As Chris said, the Washington Capitals played pretty darn well against the Boston Bruins in regulation of Game Three. With nine minutes left in rego, the Caps had a lead and roughly an 80 percent chance to win the game. A win in Game Three would have given the Caps somewhere around a 7-in-10 chance to win the series, except obviously that didn’t happen. Marchand got that gritty goal to force OT, and then the Bruins took over.
Still, until Smith’s wraparound, the Caps had a coin-toss’s chance to get that pivotal win. Pivotal is the part I need to emphasize, as it’s hard to overstate how bad the Justin Schultz–Ilya Samsonov goof-up was.
Taking a 2-1 series lead is a big deal. As of Thursday morning, MoneyPuck gives the Boston Bruins a 69 percent chance of winning the series. The Caps are now profound underdogs in the series, and it really did not have to be this way.
Here’s how MoneyPuck plotted Game Three, plus my annotations in red:
Washington had a problem protecting a lead all season. They gave up more leads than all but four teams (one of whom the Caps are playing in this series) and had the second-worst all-situation save percentage in the NHL when up by one goal. That context makes the Marchand’s game-tying goal more painful, but the real pain is in overtime.
The Bruins dominated play during overtime, as this graph from Natural Stat Trick attests.
But overtime is still ultimately a coin toss — unless your defender and goalie power-spikes the coin into the toilet.
I’ve got an open mind about how you might divvy up blame between Schultz and Samsonov for this play, but I cannot get over the history here. Ilya Samsonov spent more than 30 days on the COVID protocol over two stretches this season, and both times were tied to behavioral issues. That’s a month of practice during which these kinds of standard operating procedures would get drilled. That’s a month of regular-season games during which you can make this mistake with drastically lower stakes, and learn from them, and purge the living hell out of them so they don’t come up in double overtime of a tied playoff series.
Instead, in one moment, Ilya Samsonov took Washington from a 50/50 chance at taking a commanding series lead…
…to a 69 percent chance of a first round exit.
Virtually a forty-point swing.
So much for Samsonov’s big shot at redemption. He could have saved the day — he nearly did, with 1.3 goals saved above expected — but in the end he compounded the harm he had already done his team — first with an ATV accident, then twice with with his repeated COVID rule-breaking.
Caps coach Peter Laviolette will do what he will, and he’ll be coy about it, but here’s my starter for Game Four.
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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