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Of Starts and Finishes

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One of the most impressive - and most frustrating - things about the Washington Capitals over the last couple of seasons has been their ability to "turn it on" at will; to go from seemingly being outplayed early on to dominant in the game's later stages and, more often than not, pulling out the win.  Obviously this has certain advantages (getting the two points is nice; so is seeing the Caps win), but it doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the team's ability to consistently win difficult games.  The type of games where the other team is going to be going full-bore the whole time and won't let up, and where an abundance of skill won't necessarily do the trick.  You know, playoff games.

Despite the clear progress the Caps have made in other areas in the first handful of games in the 2010-11 season, the team hasn't exactly come out swinging on a nightly basis, at least to the eye.  With that in mind, we thought we'd take a look at a few numbers and see what the team's performance, by period looked like.

SA Diff Sv Pct
First Period 3 7 -4 51 66 -15 .894 7 0.0 11 100
Second Period 7 4 3 59 64 -5 .938 7 0.0 11 100
Third Period 6 3 3 67 47 20 .936 10 30.0 3 100

The numbers suggest the same thing the eyes do, namely that the Caps have been bad in the first, better in the second, and their best in the third, the only period they've outshot their opponents, and the only (regulation) period in which they've tallied a powerplay goal.  Of course, it's important to note that there's bound to be some correlation between these numbers: it makes sense that a team would be recording more shots during periods where they have significantly more powerplays than the opposition.  That said, the total picture is somewhat bleak for those of us who we hoping the Caps could at least "stay angry" up to the opening faceoff.

There is a potential silver lining in these numbers, however.  Another common concern has been Bruce Boudreau's ability to make adjustments, both during the course of a playoff series and within games.  We're going to have to wait until the spring to see what Gabby to do in a series and, realistically, until the team has more games under its belt to make an authoritative claim on whether he's doing it in-game, but the numbers do offer a ray of hope.

That possibility is all the more reason to pay extra attention to tomorrow night's game in Boston.  If Boudreau is indeed making more effective adjustments, perhaps we'll see a different first period than we've become accustomed to.