The Washington Capitals are going to Las Vegas to play for the Stanley Cup against the Golden Knights. No one in their right mind made that prediction before the season began, let alone when the playoffs started! It will be a series to prove the doubters wrong, as both teams were not predicted to go this far.
Let’s take a look at their numbers in the playoffs to see how they stacked up, and maybe give us some insight as to how the series will unfold. The adjusted numbers are provided by Natural Stat Trick and Corsica.
|Scoring Chance For%||54.58%||52.75%|
|High Danger Chancer For%||49.86%||50.41%|
|Expected Goals For%||50.85%||50.82%|
That’s about as even as you can get. But of course there needs to be some context.
The Golden Knights definitely had easier opponents in the first two rounds. No offense to the LA Kings or San Jose Sharks, but they aren’t the Columbus Blue Jackets or reigning Stanley Cup Champions the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Golden Knights got to face the Winnipeg Jets in the 3rd round who are maybe better than the Tampa Bay Lightning, but if they are it isn’t by much.
Even then, after Vegas beat the Jets in just five games, they admitted the Jets looked completely worn out from their series against the President Trophy winners the Nashville Predators in the previous round. That series went to a grueling seven games.
Also worth noting, the Capitals had three games without Tom Wilson, four games without Nicklas Backstrom, and 11 games without Andre Burakovsky. All of those players are so important to the Capitals possession and scoring chances. The Golden Knights had zero injuries so far in the playoffs. If you consider the absence of some big name players and tougher opponents into context, the Capitals probably come out on top in all the number groups.
The number that really sticks out is the Golden Knights’ PDO, or luck. In the regular season they had a respectable 100.5, but they are nearly 4 points higher in the playoffs. Their shooting percentage is pretty normal at 8.43%, but their goaltending is in the stratosphere with .961%! I’ll talk about the goaltending in another article, but it is the main reason they are in the Stanley Cup Finals.
This is not a knock on the rest of the team, they are still an extremely deadly group of skaters, and as soon as the Capitals take them lightly they’ll lose. But it’s obvious goaltending is really carrying them and that’s the puzzle the boys in red must first figure out.
Numbers are not predictive on what will happen in a playoff series, heck the Tampa Bay Lightning had better numbers than the Capitals before their series. But with context it can give you a sense of comparison. Once Monday rolls around and the puck drops these numbers mean nothing, both teams will have to start making their own. But what we can see from the numbers is that this should be a fun, fast, close series. Buckle up!
By Luke Adomanis