The Washington Capitals find themselves behind the eight-ball almost before their second-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins is fully underway. The cousins watched as the Caps came back, only to yield a game-winning goal late. So what did they think of the way things transpired?
Cheerless… According to that “whowins.com” web site, teams that win Game 1 on the road in the second round win a series about 59 percent of the time.
Fearless… Yeah well, the Caps won Game 1 eight times in the nine previous series between these teams. In those eight Game 1 wins they won the series once. One thing to note; the Caps have never had worse than a split of the first two games of a series against the Penguins (although they are just 4-5 in Games 2 of their nine series against the Pens).
Fearless… No Capital skater was “minus” in 5-on-5 shots attempts for and against on ice last night. As a team, the Caps were plus-40, a Corsi-for of 63.68 percent (numbers from Corsica.hockey). And the entire plus-40 was realized in the last 36 minutes of the game. You don’t find that level of domination at this level in a second-round playoff game.
Cheerless… Sure, and the third line of Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller, and Tom Wilson was a plus-18 all by themselves. They also have three goals in the postseason, none of them from either Burakovsky or Eller, and Wilson has two goals with this line. “Corsi pretty, results sh*tty” isn’t a formula for success.
Cheerless… Are we going to go through this again? Nick Bonino with the game-winning goal? Again?? What’s next, Marc-Andre Fleury clearing a puck and having it hit a rut and hop over Braden Holtby’s stick? Those guys sure get game-winners from odd places. Jake Guentzel has two; Bryan Rust, Phil Kessel, and now Bonino have one.
Fearless… Except for a 52-second span of the second period, the Caps held Sidney Crosby in check. He had five shot attempts and three shots on goal after the two goals he scored early in the second period and was under 50 percent on draws for the game. On the other hand, we understand Mrs. Lincoln enjoyed the play up until that unpleasantness in the President’s Box at Ford’s Theater.
Fearless… Alex Ovechkin had a 5-on-5 goal. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s only his second even-strength goal of the postseason, his second in his last ten playoff games, as a matter of fact. If it is a signal that he can be more productive at even strength, then the Caps could be just fine.
Cheerless… Well, Ovechkin didn’t get a power play goal, and the Caps are 13-2 all time when Ovechkin gets a power play goal. Of course, his cause might have been helped if the Caps actually had a power play. That was just the fourth time in the Ovechkin era that the Caps did not have a power play opportunity (the second against the Penguins). The Caps are 1-3 in those games.
Cheerless… The Caps are 2-2 in series in the Ovechkin era when losing Game 1 at home. They beat the Rangers in seven games in 2009, lost to Montreal in 2010 in seven games, were swept in four games by Tampa Bay in 2011, and won in seven games over the Islanders in 2015.
Peerless… Possession matters…in the aggregate. For the Caps alone, not so much. Since 2008, the Caps are the fourth-best possession team in the NHL in the postseason, measured as Corsi-for percentage (51.79 percent; numbers from Corsica.hockey). Last night, they dominated the Penguins, overwhelmed them in fact, over the last 36 minutes of the contest. There are no bands on the Stanley Cup for “Corsi-for,” though. The Penguins, with the help of officials who seemed to forget to pack their whistles for the trip to Washington and snake-bit by a too-often inability to finish (seen this before in the postseason?), snuck off with a win. It makes the challenge that much greater, but if the Caps can come close to dominating the possession numbers as they did in Game 1, they should still come out of this with a happy result, right?