Photo: Justin K. Aller
Wednesday night, the Capitals lost Game Four to the Penguins in sudden death overtime. According to the NHL’s PR, the Penguins improved to 8-3 in 11 all-time OT playoff games against the Capitals. The victory gave the Penguins a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Yesterday, we felt depressed. But there is reason to have hope. In fact, I have five reasons why the Caps could come back in this series.
A 3-1 series lead does not have a foregone conclusion. Two of the last three Stanley Cup winners have come back from a 3-1 series deficit. As for these teams specifically, since 2011, the Penguins have been up 3-1 in a series four times. They have only won two. Since Ovechkin played his first NHL game, the Caps have been behind 3-1 in a series twice. They played seven games both times and won Game Seven once. This team can do it.
The Caps have been the worst shooting team in the postseason since 2009-10 regardless of sample size. Peter had a wonderful post about the lack of playoff scoring under Barry Trotz yesterday. The ineptitude goes back further. They have a shooting percentage of only 6.96% in 61 playoff games since 09-10.
That 6.96% is lower than the four game sample of Winnipeg last year in a sweep and the seven game sample of the Leafs. It is well below the 13 game sample of the Sabres, and even further below the 68 game sample of the Pittsburgh Penguins at 9.2%. The next closest team to the Caps with a decent sample size is the New York Rangers at 7.63% in 86 games. The best team in the league has been Anaheim at 10.03%.
That doesn’t sound like a reason to hope. Well it is. The laws of the universe state that that shooting % is not sustainable. A sub-7% shooting percentage for the Washington Capitals is a joke, it will stabilize. Why can’t the tipping point be Saturday? It can. Remember, the Caps had a 9.88 sh% in the regular season. This team can do it.
Why will it tip on Saturday? Because the Caps have been the better team this series. They have out shot, out attempted, out hit, and out chanced. The Penguins have out bounced them. They have gotten goals off people’s backs and hips. They have gotten goals off crazy deflections. The Caps have carried the play.
The Caps have also abandoned the way they played the game this year during this series. They were a team that wanted possession of the puck entering the zone. Once in the zone, they held the puck until they got a scoring chance. They moved the puck around to find the best shooting angles. They asked forwards to cycle with the defensemen to achieve this.
They have been so hell-bent on wearing the Pens down that they have forsaken what got them here. They have stopped cycling with the defensemen, they dump at the first sight of a defender. The good news is that the Penguins are worn down. The better news is that a move back to that style will turn the tide. This team can do it.
This is how the Caps play. The Caps have been the team that comes from behind in the third period. The Caps were the only team in the league at .500 with a record of 22-16-6 when the opponent scored first. They won or forced overtime 50% of the time when trailing going into the 3rd Period.
They have been the team that refuses to give up when down. When the Caps got down by a goal this season, everyone knew they would tie it up, even their opponents. When their backs were against the wall, they played their best. Well, now they are backed into a corner. Now the target is on someone else’s back, and they are the hunter. This team can do it.
Every great story has adversity. Did we really think that they would waltz through the playoffs without adversity? What separates Stanley Cup winners from everybody else is not never being down in a series or never facing elimination games, it is how they play in those elimination games. This iteration of the Caps has not faced an elimination game yet.
This is the moment where the hero realizes who he is. This is the part of the story where the good guy steps up. This is the tipping point. This is the beginning of the new history. And this is the team that will do it.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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