1. There’s a notion that this Caps team is at its best when desperate, so let’s take a look at the Ovechkin Era (with shakers of salt as to the extent that any of these prior incarnations tell us anything about the current squad, but we’re all curious so here we go):
So the Caps have faced some adversity and bounced back and delayed the inevitable from time to time (no doubt benefiting from series score effects along the way). And they are, of course, as desperate as it gets now - just ask ‘em:
Braden Holtby on #CapsPens Game 5: “Play like we have nothing to lose. Play free. There’s nothing to save it for."— Chris Gordon (@Chris_Gordon) May 4, 2017
The reality is that the Caps were (or should have been) desperate to win Game 4 (and, for that matter, Game 2, at a minimum), but we know how that turned out. Let’s hope Game 5 (and 6 and 7) end differently.
2. One area in which the Caps likely need to be better if they’re going to make this a series again is on the power play, where they struck twice (including the overtime game-winner) in their Game 3 win, but have gone just 1-for-9 in the other three games (the Pens have gone 2-for-10 with the extra man in their wins).
Per Corsica, here’s how the Caps’ power play has performed at five-on-four in this series (small samples, obviously) versus the Toronto series and the regular season:
Those Round 2 numbers are actually right in line with the regular-season numbers (except they’re not getting quite as many shots through Pens defenders - that’s the “FF60” column)... or are they? Let’s take a look at an individual level:
That’s pretty clear, right? The Caps’ top power-play unit has been largely abysmal in generating scoring chances, with drop-offs ranging from around 50 percent to more than 80 percent, while the second unit has increased rates in a similar range. Again, these are small samples, but it probably matches up pretty well with what your eyes are telling you - PP1 simply isn’t getting the job done... well, except for that overtime goal, of course. Your move, Barry.
3. All eyes will once again be on Braden Holtby for Game 5, and, perhaps more specifically, on Braden Holtby’s glove side. Recall this from earlier in the series:
Since Game 2, the only goal that beat Holtby there was Evgeni Malkin’s six-on-five tally in Game 3:
That’s a hell of a shot. And Patric Hornqvist did beat Holtby high on that side on his Game 4 breakaway, but that’s not really what we’re talking about here. We’ll yield that floor to goalie guru and friend-of-the-blog Nick Mercadante for more:
Yea. It's that Holtby has never had a particularly great glove when shots are tight to his hip or over his shoulder. It's not new. https://t.co/vLd4FEyEzz— Nick Mercadante (@NMercad) May 1, 2017
When a goalie drops it's hard to keep your elbow in, glove stable. Reaction. Shoot for hip as they drop (2 ft up) and you can find a hole.— Nick Mercadante (@NMercad) May 1, 2017
@schizoidman Generally you have to hold your positioning and react to the shot when you can. In traffic that gets harder. Holtby isn't a great "blocker."— Nick Mercadante (@NMercad) May 1, 2017
Over shoulder doesn't need much explanation. Really all that has happened is Holtby has been backed in some and not his usually calm self.— Nick Mercadante (@NMercad) May 1, 2017
And one goal on which he “backed in some” and wasn’t “his usually calm self” was on Justin Schultz’s eventual Game 4-winning bomb:
Still, Holtby does seem to give up a relatively high percentage of the goals he allows on the glove side. To wit:
Well, that doesn’t tell us anything (even assuming the numbers are accurate) - he could have identical save percentages in each of those goal locations (left graphic). But just for fun, let’s compare Holtby to a few other goalies for which InGoal Magazine has provided similar data, namely six of the eight goalies still playing in Round 2:
So Holtby does, in fact, give up a large share of the goals he allows on the glove side, relative to this tiny sample of goalies. Does that mean he’s broken or solved? Nope. Without more data (shot volume in each areas for each goalie, at a bare minimum), this really doesn’t tell you much at all.
Bigger bottom line? The Caps need Holtby to be Holtby. It’s really that simple.
Braden Holtby had a talk with his Sports Psych guy before Game 3... who reminded him "The puck doesn't know it's a big game "— Carol Maloney (@carolmaloney4) May 2, 2017