The Carolina Hurricanes came into Capital One Arena tonight lined up to play against the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, at least as the standings dictated. So it was important that the Capitals show up and play a good game, because they could be playoff enemies in a couple of weeks. And sure enough they did as they beat the Hurricanes 4-1, with a big night from Evgney Kuznetsov who had three assists.
This is one of those odd games where the Caps looked really good but the underlying numbers didn’t agree. According to MoneyPuck, the Canes were the better team when it came to Expected Goals.
It’s not like the Caps were dominated at all, but it certainly surprising to not see them being the team on top. But the bottom line is the Caps have so much talent that they can be slightly beaten on the Expected Goals and still win because they have elite talent all over the ice.
No one was purely dominant but the Caps had their third line, first line, and part of their second line doing well. It was odd because Kuznetsov showed up above 50%, but his line-mates (TJ Oshie and Carl Hagelin) hovered around 40%. The second and third line are brand new so they might take a little time to get some chemistry going.
It’s also important to note that the Caps stayed out of the box tonight. They did take one penalty but the Canes scored on the delayed call. It goes to show when they stay out of the box and aren’t marching to it four or five times a game, they can dictate the speed of the game. It’s impossible to not take any penalties, but if they could limit trips to the box to just two or three times a game, then they can control the game. And when they do that they tend to win more often than not.
Next game the Canes will get a chance for revenge at home. It will not be an easy game and the Canes will come out flying for their fired up fanes. The Caps will have to be even better than they were tonight if they want to leave their with two points. And remember, the Canes can easily be the Caps first round opponent and that means having to win in Carolina, so they need to be prepared and bring their A game this Thursday.
By Luke Adomanis