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Capitals vs Penguins Game 1: What Worked and What Didn't

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Heading into Game 2, we take a look at what worked and what didn't in Game 1.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Well, here we are. Two phenomenal teams -- almost certainly the two best remaining in the East -- coming head to head in the second round. Incredible special teams on both sides of the coins. Scorching offense from one team, some of the League's best defense and goaltending from the other. This one will be (and has already been) reduced to Alex Ovechkin versus Sidney Crosby by some, but make no mistakes: the matchups are compelling through the totality of both rosters' construction.

Let's take a look at what worked and what didn't in Game 1 -- a 4-3 overtime vicroty for the host Capitals -- of a series that promises to be a real thrillride.

What Worked

  • Good First Period
It's been a bit of a pain point for Washington during stretches of the regular season, and at times during Round 1, but tonight's first period was a strong point for the Capitals, who finished the period outshooting the Pens 15-9, which included a stretch in which they'd notched the last ten shots. The Caps also broke the scoring on a nice O-from-D type transition sequence that saw Andre Burakovsky burying a Jason Chimera rebound, a great (albeit fruitless) power play, and a strong penalty kill.

Although the first few minutes of the second round favored Pittsburgh, the Capitals found their skates quickly...and good thing, because the pace of this thing would take no less. At five-on-five after one, the Caps were winning the possession battle 23 shot attempts to 19, and the high-danger scoring chance 4-1. Not a bad way to open a round.
  • T.J. Oshie
It was a playoff hat-trick overtime winner against arguably the franchises most hated rival. What more do you need, people?

  • Shutting Down Sidney Crosby.
I'm gonna let Sidney's stat line speak for itself here.

Sid line

That said, there's some cause for concern, given Matt Niskanen's and Karl Alzner's possession struggles against the Penguins' top line, as shown below, but as we've said so many times: the playoffs are a results oriented affair. Points to 27 and 2 in Game 1.

What Didn't

  • The Second Period
The Caps had a chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead in this one when Kris Letang crosschecked T.J. Oshie from behind and sent the Caps to a powerplay, already up 1-0. That wasn't what happened, as the Caps instead mustered one shot on goal (and allowed one too), and were probably lucky to get that. Then Dmitry Orlov got undressed (and clipped by his D partner, Nate Schmidt) en route to a game tying goal, and then 54 seconds later Evgeni Malkin roofed a lethal backhander to take the lead.

Oshie's quick strike response was buoy in deep water, no doubt, but the Caps were, frankly, fortunate to get out of the second period tied. At fives, they were out-shot 15 to 6, out-attempted 27-13, and had six high-danger scoring chances to Washington's...zero (though it's worth noting that Oshie's equalizer is mysteriously absent from this categorization). The second period was a Pittsburgh clinic.
  • Face-offs (But not all of them)
The Caps won 46% of the game's draws and the importance of face-offs is generally overstated. Still, a few things stood out in the dot:
FOs

When it came to draws, Matt Cullen ate Evgeny Kuznetsov's lunch in the (Caps') offensive zone, and Crosby owned Nicklas Backstrom's all over the ice. (The Caps were 3-for-8 on power-play face-offs, which contributed to an 0-fer with the extra man.)

It wasn't all bad, though...

FO2

Mike Richards and Jay Beagle were very effective, especially in the defensive zone, and Evgeni Malkin wasn't particularly good in any.
  • Alex Ovechkin finishing
Alex Ovechkin had three golden opportunities in this game. One, before the game was three minutes oldAnother in the games final moments. Both of those were fairly clear breaks. The third was a(nother) sublime pass from NickBackstrom about 25 seconds into overtime. The first two of the chances terminated after mediocre dekes from the Captain. The third was a plain whiff.

It's not often that the best goal scorer gets such platinum chances, at such frequency, with such high stakes. It's disappointing that none went in, given Ovi's penchant for being an elite finisher. But not for nothing, it was still Ovi's line who carried the scoreboard last night, albeit the last touch came most often from T.J. Oshie.