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The Afternoon Narrative: Holtby Bounces Back, 1 vs. 2 and Early Odds

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

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

1. Don’t look now, but Braden Holtby is back to looking like Braden Holtby, which is to say very handsome good. After allowing four goals in each of Games 2 through 4, the Vezina finalist was able to lock in for a pair of one-goal-against overtime victories, stopping 61 shots along the way, for a cool .968 save percentage.

Via the National Post:

“He came up huge and that’s what Braden Holtby does,” said head coach Barry Trotz. “I know earlier in the series he took some criticism and there was a lot of doubters out there. The only people who doubted him were the people outside. Inside our room, there was no doubt. He’s been too good for too long. He makes those key saves and that’s why he’s a Vezina candidate for the last few years.”

As we’d said throughout the series, Holtby had been better than his numbers would indicate, as he’d been victimized by both bad bounces (though he’ll deny it) and bad defense (and he’d certainly be the last guy on earth to cop to that).

Still, it was reassuring to see two great games from Holtby to close out the series. As TSN’s goalie guru Jamie McLennan put it:

Mitch Korn strikes again!

2. So now it’s on to Round 2, where the regular season’s best team will face the regular season’s second-best team for the right to advance to play the winner of the series between the circuit’s ninth- and 12th-best clubs (fifth vs. seventh in the Conference). Meanwhile, out West, it’s 6 vs. 8 and 10 vs. 16.

Some reward for that 118-point regular season, eh?

At the risk of stating the obvious, if the League re-seeded after the first round, the Caps would be facing the Senators in Round 2, while the Penguins and Rangers would be going at it. Instead...

At least the League will get a ratings bonanza which, after all, is what really matters... right? And if you’ve gotta face the Champs, this is as good a time as ever.

All of that said...

3. ... this isn’t last year, it isn’t the 90s, and it isn’t the 80s. It’s 2017. And this year’s team was designed to compete with the Pens. Can they? Some analytically-minded folks sure think so:

What say you, Vegas?

Finally, for a slightly different take from an interested party...

Regardless, Washington certainly isn’t going to sneak up on Pittsburgh, which is somewhat unfortunate, as Penguins can be spooked...

Aww. Sad. [Via imgur]