Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Peerless Prognosticator Presents: Your Western Conference Round One Prognostos

The Greatest Tournament in Team Sports starts tonight.  Yes, it is the Stanley Cup playoffs getting underway with three Western Conference tilts tonight.  And that means it is time for the most astute panel of experts you will read whose names end in “less” to bring you more… more analysis, more insight, more prognosty-ish stuff!  So, let’s get to it, starting with the Western Conference…

(1) Chicago Blackhawks: 36-7-5, 77 points

(8) Minnesota Wild: 26-19-3, 55 points

Fearless: Why are we bothering here?  Chicago is first in wins, first in points, first in goals allowed per game, first in goal differential per game, first in five-on-five goal ratio, first in winning percentage when scoring first, first in takeaways, first in one-goal wins, and most folks think first in coolest hockey jersey.  But if there is one number to take away from this when thinking about the Blackhawks, it is this: “1.”  Only once – one time – did a team beat the Blackhawks this season by three or more goals.  It happened to be the Colorado Avalanche (go figure), the night the Blackhawks run of 24 games to start the season without a loss in regulation time ended.  You want to beat this team, bring a lunch.  It will not be easy.

Cheerless:  Minnesota played the Blackhawks pretty tough, cuz.  A 3-2 Gimmick win (as Peerless likes to call it), a two-goal loss, and a one-goal loss.  Aw heck, that’s all I got.

Peerless:  The easy comparison here is to the 2010 first round matchup between the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals and the eighth-place Montreal Canadiens.  Montreal was given almost no chance to win, much as Minnesota is given little chance this week.  But there are some similarities between the Wild and the Canadiens. 

  • Montreal was 25th in scoring offense in 2010 with a 2.56 goals-per-game average; Minnesota finished the 2013 season 22nd (2.46).  
  • Montreal was 11th in scoring defense (2.66); Minnesota was 16th (2.60)
  • Montreal struggled during the regular season at 5-on-5 (0.90, 22nd), so did Minnesota (0.88, 24th)
  • Montreal stumbled at the finish (3-4-3 in their last ten games), so did Minnesota (4-5-1)

In other words, the Wild have the Blackhawks right where they want them.  Yeah, right…

Blackhawks in five

(2) Anaheim Ducks: 30-12-6, 66 points

(7) Detroit Red Wings: 24-16-8, 56 points

Fearless: That these two teams are meeting in the first round is not necessarily a surprise, it is the seeding that looks out of place. Detroit has not finished with a lower points-won percentage (.583) since the 1998-1999 season when they went 43-32-7 (.567), and that was before the “Bettman Point” was introduced to break ties.  Unlike most recent models of the Red Wings, the 2013 version struggles with offense (19th in scoring offense, 15th in power play conversion), despite finishing 10th in shots on goal and having the 10th best shots on goal differential.  If there is a place – or more accurately, a time – in which the Wings have struggled, it is early on in games.  They have been outscored, 36-33, in the first periods of games.  They have goal differentials of plus-8 in each of the second and third periods of games, but slow starts can be magnified at this time of year.

Cheerless:  Only San Jose and Buffalo had more wins than Anaheim in the Gimmick.  The flip side of that is that no team lost fewer one-goal decisions in regulation time (two), and only four teams had better winning percentages in one-goal games overall.  The Ducks can play tight games successfully.  Part of that is being the fifth best team at 5-on-5 in the league.  The wonder is whether if having split their goaltending responsibility in the regular season right down the middle – Jonas Hiller got 26 appearances with 1,498 minutes; Viktor Fasth got 25 appearances with 1,429 minutes – they can settle on one guy to lean on without breaking.

Peerless: This is one of the more intriguing series for its subplots… Detroit being the hunter rather than the hunted, Bruce Boudreau trying to shake off the label of being a playoff underachiever as an NHL head coach, the Ducks big three of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan against the Red Wings’ dynamic duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.  Both teams struggled before finishing on an upswing.  Anaheim lost four in a row before finishing the season 3-1-0; Detroit lost six of eight contests before winning their last four to close the season.  Both teams come into the post-season being stingy with goals allowed – Anaheim with seven goals allowed in their last four games, Detroit with three allowed in their last four.  Both have shown signs of life on offense – Anaheim averaging 3.00 goals per game in their last four games, Detroit averaging 3.75 over their last four.  Detroit looks a bit more like “Detroit” than Anaheim looks like “Anaheim,” and that will be the difference.

