Friday, April 12, 2019

Off Day: The Cousins Look Back on Game 1

It is the first “off day” of the postseason, and we visit the cousins on the front porch to get their thoughts on what transpired in the Caps’ postseason opener against the Carolina Hurricanes…

Peerless: OK guys, the Caps won, and that’s the most important thing, but did they win the right way?

Fearless: There is no “right” or “wrong” way of winning in the postseason.  There is only winning and not winning.  It’s not “how,” it’s “how many.”  You dance with who brung ya; you have to be true to who you are.  You need to…

Cheerless: Geez cuz, you get subscription to Platitudes Monthly for Christmas?  The Caps had 18 shots on goal last night.  Now, that’s not necessarily bad.  Over the five years before this one, there were 46 times that a team recorded fewer than 20 shots on goal in a playoff game.  Those teams went 24-22, so it’s not like low shot totals are a death sentence.  And teams who did it at home did even better, going 13-6 when recording fewer than 20 shots on goal.  But here is the weird part.  If you look at 5-on-5 shot attempts over those same five postseasons and teams that recorded fewer than 25 attempts at fives, the teams that did so went 10-3.  All three teams who did so at home won their game.  But what about shot attempt differential, you ask?  In those five postseasons, 37 teams were worse than minus-25 in shot differential.  Teams that did so went 21-16.  Of the eight teams that did so at home, six won their game.  The Caps were minus-36 last night and won.  If you’re hanging your “the Caps played badly…look at the shots and shot attempts,” find another hook to hang your hat.

Peerless:  Next up…third periods.  This has been a problem all year for this team.  Only six teams allowed more third period goals in the regular season than the Caps.  None of them made the playoffs.  Last night, two goals in the third period.  Is this a problem?

Fearless: No; or at least not as big as you’re making it out to be.  With all the goals allowed in the third period in the regular season, the Caps lost only four games all season when leading after two periods, regulation and extra time.  Seven teams had fewer, and five of them reached the postseason.  They make things a lot more interesting than they need to be, but they usually come out on the right side in the end.

Cheerless: I just get the feeling that this is something really bad waiting to be sprung on the Caps.  Maybe it’s just my usual sunny disposition coming through, or remembering all those years of despair.  Over the five postseasons before this one, only six teams allowed more total third period goals than the Caps.  Two of them did so playing more than the 63 games the Caps played – Tampa Bay (67 in 64 games, most third period goals allowed) and Pittsburgh (64 in 79 games/second).  And, perhaps it follows that the nine overtime goals the Caps allowed in overtime over those five postseasons was second-most (Pittsburgh allowed 11 in 16 more games played).

Peerless:  Game 1, a win.  Think it matters?

Fearless:  If you believe it’s about being “first to four,” then of course.  Carolina has to win four of six games, the Caps need win only three of six to advance.  That’s the basic arithmetic.

Cheerless:  Hard to tell.  Last night was the first time that the Caps won a Game 1 on home ice in regulation since Game 1 of the opening round series against the Flyers in 2016. But looking back over time, from 2008 when they returned to the postseason after a long absence to last season, the Caps played 14 Games 1 on home ice.  They went 7-7 in those games.  In the series in which they won Game 1 at home, they went 3-4 in the series.  In the series in which they lost Game 1 on home ice, the Caps went 4-3.  You see a pattern there?  No, I don’t either.  That’s why they play the games.

Fearless: Look who’s spouting platitudes now…

Peerless:  OK guys.  Save it for Game 2.