Photo: NHL/Getty Images
I know most fans don’t want to hear it, but the Capitals are actually playing really good hockey, maybe the best they’ve played all season. And it sucks the results aren’t there, but I’m here to show you that the Capitals are not out of this and have a real shot of winning this series.
How do they have a chance? Off the bat, if I asked you why you think they are losing this series you would probably say “undisciplined penalties” and “goaltending”, right? Listen to those answers: none of them rely on the play of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Basically, this isn’t about the Jackets outplaying the Caps, it’s about the Caps outplaying themselves. Meaning the issues with the Caps are very fixable and if they do fix them, they could win this series.
In the first two games, at 5-on-5, the Capitals lead the Blue Jackets in shots 58-44 (56.86%), 45-39 in scoring chances (53.57%), and an astounding league-best 22-8 (73.33%) in high danger chances. Basically, the Capitals are dominating the Jackets.
But why are they losing? Well, they have a league-worst 921 PDO. If you don’t know what PDO is, it’s basically a luck index adding league average shooting percentage and save percentage. 100 is the average, if a team is below that they’re unlucky, and the Caps are unlucky. They are only shooting at 3.45% at 5-on-5 (third-worst in the playoffs) and only getting 88.64% of the saves at 5-on-5 (fourth-worst in the playoffs). For reference, the Capitals had the second-best shooting percentage in the regular season with 9.19% and the 12th-best save percentage with 92.48%. Their shooting and save percentage have dropped significantly in the playoffs.
The craziest stat of the series is definitely this: of the 22 high danger chances at 5-on-5 that the Capitals have created, a total of ZERO went into the net. For the Blue Jackets, of their eight high danger chances, three of them have gone in. If the Caps had that shooting rate, they’d have almost an extra nine 5-on-5 goals to show for it, but have zero.
We shouldn’t be too worried about the Capitals’ shooting percentage, if they continue to play like they are, the goals will come. The big concern is in the net. Philipp Grubauer has simply let too many in; he’s not letting shots go through him, which is very important. But in the playoffs A goalie needs to make the great saves, the game-saving saves, and he hasn’t done that ,while Sergei Bobrovsky has made save-after-great save to keep his team within reach. It seems that Braden Holtby may have taken over the crease and it’s time for him to start making those amazing saves that keep teams in the game, or in the Capitals’ case, in the lead.
If Drew Storen was a hockey team, he’d be the Caps (double DC sports dig!). Per @muneebalamcu, score states through 2 games:
Cbj up 1, 17:33
Wsh up 1, 46:53
Wsh up 2, 16:06
— Japers’ Rink (@JapersRink) April 16, 2018
The funny thing is, even with zero high danger chances going in, the Capitals could still be leading this series if they didn’t take dumb penalties. Undisciplined actions is what has ultimately cost them both games. In Game 1, Tom Wilson took an offensive zone charging penalty that brought the Blue Jackets within one before Andre Burakovsky took another offensive zone penalty late in the third period that ultimately led to the Jackets’ tying goal. Then in Game 2, Wilson was called for an extremely weak, though ill-advised, penalty that allowed the Jackets to tie the game before Devante Smith-Pelly held a player’s stick away from the play that led to the Jackets taking the lead. Just simple discipline can do wonders for the Capitals.
Taking useless penalties is a very fixable action to take. Don’t put your stick in an opponent’s skates trying to get out of his own zone; don’t hold another player’s stick away from the play; don’t be the third guy into a scrum and so on. If the Caps can cut down on sitting in the box, that by itself will help the boys in red dearly, let alone getting some timely saves.
Now for some hope. Yes the Capitals are down 2-0 in the series, blowing both at home, but this isn’t uncharted territory. In 2011, the Boston Bruins lost their first two home games of the series against the Montreal Canadiens then ended up winning the series 4-3. They went on to win the Stanley Cup. In 2006, the Carolina Hurricanes lost their first two games at home, switched their goaltenders (sounds familiar), won four straight, then eventually lifted the Cup that season too. Most teams do not win a series once down 2-0, but it has been done before and as proven the Capitals have been the better team this series. If they continue the way they are playing at 5-on-5, stop taking dumb penalties, and get some timely saves from one of the best goalies in postseason history, there’s a real shot for the Capitals to get back in and win this series.
If that isn’t enough then maybe some resonating words from the head coach will get you believing.
— Tarik El-Bashir⌨🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) April 16, 2018
And if you don’t trust the words of Barry Trotz then maybe the captain can inspire you.
The always confident Alex Ovechkin: “You right now in hard position, but it’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.” #Caps
— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) April 16, 2018
While it may seem out of hand, the Caps still have a chance to get back in this series. Have faith and good things could happen.
By Luke Adomanis