Detroit in seven

(3) Vancouver Canucks: 26-15-7, 59 points

(6) San Jose Sharks: 25-16-7, 57 points

Fearless:  After 28 games Vancouver was 13-9-6 and was only two points ahead of the then ninth-place San Jose Sharks.  They closed strong, though, going 13-6-1 in their last 20 contests, that record fueled by an 8-1-0 record at home, losing only in their final home game to the Anaheim Ducks.  They did it with goaltending and defense.  In none of their 13 wins over that span did they allow more than two goals in any game.  The concern might be the flip side of that.  In their last 20 games the Canucks averaged only 2.40 goals per game (excluding Gimmick goals).  Their power play struggled early on in that stretch (1-for-18 over the first eight games of their final 20-game block) before picking up late (10-for-38 in their final 12 games).  Still, this is a team that has had some mysterious stretches of low offensive output.

Cheerless: As bad as the Canucks were on March 18th after 28 games, the Sharks were worse off.  They were 12-10-6 and only in ninth place in the West.  They finished their season with a 13-6-1 record over their last 20 games, too.  They did it in a way similar to Vancouver – defense and goaltending.  Antti Niemi recorded three shutouts in his last 16 decisions has a 2.04 GAA and .926 save percentage since March 18th.  All that hasn’t been hurt by having only 27.6 shots per 60 minutes, not exactly a heavy shots-on-goal workload.  Good thing, because the Sharks don’t score a lot – only 2.42 goals per game for the season, 24th in scoring offense.

Peerless: This is the story of two teams that stumbled early, then remembered who they were.  This will be Vancouver’s tenth trip to the playoffs in their last 12 seasons, and it will be San Jose’s ninth straight trip and 16th in their last 19 seasons.  But there are cracks, too.  The Canucks went only 2-3-1 in their last six games and scored only ten goals doing it.  The Sharks lost three of their last four contests and scored only nine goals over those four games.  Neither edition of these teams represents a vintage version for their respective franchises.  Both have been experiencing slides in terms of the progression of standings points per game earned over the past few years.  This suggests that for both, windows might be closing.  One of these teams has to advance, but you do not get the feeling that either has a long run in it.  We’ll go with the more settled goaltending.

San Jose in seven

(4) St. Louis Blues: 29-17-2, 60 points

(5) Los Angeles Kings: 27-16-5, 59 points

Fearless: Oddly enough, St. Louis’ season might have turned around with a 6-4 loss in Los Angeles back on March 5th.  It was a rather gruesome affair in which the Kings came back from a 3-1 deficit, including a four-goal assault in the third period.  After that game, captain David Backes said, “we’re in a bit of turmoil.”  Well, the Blues certainly addressed that problem, going 18-8-2 after that game in Los Angeles.  What is more, the Blues allowed only 48 goals over those last 28 games (1.71 per game) and held ten of their last 13 opponents to less than two goals per contest.  Strange that two of ones they did not would be Columbus and Colorado.

Cheerless:  Repeatin’ is hard.  That’s why no one has won two Stanley Cups in a row since Detroit did it in 1997 and 1998.  Even with as long a layoff to get rested that the Kings had between winning the Cup last June and starting the season in January, they stubbed their toe coming out of the start of the season.  They were 3-5-2 after their first ten games and didn’t get over .500 in points until Game 15.  And it is not as if they have been a ball of fire late, either.  Los Angeles is 7-4-2 in April and have not scored more than three goals in regulation time since April 6th.  It’s probably a good thing, then, that Jonathan Quick seems to be coming around.  His overall numbers aren’t great – 19th in goals against average (2.45) and 38th in save percentage (.902) – but in his last seven appearances he is 5-1-1, 1.94, .927.

