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The Narrative: Mralak?, Ovechnikovgate and Sweeps Night

Three things we’re talking about today when we’re talking about the Caps

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

1. Mralak?

Is Petr Mrazek becoming a thing? On the one hand, he has a (very) pedestrian .897 save percentage through three games (.889 at five-on-five). On the other hand, he has a (very) good 2.34 goals against average, a shutout, has only allowed two goals on 15 high-danger shots against at fives (by contrast, Braden Holtby has allowed five on 18), and has only allowed two goals after the first periods in the series (both coming in Game 2).

Here’s his head coach’s assessment of his play, and it’s hard to disagree with:

“He’s been good. Maybe he’d want that one (by Backstrom) back but he’s made so many big saves. Even (Monday) night, there wasn’t a lot of work obviously, but it was the early work that for me made the difference in the game. They had the first scoring chance of the game. If that goes in who knows where the game goes, He’s been very solid.”

We touched on Mrazek’s play the other day (specifically how the stats weren’t necessarily reflecting his performance), and that continues to be the case, one shutout later:

Mrazek has been good - very solid even - but the way you end up with a good GAA and a bad save percentage is by not facing a lot of shots. That’s just simple math. And the Caps (with help from the ‘Canes, of course) are doing their part in that equation by not putting nearly enough rubber on Mrazek. Over Games 1 and 3, the Caps have been credited with just 35 shots on goal, which is a total they matched or exceeded in 19 individual games this year and five times during last year’s Cup run. That’s simply not good enough. Yes, the Hurricanes were terrific at shot suppression during the regular season, but the Caps were still double-digit shots away from Carolina’s season average of 28.6 shots-against in Games 1 and 3.

So is Petr Mrazek becoming a thing? Maybe. But the Caps’ inability to to test him certainly is. And if they don’t change that, Mrazek won’t have to be better than “good” to beat them.

2. Ovechnikovgate (rolls off the tongue, don’t it?)

Unsurprisingly, the fallout from the Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Svechnikov fight continued through Tuesday (and likely will on Wednesday, due to the extra day off and the need to fill that space with hot-takery). Our pal Alan May chimed in, as did Don Cherry, and so on.

Know who else was out there stoking the flames? Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour... and the ‘Canes organization:

Look, I get defending your guy. But, after a night to sleep on it, coming out and calling the opposition’s captain a liar - when we can all see the video of two consenting combatants clearly opting-in on how to settle their differences - seems a bit much, even in the heat of a playoff series. How about, “Right now we’re focused on Game 4 - I’ll let you guys decide what you saw”?

To be fair, the “someone lied” quote is attributed to a ‘Canes staffer (many of whom, for what it’s worth, I know to be great people), and Brind’Amour did seem to want to put this behind him and his team:

Your mileage may vary as to the degree to which you think he’s “moved on now,” but continuing to talk about it (in a series that’s already chippy-bordering-on-dirty) may seem to indicate otherwise. Anyway, for his part, Todd Reirden offered this view from the high ground:

Most importantly, an update on Svechnikov, and it appears to be good news:

And that’s hopefully the last we have to write about this.

3. Sweeps Week Night

Leaving the Caps/Canes series for a minute, it’s not often you get a night filled with as much schadenfreude as Caps fans got on Tuesday, as they got to watch their biggest rival and the League’s best team swept right out of the playoffs, with the Isles and Jackets dismissing the Pens and Bolts, respectively, from the postseason dance party.

For both the Pens and the Bolts, that’s six-straight playoff losses (including the last two games of their series against the eventual Cup Champs last spring). Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was held without a goal and just a single assist in his team’s ouster, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos broke a six-game pointless drought with a goal and an assist in the elimination game, but it obviously wasn’t enough.

Tampa Bay followed up a historic regular season that set up unbelievably high expectations with this stinker (perhaps erasing references to the 2010 Caps going forward), while Pittsburgh never really seemed to find its footing this season, but still was favored to advance against the Islanders... or at least win a game or two. Where do these teams go from here? Who knows... but it’ll probably be fun to watch. And, sure, the Caps are far from out of the woods in Round 1 and may well join those two clubs on the links before long. But if we can’t enjoy a rival’s demise along the way to whatever comes next, what are we even doing here?

Oh, and certainly not lost on anyone in D.C., one possibility for “whatever comes next,” and that’s a reunion with a familiar face or three. Back in November, Barry Trotz, Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn all received their Stanley Cup rings (for, y’know, winning the Stanley Cup with the Caps last spring, which they did because that happened) when the Caps visited the Isles. And Barry offered up these words, which have proven to be at least somewhat prophetic:

“You can do it again too. You’ll have to go through the f***ing Island, okay? But you guys can do it again.”

He was right at least one count - that if the Caps are to do it again, they’ll have to go through the f***ing Island. Now let’s hope he’s right on the other - that they can do it again.