The Capitals are now in some trouble. On Saturday night, the Capitals dropped Game 2 of their second round playoff series to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 6-2, and now trail the series 2-0. The series now shifts to the Steel City, where the Caps likely need to win both games to get back in this series. Washington started Game 2 like they finished Game 1, completely dominating play. Based on the way they played in the first period, the Caps should have run away with the game early. Unable to beat seemingly unstoppable Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, however, they found themselves in a close game and Pittsburgh eventually took control of the game possession wise, and ran away with the score. NoVa Caps’ CJ Witt takes a look at the statistics from Game 2.
Most fans will know that one cannot look at any certain stat and know immediately how a game turned out, something this series has clearly shown. In Game 1 the Capitals dominated the Penguins in shot attempts 83-41 and 88-45 in Game 2. Both games ended in losses. Some could argue that Game 2 was lost (or to put it in more specific terms, not won) in the first period. Shot attempts in all situations were 35-8, while 5-on-5 shot attempts in the first were 30-8. To put that in context, the Penguins only had 34 5-on-5 attempts in the entire game.
If the Capitals were able to score a goal or two in the opening frame, there’s no telling how the game may have ended. Pittsburgh, however, was able to hold on. 5-on-5 shot attempts in the second period were 16-15 in favor of Washington, but Pittsburgh led 3-1 after two.
Some Corsi percentages that were notable in last night’s game:
- 25 attempts for
- 6 against
- 19 attempts for
- 6 against
- 25 attempts for
- 8 against
The Capitals’ second-line of Justin Williams, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Marcus Johansson were at the bottom in terms of Corsi for the Capitals, at 59%, 50%, and 53%, respectively.
For Pittsburgh, only TWO players finished above 50%: Chris Kunitz at 52%, and Justin Schultz at 51%.
The Capitals needed to be much better at the dot this game. They were much better in the first period where they won 75% of the draws. They got fairly average as the game went on. In the second period they won 50% of the faceoffs and won just 47% in the third, and won 55% of the 74 total draws in the game. While this is an encouraging sign, given their difficulties in their first round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs, there is some room for improvement.
- Lars Eller was 10-13 at the dot for a percentage of 77%, which is excellent, considering the amount of talent centers the Penguins have.
- Backstrom had a bad Game 1 in terms of faceoffs, and was a decent 50% in Game 2.
- Jay Beagle, arguably the Caps’ best faceoff man, was 4-10 for 40%.
- Evgeni Malkin was 22% on draws, winning just 2-9.
- Matt Cullen was 4-14 for 29%.
There is not one team in the hockey world in my eyes that can match the Capitals’ depth at forward. To win the depth battle, however, they’ll need all the lines to be playing well. With the exception of right wing Tom Wilson, the fourth-line has practically been invisible through the first two games of the series. The only player to play well on the fourth-line was Wilson, who has since been moved up to the third-line. After the first period of Game 2, the second-line seemed to disappear as well. As for the first-line, they didn’t seem to be as effective until the Caps found themselves down 4-1. Backstrom potted an Ovechkin rebound past Fleury.
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk had a rough night too. A shot at the point on the power play in the second period was blocked and he got outpaced by 40-year old Matt Cullen, who then scored a shorthanded goal. In the third period, Shattenkirk made more of a golf-like play than a hockey play, by taking a delay of game penalty. Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel would score on the subsequent power play to make it 4-1.
While Capitals netminder Braden Holtby did not have his best game of playoffs, the entirety of the blame should not be on him. Many will say that goaltending is one of, if not the biggest factor that decides a series, and the team with the better goaltending is leading 2-0. Some may think the Capitals need to play more of a playoff game by getting pucks to the net (past the blockers) and getting bodies to the net. On top of that, they will need timely saves from arguably, the best goalie in the NHL.
This series is still not over. The Capitals have looked good for a good amount of this series. But they have a lot of work to do in enemy territory if they want to get past the always competitive Penguins.
By CJ Witt