Peerless: This is the heavyweight match of the first round in either conference. No one would want to play either of these teams, which makes it fitting that they get one another.  St. Louis is the epitome of a “system” team, a creature of its head coach, Ken Hitchcock.  They will strangle a team to death on defense.  They just do not allow very many chances (second fewest shots on goal per game allowed – 24.2).  Los Angeles is very similar in effect (third fewest shots on goal allowed per game), but they depend more on their goaltender’s skill to allow them to express more aggressive behavior in the offensive end of the ice.  This series will be brutal to watch, unless demolition derby happens to be your thing.  In this one, we see Los Angeles as being this year’s “Boston”…that’s not a good thing.

St. Louis in seven

And there you have it.  When we get around to it...the Eastern Conference prognostos.

Washington Capitals -- The Joys (and Misconceptions) about the Season-Ending "Hot Streak"

Everybody's got the fever;
That is somethin' you all know.
Fever isn't such a new thing;
Fever started long ago

-- Peggy Lee

Intuitively, one would suppose that is it better to enter the post-season in any sport on a hot streak than on a cold one.  And as the National Hockey League is about to embark on its 86th Stanley Cup tournament, one wonders, is it true that those who go on hot playoff runs were teams that finished the regular season on a hot streak?

Since the 2004-2005 lockout, 19 different teams have occupied 28 slots in the conference finals in the Stanley Cup tournament.  And if you consider a team’s last ten regular season games as a suitable collection of games to assess the “fever” pitch at which the team closes the season, one finds that teams, by and large, play well heading into the playoffs, but none could be considered to have been on a hot streak of an extraordinary type.  Here…see for yourself all those teams (Stanley Cup finalists in bold; Stanley Cup winner in bold and shaded):

As a group, these 28 teams had an average ten-game record to close the season of 6-3-1.  Nothing bad about that, but nothing particularly noteworthy, either.  Even if you look at the teams that made the Stanley Cup finals, those teams averaged a 6-3-1 record to close the regular season.  Stanley Cup winners?  Yup…6-3-1 (accounting for rounding).

How did the teams do in points?  Were there any outliers who blew through the last ten games like a blow torch through tissue paper?  Nope.  None of the 28 teams finished with a ten-game winning streak.  None of them went 9-0-1.  None of them went 9-1-0.  Only one team – the San Jose Sharks in 2009-2010) – finished the season earning as many as 17 points in their last ten games.  The most common point level earned by a conference finalist in their last ten games was in the 14-15 point range, six teams earning 14 points in their last ten games and another six earning 15 points in their last ten games:

And even there, one sees no guarantee of success.  Of the seven Stanley Cup winners over this period, only two teams – the 2008 Detroit Red Wings and the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins – earned as many as 15 points.

Having laid all that out, it is clear you cannot be struggling heading into the post season.  Of the 28 teams making their respective conference finals over the last seven years, only four – the 2008 Dallas Stars, the 2009 Detroit Red Wings, and the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens – had fewer than 10 points (a .500 record by points earned).  Oddly, though, the 2009 Red Wings and the 2010 Flyers did make it to the Stanley Cup finals.   Still, while it is possible to get there having finished the regular season skating over a rough patch, it is not the way to bet.

A team does not have to be white hot going into the playoffs, but it does have to show a trend of winning consistently.  And that makes as much sense, because the Stanley Cup isn’t about getting to 16 wins as fast as possible, it is about getting to 16 wins by displaying consistency and resolve over a two month grind.  An 8-1-1 record for the Washington Capitals is nice as regular season-ending records goes, but it is no prerequisite for a deep playoff run. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Capitals - Rangers: The Unfamiliarity of Familiar Foes

Familiarity breeds contempt.

So was the moral of the story in Aesop’s fable of The Fox and the Lion. And just as in that fable, so the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers might have developed a sense of contempt for one another having played one another in three playoff series over the last four years.  As we prepare to watch these familiar foes take the ice against each other one more time, it might be instructive (or, failing that, entertaining) to look at the history of the three series.

If you are interested in looking at the contests on a game-by-game basis, here are our post-game reviews of each:

2009 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals:

2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals

These teams have played 19 times against one another in three playoff series over the past four season.  The Caps hold a 3-2 edge in series won and an 11-8 edge in wins and losses.  Here are some other facts and thoughts on the history of this long, strange playoff relationship…

-- In 19 games the Caps have outscored the Rangers, 45-34.

