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The Afternoon Narrative: Match-Ups, Free Hockey and No Cigar

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Three things we’re talking about this afternoon when we’re talking about the Caps

Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

1. We’ve harped on match-ups plenty, and how rough a go of it the second line, skating with John Carlson and Karl Alzner or Nate Schmidt, has had against the Leafs’ top line of Auston Matthews, Michael Nylander’s kid and Other Guy (direct quote: “avoid playing the second (Kuznetsov) line with Karl Alzner and Carlson“), but it’s gone from bad to worse.

Here’s how Matthews fared at fives against that Caps quintet last night, via Natural Stat Trick:

Take your pick of numbers here, but they’re horrid across-the-board. And here’s a look at the match-up over the course of the series, via Muneeb:

The result?

The Caps simply cannot send the second line out with Carlson any more - it’s killing them.

Meanwhile, every member of the second line is getting more even-strength ice time than Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. What is going on, Barry?

Well, yeah.

2. So. Much. Overtime.

The Caps have now played four-straight overtime games in the playoffs, and five of their last six second-season matches have needed more than sixty minutes to determine a winner (you remember Games 4 and 6 of the Pittsburgh series last year, don’t you?). They’ve only won one of those five games (Game 1 of the current series, which feels like a lifetime ago already), but all of this free heart-stopping hockey is rather abnormal. To wit, via Elias:

3. Of course, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, and the Caps’ recent road playoff games have been neither, unfortunately:

They’ve also lost their last five playoff overtime games away from Verizon Center. These are essentially coin flips (and, granted, some of those one-goal games were two-goal games and not broken ties before the final buzzer)... but to flip five-straight tails or 14 out of 17 seems awfully unlucky and improbable (and if you don’t believe me, take out a quarter and go to town).

Nothing has ever come easy to the Caps in the post-season, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon.