As I wrote last week no team is more poised to finish with Lord Stanley’s cup lifted above their heads than the Washington Capitals, and the stats are as overwhelming as their play on the ice.
The Capitals lead the series 3-1 over the Philadelphia Flyers, which includes having outscored them 12-2. What’s crazy is not that neither team has fired 100 pucks on net yet (though, that is odd), but which team has done most of the shooting. DC’s Braden Holtby has seen 93 shots thus far, a hefty load compared to Steve Mason’s paltry 81. Despite Washington’s efficiency on the powerplay, they are eight-for-17 with 28 shots on net, the gap closes to only seven shots in four extra sessions with the man advantage.
Surprisingly, especially in light of their 1-3 series deficit, Philly is generally controlling play, owning a 56.5% 44.5% to Corsi For advantage. Even Radko Gudas himself is rocking a 52.5% Corsi For through the first three games of the series, ranking last on the team of those who’ve played at least two games.
These measurements of opportunity make for an intriguing sub-plot, especially if we see a sixth game on Sunday. Just don’t count on it, or Philly’s ice staying clean.
Tampa Bay continues to use Detroit as a punching bag
Meanwhile, in the other series featuring a juggernaut from the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning are fun in the same way hanging with a new friend is. Even the things you’ve loved your whole life get a lift when a common giddy response is,“OH! you love bacon too!?”
This is coach Jon Cooper’s third straight season guiding exciting and creative hockey, and his second postseason without Steven Stamkos.
Not to worry, Nikita Kucherov tops the table with five goals and Tyler Johnson shares the assist lead with Nicklas Backstrom at five as well this time around. Ben Bishop? He’s allowed two goals or fewer in six straight series games against Detroit dating back to 2015’s first round. In total he’s now 7-4 with only 21 goals against and a sterling .928 save percentage, and he closed them out with a hope-destroying, 31-save shutout last April.
Stylistically Tampa represents the kind of hockey we all ought to hope takes root as the norm. Coach Cooper has built a scaffolding by which he can deploy his talented and intelligent roster to conquer the NHL with. More than anything else, their play is predicated on chemistry, which then creates roles that players can slot in to. Thus making a team that’s merely guided by their system, not dictated by it.
Tampa Bay’s first chance to close out the series will be Thursday night.
Checking in on the Western Conference…
Yeah, I’m checking.
Alright just confirmed – Brian Elliott doesn’t have a pulse.
That’s the only conceivable reason why despite being out-shot 151-105 through the first four games of the series, he’s led the Blues to a 3-1 series lead over the defending champion and semi-dynastic Blackhawks. To wit Elliott is undefeated in games where he’s seen at least 35 shots, including a pair of games where he’s seen over 40 pucks in his pupil-dilated face.
All of which adds up to one frustrated fan base in the Windy City, as Chicago holds a commanding 54.3% to 45.7% CF advantage thus far. That’s the Blackhawks’ best mark since the 2012-13 season and championship where they boasted a 55.5% in both portions.
If Elliott can keep it up and lead the Blues past the Blackhawks this week, he’ll arguably go down as the worst netminder, and certainly the least accomplished, to accomplish the feat in the modern era. Joining a list that includes three-time Cup champion Chris Osgood (2009, Western Conference Finals), Olympic gold medalist with Team Canada Roberto Luongo (2011, first round), career-starter Mike Smith (2012, first round), and two-time Cup champ Jonathan Quick (2014, WCF).
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