-- Of the Rangers eight wins, seven were by one goal, two of them in overtime.  The only time the Rangers won by more than one goal was in Game 1 of last spring’s Eastern Conference semifinals, a 3-1 win.

-- The Caps have an 18.8 percent power play conversion rate over the 19 games – 18.2 percent in 2009, 18.8 percent in 2011, and 20.0 percent in 2012.  They are 7-3 in games in which they recorded at least one power play goal.

-- Conversely, the Caps have an 88.2 percent penalty killing rate – 87.1 percent in 2009, 95.0 percent in 2011, and 84.0 percent in 2012.  They are 2-4 in games in which they allowed at least one power play goal.

-- Although the Caps enjoy a 29.0 – 27.6 advantage in shots per game over the 19 games, the tide swung over the course of the three series.  In 2009 the Caps had a 30.9 – 23.7 shot advantage per game.  In 2011 it was 31.2 – 29.6.  But last spring, it was 30.1 – 25.6 for the Rangers.

-- Overall, the Caps have outscored the Rangers in each period: 13-7 in the first period of games, 16-12 in the second period, and 14-13 in the third period.  Each team has two overtime goals in the series.

-- Seven times in the 19 games the Caps took a lead into the first intermission.  They won all seven games.  Four times the Rangers took a lead into the first intermission.  They won all four games.  The teams split eight games in which they were tied after 20 minutes.

-- The Caps are also 7-for-7 in games in which they led after two periods.  The Rangers are 4-for-5 in such games, losing to the Caps 4-3 in Game 4 of the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinals when the Caps came back from being down 3-0 after 40 minutes to win, 4-3, in double overtime.  The Caps are 3-4 when the clubs were even after two periods.

-- Only six Capital skaters have appeared in all three series against the Rangers over the past four seasons: Nicklas Backstrom, John Erskine, Mike Green, Brooks Laich, Alex Ovechkin, and Jeff Schultz.  Only four – Backstrom, Green, Laich, and Ovechkin – have appeared in all 19 games.

-- As a group, the gang of six has 15 of the 45 goals scored by the Caps in the series:

  • Nicklas Backstrom: 19 games, 1-11-12, plus-4, 8 PIMs
  • John Erskine: 13 games, 0-1-1, plus-5, 14 PIMs
  • Mike Green: 19 games, 3-9-12, plus-3, 20 PIMs
  • Brooks Laich: 19 games, 2-8-10, plus-1, 8 PIMs
  • Alex Ovechkin: 19 games, 9-8-17, plus-2, 12 PIMs
  • Jeff Schultz: 12 games, 0-0-0, plus-1, 0 PIMs

-- For the Rangers, only two skaters have participated in all three series: Dan Girardi (19 games, 0-3-3, minus-2, 6 PIMs) and Marc Staal (19 games, 2-3-5, minus-3, 8 PIMs).  Ryan Callahan might have made three, but he suffered a fractured leg just before the start of the 2011 playoffs and did not dress for any post-season games. 

-- In three playoff series covering 19 games, the Caps have used four goaltenders:

  • 2009 – Jose Theodore: 0-1, 4.08, .810
  • 2009 – Semyon Varlamov: 4-2, 1.17, .952, 2 shutouts
  • 2011 – Michal Neuvirth: 4-1, 1.37, .946, 1 shutout
  • 2012 – Braden Holtby: 3-4, 1.90, .929

-- On the other side, Henrik Lundqvist has been the goalie of record in all 19 decisions in the three playoff series: 8-11, 2.26, .917, 1 shutout.

On the surface we have two teams that know one another.  But in fact there has been a lot of turnover on these rosters.  The teams will be familiar with one another from last spring’s tightly fought series (13 skaters that dressed for the Rangers saw action last spring; 15 skaters for the Caps), but there isn’t much of a shared playoff history beyond that.  That will make the series familiar enough to fans by the colors of the jerseys, but whether it resembles any of the previous three series is a far more uncertain matter.

