom was 5-for-13 against Tavares on draws for the game).  There was John Carlson’s no-look sweep of the puck up the boards into traffic.  There was Joel Ward along the wall, unable to deflect the puck up and out of the zone past Nick Leddy.  There was Brooks Orpik getting a stick on the rebound of Kulemin’s redirect that Holtby kicked out, forcing Holtby to kick his right pad out once more and sending the puck down the goal line to his right.  There was Carlson neither getting a body on Tavares nor tying up his stick before Tavares got his shot off.  There was Holtby, leaving just enough room off the near post after having to defend the puck twice in bang-bang fashion for Tavares’ shot to sneak through.  It was a sequence that you couldn’t duplicate, but one that could loom large in this series.

-- The Islanders held a 64-45 advantage in shot attempts at 5-on-5, a 31-22 advantage in scoring chances (numbers from 

-- Alex Ovechkin finished with 14 of the Caps’ 57 shot attempts overall.  He was held, however, to just three shots on goal.  He has one goal on 15 shots and 36 shot attempt in three games.  13 of those shot attempts were blocked, nine of them in this game alone.

-- This was the first time this season that Braden Holtby faced more than 40 shots in a game (he saw 40 shots in a 3-2 win over Chicago on November 7th). 

-- Every Islander skater recorded at least one shot on goal.  Every Capital skater recorded at least one hit.

-- Eric Fehr skated two shifts and just 1:19 before going out with an upper-body injury.  It appeared to be a re-injury of his shoulder, a problem for Fehr over the late stages of the regular season.  Marcus Johansson went out late in the first period when he appeared to have taken a skate blade to his calf, but he returned for the second period and finished the game.

--  Secondary scoring means secondary effort.  Troy Brouwer: one shot attempt (one shot); Evgeny Kuznetsov: two shot attempts (one shot); Jason Chimera: no shot attempts; Jay Beagle: no shot attempts.

-- On the other hand, 16 of the Caps’ 57 shot attempts came from the defense, nine of them on goal.  Brooks Orpik was the only defenseman not to register a shot on goal.

-- A statistic you do not want to see associated with Nicklas Backstrom.  The Islanders have nine goals in this series; Backstrom was on ice for six of them, including the game-winner in this game (but as an observer, not a culprit, except for losing that draw to open overtime).

-- The Caps returned to that whole “one goal” thing against Jaroslav Halak.  He has held the Caps to a single goal in five of his last six games against Washington.

In the end…

The Islanders outplayed the Caps over more and over longer stretches of this game, particularly early in the contest, than vice versa.  In that respect the result is not surprising.  However, this was a game that was lying in plain sight, waiting to be stolen.  There is nothing to suggest that panic is in order, but on the other hand the Caps have been asleep at the start of games twice in three contests.  And now they have to deal with the possibility of the loss of a valuable, versatile forward in Eric Fehr. 

Falling behind two games to one, losing a forward to injury, letting a chance to steal a game get away, uneven play from the big guns, inconsistent production from the secondary scorers.  A team often has to deal with adversity and overcome it on their way to a deep playoff run.  Well, this is what adversity looks like for the Caps.  We will see if they deal with it any better than they have in past playoff seasons when they take the ice for Game 4.

Game 3...The Canary in the Coal Mine?

The Washington Capitals have played 33 "Game 3's" in their post season history (in seven-game series).  It is a point in a series in which the Caps have not been very successful.  Of those 33 instances, they lost 23 times.  And in those series in which they lost Game 3, their series record is 6-17.

Washington has lost Game 3 in each of the last five post season series in which they played, winning two of those series (in five games against the New York Rangers in 2011 and in seven games against the Boston Bruins in 2012).  They lost Game 3 three times in those last five instances, going on to lose in a four-game sweep to Tampa Bay in 2011, then twice losing in seven games to the Rangers (in 2012 and 2013).

Winning Game 3 is kinder to the Caps.  In the ten instances in which they won Game 3 in a playoff series, the Caps have a 5-5 record in the series.  The thing here is, the Caps have only two Game 3 wins out of 13 Games 3 played since they beat the Buffalo Sabres in Game 3 of the 1998 Eastern Conference final and went on to defeat the Sabres in six games to advance to the team's only Stanley Cup final.  They defeated the Rangers in Game 3 of their 2009 meeting, the Caps going on to win the series in seven games.  The Caps beat the Montreal Canadiens in Game 3 of their 2010 series, but it was the Canadiens who would advance, winning that series in seven games.

One thing that fans might count on, the game will be close.  Six of the last seven Games 3 played by the Caps were one-goal games, one of them a three-overtime loss to the Rangers in 2012.

Decades of history are not the best predictor of results today; after all, many of these players had not been born when the Caps lost Game 3 of the 1984 Patrick Division final to the New York Islanders (a series the Islanders won in five games). would be a lot better winning this game than losing it, but you knew that already.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Play Hungry

In Game 1 against the New York Islanders, the Washington Capitals played passively in a curiously quiet arena.  Game 2 was another matter.  The team was hungry for a win, and the fans were in full-throated roar.  The recipe was hardly complicated...

Fifty-nine hits in 60 minutes.  The Capitals treated the Islanders like raw meat.  And there is they key going forward...stay hungry.