Photo: Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals‘ bottom-six forward group played a big part in the team’s 3-2 overtime victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series over the Boston Bruins at Capital One Arena on Saturday night.
The fourth line of Carl Hagelin, Nic Dowd, and Garnet Hathaway especially shined, forechecking in the Bruins’ zone for a large part of the game. They combined for nine hits (including four each from Dowd and Hathaway), six shots (each had two), a +1 rating, one blocked shot, two giveaways (one each from Dowd and Hathaway), and two takeaways (both coming from Hagelin). While Hagelin and Dowd’s ice-time on Saturday were in the 15-16 minute range, Hathaway’s was just over 12. The line’s big night wrapped up in a fitting way with Dowd netting the overtime winner on a deflection in front of the net on forward T.J. Oshie’s wrist shot just 4:11 into the extra session.
The trio played only 8:37 together in Game 1 against the Bruins but tallied a five-on-five 53.33% Corsi-for percentage, a 75% shots-for percentage, a 40.78% expected goals-for percentage, a 40.78% expected goals-for percentage, and a 1.000 PDO when they did.
The trio has been a mainstay for head coach Peter Laviolette in his first season in Washington, especially while he was experimenting with his lineup trying to find the right mix early on.
Forward Michael Raffl especially stood out in Saturday’s game where he recorded one assist, two shots, six hits, and two takeaways in the offensive zone in 16:14 worth of ice-time. Center Lars Eller, who has seen a boost in ice-time with Evgeny Kuznetsov being out the past six games due to COVID-19 protocol, had three shots, a hit, and a 47.8% faceoff-winning percentage in 19:52 worth of ice time. Conor Sheary played just 14:19 in Game 1, recording two hits and one giveaway.
The deeper stats from the trio’s Game 1 performance are not great but their impact went beyond them as the line tallied a 41.38% Corsi-for percentage, a 28.34% expected goals-for percentage, a 42.86% scoring chances-for percentage, and a 1.000 PDO in 12:01 together at five-on-five on Saturday.
Since the Capitals acquired Raffl from the Philadelphia Flyers on April 12, the 32-year-old has been trusted by Laviolette in defensive situations and has been up to the task.
With the Bruins being known as a top-heavy offensive team, the Capitals will need more performances like Saturday’s from their bottom-six forward group as they are the more balanced team. If they continue to do so, the Capitals will be a tough oust in the first round and beyond.
By Harrison Brown