Washington Capitals -- That Was The Week That Was: Week 14

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” 

It is a theme in how-to books on success, it is a theme for fables, it shows up in thoughts on business.  In this, the last week of the regular season, let’s take a look at how the Washington Capitals finished.

Record: 2-0-1

The Caps finished the season with 11 consecutive weeks of going .500 or better in earning standings points.  Their 2-0-1 week was their fourth consecutive winning week in that regard over which they went 9-1-1.  It was all part of a finishing kick in which they went 15-2-2 after losing in Pittsburgh on March 19th.  The three games played at home this week allowed the Caps to rehabilitate what had been a mediocre home-ice record.  They ended their home season on a 7-0-1 run to go 15-8-1 after starting the 2013 season 8-8-0 on Verizon Center ice.

Offense: 3.00 (season: 3.04 / rank: 5th)

Over their long push to make the playoffs the Caps were led on offense more often than not by Alex Ovechkin.  He had a good week to end the season (2-3-5) to finish atop the league rankings in goals scored and win the Maurice Richard Trophy that goes with (he is the first three-time winner of the trophy since it was introduced in the 1998-1999 season).  This week, however, the story was Mike Green.  The defenseman finished the week 2-3-5, led the team in shots on goal (16), and ended the season with the most goals of any defenseman in the league – 12 in only 35 games played.  Folks have wondered if Alex Ovechkin is “back”… more attention should be given to Green’s comeback from injury and low production over the last two seasons.

Defense: 2.33 (season: 2.71 / rank: 18th)

The Caps had issues with shots on goal allowed all season, and this week was no different.  The 102 shots on goal by Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Boston are consistent with the season profile (34.0 shots/game this week, 32.3/game for the season).  It puts a premium on holding teams to poor shooting percentages, and in this respect the Caps are middle-of-the road.  The 6.9 percent shooting percentage this week was lower than that the Caps recorded for the season (8.4 percent), and allowed the Caps to finish fifth among Eastern Conference playoff teams heading into the playoffs (better than Pittsburgh (8.5), Montreal (9.6), and the New York Islanders (10.0)).  And it is not as if their improved fortunes in wins and losses made a difference.  The Caps allowed 32.6 shots per game in going 15-2-2 in their last 19 games

Goaltending: 2.28 / .931 (season: 2.65 / .917 / 4 shutouts)

After Week 5, Caps goaltending was not what one would call “elite.”  To that point the Caps goalies had a cumulative 3.24 goals-against average and a .897 save percentage.  Since then, things improved significantly.  This week, both Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth got work, and both performed well.  Holtby stopped 56 of 61 shots (.918 save percentage), but his was a case of being good early and late with some issues in-between.  Holtby stopped 14 of 15 first period shots (.933) and 21 of 22 third period shots (.956), but he was only 21 for 24 in the middle periods of the two games he worked this week (.875).  Meanwhile, Michal Neuvirth was superb in his first action since April 9th.  He stopped 39 of 41 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss to Ottawa.  Despite the lack of work, he is 2-0-1, 1.99, .940 in his last three appearances.  Despite serving primarily as a backup this season, he was rewarded with a new two-year, $5.0 million contract.

Power Play: 3-7 / 42.9 percent (season: 26.8 percent / 1st)

The Caps finished their week with their seventh 30-plus percent power play week over the last 12 weeks.  It was not a matter of consistency as much as volume.  The Caps had only one power play opportunity in each of the first two games of the week and did not score on either of the two power play shots on goal they had in each game.  But against Boston the Bruins took six minor penalties, four of them in the third period (resulting in three Caps power plays) and another in overtime of the Caps’ 3-2 win.  The Caps shot 3-for-12 against the B’s to allow them to come back from a 2-0 deficit to win their season finale.  Mike Green was the key.  He had six power play shots on goal, two of them coming in the third period – both of them resulting in goals – and another three in the overtime.  It was his last one, a shot that handcuffed Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, that provided a rebound that Eric Fehr swatted home for the win.  For the Caps, the season has been one of improvement after a slow start, then a sustained high level of performance.  It is worth noting that the 44 power play goals recorded by the Caps in 48 games exceeds their total for the entire 82-game 2011-2012 season (41).

