Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images
One would think by the way Capitals fans celebrated defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals that the team actually won the Stanley Cup! Alas, they are only halfway to the main goal. And now an even better, scarier opponent awaits the Caps in Florida. In this piece, NoVa Caps’ Luke Adomanis takes a look at the numbers before Game 1.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have lost a total of TWO games in the playoffs this spring. Once to the New Jersey Devils in the first round and once against the Boston Bruins in the second round. They actually lost the first game in the series against Boston, then proceeded to win four straight, in very similar fashion to the Capitals’ comeback against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
|CorsiFor%||56.19% (1st)||51.23CF% (5th)|
|Scoring Chance For%||58.13% (1st)||51.30% (6th)|
|High Danger Chancer For%||59.76% (1st)||51.20% (7th)|
|Expected Goals For%||60.13% (1st)||50.74 (6th)|
The Lightning are an amazing team, arguably the best in the playoffs based off of the numbers. The fact they dispatched the Bruins so quickly was mightily impressive, considering many thought the Bruins, a possession powerhouse, would win that series. The Lightning made them look like chump change.
There is some context to the Capital’s numbers though. The Capitals have been without Andre Burakovsky for the entire duration of the playoffs and he was consistently driving possession and scoring chances for the team before he got injured. Also, the Capitals went without right wing Tom Wilson for the final three games of their second round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins due to a suspension. He is a member of the first-line, one of the best in the league, so missing him hurt. Devante Smith-Pelly almost played two full games on the top-line while Wilson was suspended and that line was a disaster when he was. Nicklas Backstrom also missed a full game against the Penguins, but really it was more like two, because he received his injury in the first period of Game 5 and didn’t look right before leaving quickly in the third period.
All of that is not to say that if the Caps were mostly healthy and did not have Wilson gone because of a suspension, their numbers would probably look much better. Still, they wouldn’t match what the Lightning did through two rounds. Tampa Bay did play a much easier opponent in the first round compared to the Capitals, but played a slightly more difficult opponent in the second round, so that affects the numbers a bit too.
The Lightning should be starting the third round against the Capitals fully healthy, while the boys in red will not. Even if Backstrom plays in the series, he will be very handicapped. It is possible he broke his hand based on the bandaging he had. If it was the regular season, he’d be out for weeks, but it’s the playoffs so he might play if he can grasp his stick. Burakovsky has been skating, but there is no telling when he could return. He looked great in his first practice back with the team, though he was in a non-contact jersey.
The numbers may look overwhelming, but that’s the beauty of hockey, anything can happen. If the Capitals keep on fighting they will give themselves a chance. They dispatched the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions, so why can’t they take care of the Lightning?
By Luke Adomanis