One way to describe the Capitals’ performance in Game 4 against the Boston Bruins is painful. You may certainly have another word (or series of words) to describe it. The Capitals entered Game 4, following two-straight overtime losses, where they looked completely outclassed by the Bruins at times, and tonight it was for nearly the entire game.
The effort and compete level clearly wasn’t there tonight, and it looked like the Capitals were playing a few steps behind the Bruins. Whether that’s due to injury, age or something else, it’s clear that the Capitals are struggling and may not even make it out of the weekend.
Although the Capitals had seven power play opportunities, they mustered a measly six shots on goal on the man advantage. Something has to change on the power play, among other things. Nicklas Backstrom discussed the topic in his postgame media availability.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) May 22, 2021
The Bruins gave the Caps a chance to take control of this game, early, and the Capitals’ power play floundered. Contrast that to the Bruins, who had five chances on the power play, had six shots on goal, and three goals to show for it.
There really wasn’t a situation on the ice where the Caps were not thoroughly dominated by the Bruins in Game 4. About halfway through the first period, the Bruins drove away with the shot attempts. (via Natural Stat Trick):
On top of that, the quality of shots on goal by the Bruins were even more shocking (via Natural Stat Trick):
The Bruins concentrated their offensive effort in the low slot, right between the dots. The fact that Ilya Samsonov saved 28 of 29 shots at even strength is a miracle. Samsonov is far from the problem facing this team.
Contrast the Bruins’ shot locations and frequency with the Capitals. They’re not taking shots from dangerous areas during five-on-five play. If you’re not willing to go to the dirty areas on the ice (like the front of the goal), you’re not going to win games in the playoffs, and you’re surely not going to score as much.
Let’s look at the Caps’ five-on-five performance in the regular season versus through four games in the playoffs:
The Capitals are scoring over a goal less per sixty minutes of play in the playoffs through the first four games, while also giving up just about the same amount of goals per sixty minutes. Just looking at the playoff performance here at five-on-five, you can see the Caps are not going to have success in a series, even if the power play was hitting on all cylinders.
Not only are the Caps not generating high danger chances, they’re not generating any shots on goal:
The Bruins very nearly tripled the Capitals in shots on goal during five-on-five play. 11 shots on goal during five-on-five play, which was 35:26 of game time, is terrible.
Ultimately, the team and its coaching staff have a lot to answer for. To only muster 11 shots on goal in 35:26 is not acceptable. Here’s how tonight’s effort stacked up to the previous three games in the series:
The trend of Boston owning the high-danger chances took a brief vacation during Game 3, but was back with a vengeance in Game 4. Owning 90 percent of high danger chances in a game is terrific for the Bruins, but downright terrible for the Caps. You cannot expect to win if you turn out performances like this, and the fact that the game was 1-0 entering the third period was a miracle.
The Caps will need to play with absolute desperation if they want to play past this weekend. They’ll need much improved performances from their top talent, such as Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson, to have a chance in Game 5.
It’ll be interesting to see what adjustments to strategies during five-on-five play and the power play look like, as well as potential lineup adjustments. It’s clear the Caps need more speed and offensive ability to keep up in the series.
By Justin Trudel