Penalty Killing: 8-10 / 80.0 percent (season: 77.9 percent / rank: 27th)

It has been a struggle, but the Caps have made improvements in their penalty killing as the season wore on.  This week, though, they fell into an old habit.  Allow three or more power play chances for the opponent, and things get dicey.  The Caps were 2-for-3 against Winnipeg and was 4-for-5 against Ottawa, the power play goal being the game-winner in the latter contest.  The Caps killed off both shorthanded situations they faced against Boston to save the week.  What it meant is that the Caps “three shorthanded situations” threshold held for the season.  The number of situations did not matter in terms of efficiency – the Caps had a penalty killing rate of 78.1 percent when facing fewer than three shorthanded situations and a rate of 77.9 percent when facing three or more. 

However, the Caps were 14-3-0 when facing fewer than three shorthanded situations and 13-15-3 when facing three or more.  The best penalty killing the Caps had this season was staying out of the box.  If there is a sliver of a silver lining in this, here it is.  In the last five games in which the Caps faced three or more shorthanded situations they were 17-for-19.  An 89.5 percent penalty killing rate is not bad, no matter how many situations you face, and they have been improving, slow but sure, over the course of the season.

Hits/Blocked Shots: 98 / 51 (season rank: 18th / 8th)

Odd week.  In the three games the Caps had a tight pattern of results in both hits and blocked shots – 33, 31, and 34 hits in the three games; 17, 16, and 18 hits.  All three games were at home.  Coincidence?  If there was a noteworthy performance, it was that of John Erskine, who recorded 14 of the 98 hits for the week and 10 of the 51 blocked shots. In 46:27 of total ice time.  He seems to have his ornery on.

Faceoffs: 113-197 / 57.4 percent (season: 50.8 percent / rank: T-10th)

It was a very good week for the Caps in the circle overall.  It would have been a lot better without that Ottawa game.  In the 2-1 overtime loss the Caps were just 46.7 percent in the offensive end, but more than that it was taking only 15 draws in the offensive zone to 29 in the defensive zone (the Caps were 20-for-29 there, 69.0 percent).  For the week the Caps were excellent in the defensive zone – 46-for-76 (60.5 percent).  The offensive zone could use a bit of work (37-for-56, 48.2 percent), but the real bright spot was beating the league’s best faceoff team – Boston – by a 33-25 overall margin.

Turnovers: minus-8

It looks bad, but the minus-8 is a function of having only 34 takeaways on the week.  No Cap had more than two takeaways in any one game.  Karl Alzner had four to lead the Caps, and maybe that (and being on-ice for only one even-strength goal against) means an up-tick in his game.

In the end…

The Caps came a long way.  We pointed out on multiple occasions the unlikelihood that they would be able to overcome that 2-8-1 start. But overcome it they did, and they did it with a flourish in the final week of the season, capturing five of six possible standings points and winning the Southeast Division.  For this week, the Capitals finished much better than they started and came within an overtime slap shot of finishing the season with a perfect record for the week.  The idea of it not mattering where you start, but where you finish is one of those sayings that is more catchy than it is true, but sometimes it applies.  It makes one want to sing about it… 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A TWO-point night -- Game 48: Capitals 3 - Bruins 2 (OT)

It seemed rather fitting that the Washington Capitals should struggle early, find their footing, then come roaring back late and grab an overtime victory over the Boston Bruins, 3-2, this evening at Verizon Center.  It was their season in a nutshell.

When Boston scored a goal in the first – a Milan Lucic shot that ticked off the toe of Karl Alzner’s skate and past goalie Braden Holtby – and then again in the second when Andrew Ference ripped a wrist shot to the back of the net, it looked as if the Caps might go quick and quiet into the night to close the regular season.

But they came back in the third period, thanks to the parade of the circus bears to the penalty box.  First it was Adam McQuaid taking a tripping penalty at 5:11 of the period.  The Caps won the ensuing faceoff and kept the puck in the Bruin zone with some hard work in front of goalie Tuukka Rask.  The puck eventually found its way onto the stick of Mike Green at the right point.  Green wristed a harmless enough looking shot at the Boston net, but Zdeno Chara took that moment to play “air goalie” and think he had a blocker on his right hand.  Chara flicked his arm up as if he was blocking the shot away, and the only purpose that served was to send Rask into a fit when the puck sailed over Rask’s blocker into the far top corner of the net.

