After scoring just 15 goals over the first five games of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series, the Capitals and Rangers exploded for a combined seven tallies on Sunday night. (Well, the Rangers exploded, at least - the Caps imploded and then played catch-up). Each of the six games has been decided by a single goal, and 91 percent of the total gametime has been played with the score within a single goal.
The margins for error have been razor thin - three times already the winning team scored just two goals, and the Caps have a fluky 1-0 win on their side of the ledger. And yet, despite the pressure, the two most important players on the ice - Braden Holtby and Henrik Lundqvist - have absolutely sparkled.
"This might be the best goaltending performance, from both goaltenders, that we've seen in the playoffs this year, and maybe in the last decade," Barry Trotz said after Game Five. At that point, the two netminders had stopped 296 of the 311 shots they'd faced, a ridiculous .952 save percentage. Even after the seven-goal outburst, the masked men have a combined .943 save percentage in the series (Holtby's .944 edging out Lundqvist's .941) and nearly identical 1.79 goals against averages (Lundqvist has been in net for 16 more seconds than Holtby).
So how does this series stack up, historically? If we're going to compare it to other seven-game sets and go by all-situation save percentage, Trotz is nearly spot on in his "best in the last decade assessment." Take a look at all seven-game series since the 2004-05 lockout (data via war-on-ice.com):
If tonight's game goes anything like the first five in this series did, this will likely end up as one of the two highest combined save percentage series since Alex Ovechkin entered the League. And of not-insignificant note, Holtby has played the part of one of the dueling deniers in four of the top-ten series on the list (and his fifth playoff series rounds out the top-14). Granted, there's some recency bias here, as save percentages have risen over time, but when it comes to stopping pucks, Jay Beagle said it best of the two goalies: "They're putting on a show."
Holtby is having a(nother) terrific post-season run. Lundqvist has nearly matched him. For one of them, the season ends tonight. For the other, the Lightning - and the Conn Smythe conversation - await.