Just one staff, the Pittsburgh Penguins, has hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup in back-to-back seasons for the reason that tun of the century, and just one different staff, the Detroit Crimson Wings, has completed so for the reason that days of Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 1980s. Successful the Cup is difficult to do as soon as, not to mention consecutively, and we will thank the excessive degree of parity within the league right this moment for that.
For the Capitals trustworthy excited on the prospect of one other deep run into the postseason, these Stanley Cup Playoffs shall be a tough capsule to swallow. It took greater than 40 years of relative mediocrity and fruitless playoff appearances in 10 of the 11 seasons main into final yr’s championship run earlier than the Caps lastly realized the candy bliss of NHL superiority. And regardless of seemingly promising outcomes on paper in 2018-19, one other scoring title for Alexander Ovechkin and a roster virtually totally intact from final season, a second-straight championship isn’t within the playing cards for the Capitals. Right here’s why.
Stats Don’t Lie
Common opinion (or possibly simply overly optimistic lower-seeded groups) says you may toss out the common season stats initially of the playoffs as a result of it’s a clear slate and a complete new season. Properly, don’t. Tendencies are developments for a purpose, and there are some unavoidable numbers staring all of the doubters proper within the face.
Washington Capitals heart Nicklas Backstrom. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports activities)
Whereas the Capitals went a powerful 14-5-1 over the ultimate 20 video games of the season on their option to a fourth consecutive Metropolitan Division title, right here’s a take a look at a few of the underlying numbers.
In opposition to Japanese Convention playoff groups, the Capitals’ head-to-head report was underwhelming. In 4 video games every towards potential second-round foes, the Penguins and New York Islanders, the Caps have been a mixed Three-Four-1, averaging simply 2.38 goals-for and three.38 goals-against. In opposition to potential third-round opponents, the Caps have been a mediocre 5-6-2 mixed.
Relating to scoring, the staff completed third within the East behind the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs with 278 objectives. Of these, Rocket Richard Trophy-winner Alex Ovechkin scored 51, almost 20 p.c, with the subsequent highest scorer, T.J. Oshie, notching lower than half that at 25. It’s a dangerous proposition to rely on one participant for a lot of your offense, particularly when opposing defenses shall be additional aware of Ovi’s offensive-zone presence within the high-stakes playoffs.
Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports activities)
On the flip aspect of the coin, the Caps’ protection was sub-par at finest in the course of the common season, and the goaltending was typically shaky. The Caps completed with 249 objectives towards, ranked eighth within the East with 53 extra lamp-lighters allowed than league-leader Tampa Bay.
Beginning netminder Braden Holtby noticed 1,795 photographs towards, which ranked seventh most amongst all goaltenders regardless of the Capitals coming in fourth within the East with 1,234 blocked photographs. In 58 begins, Holtby completed with only a .911 save proportion, effectively behind the league leaders who completed effectively into the .930 vary. In tight, one-or-two-goal postseason video games, these numbers aren’t going to chop it.
Capitals Particular Groups
As a rule, the Stanley Cup Playoffs come all the way down to particular groups. Who can outperform the opposite staff when it issues most? Who has all aspects of their sport buttoned up at a championship degree? The reply is what separates title contenders from the pack, and the Capitals are decidedly within the pack.
Amongst Japanese Convention playoff groups, the Capitals completed fifth in the course of the common season with a 20.eight power-play proportion and final with only a 78.9 p.c penalty-kill effectivity.
The Capitals must work on their particular groups to achieve success within the playoffs. (Courtesy Canadian Press)
Of their 49 power-play objectives, Ovechkin had 18, with no different participant reaching half that quantity. Once more, that’s loads eggs in a single basket within the occasion of damage or a dreaded playoff scoring droop. So far as the penalty-killing goes, because the third most penalized staff within the East with 261 opponent energy play alternatives, they’ll both have to enhance dramatically in a single day to shore up this obtrusive weak spot or be a ton extra disciplined in the case of taking penalties.
The Tampa Bay Lightning
It’s not simply the Capitals; the Tampa Bay Lightning seem on each playoff staff’s checklist of causes they received’t win the Cup this yr. The Lightning, with their 62-16-Four common season report, tied the NHL mark for wins and registered the fewest regulation losses (16) since, satirically, the 2009-10 Washington Capitals, who dropped simply 15 in regulation that season.
On the primary day of the playoffs, Las Vegas sportsbooks had the Lightning’s odds at 2-1 to win the Cup, and regardless of their stumble out of the blocks in Recreation 1 towards the Blue Jackets, they’re a looming large to all 15 different playoff groups within the hunt for the hardware.
The Tampa Bay Lightning tied an NHL report with 62 victories throughout 2018-19 common season. (AP Picture/Chris O’Meara)
The Bolts amazingly received each single one in all their season sequence towards Japanese Convention opponents, together with a 2-1 report and a Four.67 common goals-for towards the Capitals, and solely had shedding information towards three Western Convention foes.
With a comparatively current Cup to their identify and journeys to the Japanese Convention Closing or higher in three of their previous 4 seasons, not solely are the Lightning the most effective staff within the league, they’ve the playoff expertise to again it up and critically compete this yr for the second Cup in franchise historical past.
Meaning, at 12-1 Las Vegas odds, the Tampa Bay Lightning are one of many largest causes the Washington Capitals received’t repeat as Stanley Cup Champions in 2019.