Green figured in the beginning, middle, and end of the next power play.  He started it by drawing a tripping call on Rich Peverley barely a minute after his goal.  Then, he started a rush from the Caps’ end of the ice, sending a long lead pass to Mike Ribeiro at the Boston Blue line.  Ribeiro skate through the right wing faceoff circle, then fed the puck back to Green entering the zone.  Green one-timed the puck over Rask’s right pad, and the Caps were even with the Bruins 7:21 into the third period.

That would be it for the scoring in regulation time, but the Caps would go into the extra frame having to kill a penalty to – who else – Mike Green.  The Caps killed that off without a shot on goal for Boston, then grabbed the momentum.  The Caps pressured the Bruins net, eventually leading to Zdeno Chara taking a hooking penalty on Mike Ribeiro to give the Caps their fifth power play of the game and fourth since the 5:11 mark of the third period.  At that point, it was a matter of time.

The last sequence started with – you guessed it – Green slowly skating over the Bruins’ blue line and backhanding the puck over to Mike Ribeiro on the right wing.  Ribeiro skated the puck down into the right wing faceoff circle, then lined up Green for a one-timer from the opposite circle.  Green fired, handcuffing Rask, who had to make an awkward save with his right shoulder.  Rask was not in position to defend the rebound, and it was Eric Fehr swooping in before Wade Redden could tie up his stick to lift the puck past the fallen Rask and into the back of the net for the game-winner.

Other stuff…

-- Mike Green finished with a rush.  His three-point night (2-1-3) was his first such night since he had a four-point night (2-2-4) against Detroit in a 7-1 win on October 22, 2011.  He finished 4-7-11 in his last eight games.

-- Green finished the season leading all NHL defensemen in goals (12) in just 35 games.  That is a 28-goal pace over 82 games.

-- Alex Ovechkin had two assists to finish in a tie for third place in overall scoring with Sidney Crosby (united once again) at 56 points.  Ovechkin won the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer (32).  He also finished the season first in power play goals (16) and tied with teammate Mike Ribeiro in power play points (27).

-- It might have been Ovechkin’s backchecking on a Rich Peverley break that was a difference-maker, though.  Ovechkin was deft enough to get a body on Peverley without incurring an infraction, interrupting Peverley as he was about to try to give Boston what might have been an insurmountable 3-0 lead on a shorthanded goal.

-- Ribeiro’s two assists lifted him into a top-ten finish in points (49), tied with Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk and a top-five finish in assists (36).

-- The three power play goals by the Caps tied a season high for the club, set when the Caps went 3-for-5 against Florida in a 4-3 win on April 6th.  The Caps finished the regular season with 44 power play goals.  In all of last season, the Caps had 41 power play goals over 82 games.

-- Braden Holtby’s 32 save effort closed a fast finish of the season.  After going 3-4-0, 4.04, .874 in his first seven appearances, he went 20-8-1, 2.26, .930 in his last 29 appearances.  He allowed two or fewer goals in 15 of those 29 games.

-- John Erskine was laying the lumber in this one – seven of the Caps’ 34 recorded hits. 

-- Eric Fehr had two game-winning goals this season, both against Boston, both in overtime, both against Tuukka Rask, both while getting knocked down in front of the Bruins’ net.

-- Milan Lucic scored only his third goal in his last 30 games, but the Caps managed to hold the trio of Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin, and Patrice Bergeron without a point.

-- Troy Brouwer recorded an assist to finish the season with 33 points, his total for all 82 games of last season.

In the end, it was a satisfying win against a stout opponent.  Just the sort of game the Caps needed to head into the post-season to face – again – the New York Rangers.  With a record of 25-10-2 to close the season, Caps fans could not ask for a better way to move forward, especially with their best players playing well and the team getting contributions from all over the lineup.  But as Caps fans are also too aware, their record as of now is 0-0.  Time to go to work.