Every team has to deal with adversity on their journey to a championship, and the ones that deal with it best are the ones that win. The Caps might be at one of those moments as they prepare to play Game 2 in their Eastern Conference semifinal against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Losing Game 1 at home is not a common occurrence in Caps history, and it would be hasty to presume that it predicts misfortune. Some Game 1 history is in order. Here are the Caps when they lose Game 1 at home...
1986: Rangers 4 – Caps 3 (OT); Caps lost the series, 4-2
1988: Flyers 4 – Capitals 2; Caps won the series, 4-3
1998: Sabres 2 – Capitals 0; Caps won the series, 4-2
2000: Penguins 7 – Capitals 0; Caps lost the series, 4-1
2009: Rangers 4 – Capitals 3; Caps won the series, 4-3
2010: Canadiens 3 – Capitals 2 (OT); Caps lost the series, 4-3
A 3-3 record isn’t a lot to go on, but that means the jumping to conclusions that the Caps are doomed (as no doubt more than a few Caps fans believe at the moment) is an unreasonable leap. But some things have to happen going forward for the Caps to turn this around.
-- Game 1 was the first time this season in which the Caps lost a game in regulation when Alexander Semin scored a goal (he scored on in a 3-2 Gimmick loss to Carolina in the penultimate game of the regular season. Semin did not have much help, though.
-- Alex Ovechkin was shut out as far as goals are concerned. In 48 wins for the Capitals this season Ovechkin had at least one goal in 20 of them, at least one point in 40 of them.
-- Nicklas Backstrom… shut out. In 48 wins Backstrom had a goal in nine of them. He had at least one point in 26 of them.
-- Mike Green… shut out. In 48 wins (26 in which he participated), he had goals in seven of them, points in 12 of them.
-- If you look at the “Young Guns” and the Caps’ wins this season, the Caps got at least one goal from this quartet in 33 of the 48 wins, and at least one point in 46 of the wins.
One can speak of secondary scoring, and it is important to get guys like Eric Fehr (who scored a goal in Game 1) contributing. But the Caps have to get the big guns firing.
In Game 1, the Young Guns had a total of 32 shot attempts (Nine each from Ovechkin, Green, and Backstrom, five from Semin), nine shots on goal… one went in. As a group, one goal on nine shots is not much different from the group’s aggregate shooting percentage for the season (9.8 percent). But a total of nine shots on goal is a bit light, given their combined average per game for the season (12.6).
This quartet has played in each and every one of the 34 post season games for the Capitals over the past three-plus seasons. The Capitals are 17-17 in those games, and as a group the Young Guns are 52-78-130 in those games. In all 17 wins the group recorded at least one point, and in 15 of the wins at least one of them recorded a goal. It is worth noting that the quartet notched at least one point in 15 of the 17 playoff losses, and in 13 of them recorded at least one goal. The difference is volume. In 17 wins they are 34-48-82, while in the 17 losses they are 18-30-48. When these guys click, good things happen for the Caps – Ovechkin has goals in 11 of the 17 wins, points in 14 of them. For Backstrom it is goals in four of the wins, points in 13 of the wins. For Green, goals in three of the wins, points in 12 of them. For Semin, goals in eight of the wins, points in 13 of them.
Backstrom’s drought brings this into focus. It’s not so much the goal scoring as it is the playmaking that the Caps need. He has assists in nine of the 17 playoff wins the Caps have over the past three-plus post seasons. But it is not only on him, by any means. These four are the core of the Caps and the straws that stir the drinks.
This is hardly a mind-shattering revelation, but nevertheless, it is this group that is going to have to be heard from – loudly – if the Caps are to advance from this round. They certainly have it in them. In the six game series with the Lightning this season, the Young Guns accounted for 11 of the 18 goals scored by the Caps and either scored or assisted on 13 of them. Announcing their presence in the series will be the Game 2 difference.
Caps 4 – Lightning 2