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Capitals Make Recent History in Game 3

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If you thought you were seeing something pretty rare, you're right

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Let's get something out of the way up front: there's one stat from Game 3 of the Caps' second round series with the Pens that really matters, and that's the Pens' plus-one goal differential. And, as we noted earlier today, there are no moral victories in the NHL in May.

But anyone who watched the game had to have been struck by the Caps' domination in both shot generation and the measurable physical aspects of the game (at least the more-or-less legal aspects). And that's a somewhat rare combination. There are two main reasons that "hits" are generally derided as a stat. First of all, they're subjective, and that's not likely to change. Secondly, and probably more significantly, hits are usually implicitly cited as a positive stat, demonstrating grit and toughness and other such romanticized attributes of the sport, when in actuality, they more often show that a team is spending a lot of time without the puck... which isn't a good thing.

That wasn't the case last night. In fact, per data from war-on-ice.com, last night was the first time since the start of the 2007-08 season in which a team had five-on-five hits and shot attempt differentials above plus-30 each. Graphically, that looks like this:

Hits CF

Take that with a grain of salt - the Caps benefited from score effects, hits are subjective (and so are shot attempts, to an extent) and so on. But it's confirmation of what you saw: a team dominating physically and in shot generation in a pretty uncommon way. All of that didn't matter much last night, but what impact it might have on the rest of the series remains to be seen.