Thursday, May 05, 2016

Capitals vs. Penguins: Takeaways and Throwaways from Game 4

Game 4 was as disheartening a loss as Capitals Nation has endured in some time.  In fact, this series has been among the most confounding, discombobulating, frustrating series to unfold in recent franchise history.  One hopes that there is a big payback coming for all the years of grief and the last week of despair suffered by Capitals Nation.  But before that happens, there are some takeaways and throwaways from Game 4 between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

  • You have to think that at some point, the shots will start going in, if only by chance or by hitting something to change direction.  Alex Ovechkin has 21 shots on goal in this series.  Evgeny Kuznetsov has 11.  Jason Chimera has eight.  Nicklas Backstrom has seven.  They have one goal among them in this series (Ovechkin).  They have to start finding the back of the net soon or even sooner…right?
  • The Caps are having one of the franchise’s best offensive performances by a defenseman in franchise history.  John Carlson scored his fourth goal of the postseason in Game 4.  He is just the third defenseman in franchise history to record at least four goals and at least 10 points in a single postseason (Carlson is 4-6-10).  Kevin Hatcher was 5-7-12 in 14 games in the 1988 playoffs, and Sergei Gonchar was 7-4-11 in 21 games in 21 games in the Caps’ march to the Stanley Cup final in 1998.  Carlson has done it in just ten games.  Let’s hope it isn’t being wasted.
  • Carlson had just two shots on goal in Game 4, but he now has 45 for the postseason overall.  That is more than any other skater – not just defenseman, but skater – overall, save one.  Alex Ovechkin has 50.
  • When pucks aren’t going in, you have to contribute in other ways.  Evgeny Kuznetsov (no points) won 12 of 18 faceoffs.  Mike Richards (no points) had six credited hits in nine minutes of ice time.  Dmitry Orlov (no points) had four credited hits.
  • Justin Williams might be having a somewhat disappointing series, but he’s not going down without a fight.  He had five shots on goal and seven shot attempts in Game 4 (both second on the club to Ovechkin).  He has eight shots on goal (one goal) in his last two games after posting just three shots on goal and no points in Games 1 and 2.

  • Jay Beagle scored a goal.  That was significant.  Why?  The Caps were 4-1 in postseason games when Jay Beagle scored a goal in his postseason career.  Yeah…
  • Jay Beagle’s goal was the first goal of the game.  That was significant.  Why?  The Caps were 38-4 this season when scoring first.  Uh-huh…
  • Washington won the Corsi battle at 5-on-5, finishing the game 52.8 percent to the good.  They are 59.6 percent for the two games in Pittsburgh (numbers from  Goal differential?...minus-1 in Game 4, mius-3 for the two games in Pittsburgh.  The Caps have a minus-5 goal differential at 5-on-5 over their last three games of this series, all losses.
  • The thinnest cracks have appeared in Braden Holtby’s performance over the last two games.  Not every goal is the goalie’s fault, but his save percentage of .892 in the last two games has to be better.  What has been missing is that game that a goalie “steals” for his club.  He has not yet had that in this series.
  • This is the ninth time in franchise history that the Caps have fallen behind by a 3-1 margin in games.  Their record in Games 5 of those series is 4-4, but their series record is 2-6.

In the end…

The t-shirt says “Entitled to Nothing.”  What the Caps are entitled to right now is an opportunity to win one game.  That’s all.  And it is not quite as hopeless as it sounds.  In fact, what comes to mind here is an offering by the character of Crash Davis in the movie, “Bull Durham”…

“You know what the difference is between hitting .250 and hitting.300? I got it figured out.  Twenty-five hits a year in 500 at bats is 50 points. Okay? There's six months in a season, that's about 25 weeks -- you get one extra flare a week -- just one -- a gork, a ground ball with eyes, a dying quail -- just one more dying quail a week and you're in Yankee Stadium!”

Think about it.  Think about the game-winning goals in this series so far.  T.J. Oshie gets a puck to crawl across the goal line in overtime.  Eric Fehr redirects a pass off the post and in.  Carl Hagelin stuck his stick between the skates of Nate Schmidt to bump in a loose puck.  Patric Hornqvist got a gift from Mike Weber trying to do the right thing.  There are a fair number of “gorks” in there.  If the Caps can get a gork, a puck with eyes, a knuckleball that floats past Murray in Game 5 in Washington, it could turn the series, because it isn’t as if the Penguins are dominating play.  But the Caps have to make sure the effort is there to take advantage of those odd plays, just as the Pens have in the last three games.  Because if they don’t, the movie analogy won’t be “Bull Durham,” it will be “Groundhog Day.”

And you know where the setting for that film was.

Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

No comments: