1. Soul-Crushing Boners (SCBs)
Well, that was better. But we’re just about out of runway for moral victories and incremental improvements.
Game 4 was about as even as they come, overall, and now so is the series. But for a couple of horrid displays of team defense, the Caps might even have been able to overcome Petr Mrazek’s terrific performance and eked out a win.
The Caps were held to only 4 shots from the slot in the third and their late push was thwarted by some great saves by Mrazek. The Bunch of Jerks tie this series up at 2 heading back to Washington #TakeWarning #ALLCAPS #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/55KlxSzLCu— The Point (@ThePointHockey) April 19, 2019
Alas... those breakdowns. They started early:
Matt Niskanen gets burned pinching in can’t catch up to or in any meaningful way impede the ‘Canes down the ice, and Nicklas Backstrom did nothing to help matters.
Then, in the last half-minute of the second period, the Caps (some of them, at least) went for a long line change and got burned. Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie and John Carlson were able to get off the ice after a minute or so on; Brooks Orpik was not. Dmitry Orlov came on for Carlson (a little odd in and of itself, given that Carlson is a right defenseman with Orpik and Orlov a port-sider), went to cover his side of the ice and... so did Orpik. Fire up the carnival music...
Orpik... where ya goin’, bruh? Pretty sure two of your teammates had that square-yard of ice covered. Meanwhile, that’s Teuvo Teravainen comin’ in hot (with Andre Burakovsky trying and failing to catch him).
Two plays nearly book-ending the first two periods on which the team lost focus and it cost them the game. Granted, you’re not going to win a ton of games without scoring an even-strength goal - something the Caps failed to do in two games in Carolina (more on that below) - but the absolutely soul-crushing boners (SCBs) these veterans (particularly veteran blueliners) are making are deflating and certainly not the hallmark of a team that’s a legitimate contender. But if you’re looking for a silver lining (other than, y’know, it being a tied series with the Caps holding home ice), here you go:
Tom Wilson on facing playoff adversity and the series being tied 2-2: "You never want it to just be smooth sailing because then when something does happen down the road you don't know how the group is going to react. So we got to figure out how to react right now."— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) April 19, 2019
Yes, I’m sure we’d all hate a little smooth sailing...
2. Pray for Osh
Speaking of adversity, late in the game, this happened:
Todd Reirden on the Foegele hit on Oshie: “It’s a defenseless player quite a distance from the boards. It’s an extremely dangerous play. He won’t be with our team for a while. He won’t be playing anytime soon.”— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) April 19, 2019
Reirden said there'll be an update tomorrow with more specifics (timetable, etc), but reiterated that he won't be with the team for a significant period of time.— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) April 19, 2019
That’s a gut punch. But perhaps it’s something around which the Caps can rally.
Back to the hit for a minute, Rod Brind’Amour has thoughts:
Brind'Amour (cont'd): “We have way more injuries than they do, so I don’t worry about their team.”— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) April 19, 2019
RBA, cont. "I don't know the extent of the injury or whatever but he barely hit him, I thought. He gave him a little shove but it certainly wasn't what you were seeing out here all series."— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) April 19, 2019
Brind’Amour is right - the refs sure looked as if they weren’t going to call anything on the play. But he’s wrong in his assessment of the hit itself and as for the rest of it, well... let’s just say that Brind’Amour clearly isn’t an empath.
As for Foegele, don’t hold your breath, but...
NHL's Department of Player Safety is taking a look at Warren Foegele's hit that injured T.J. Oshie. #ALLCAPS— Chris Kuc (@ChrisKuc) April 19, 2019
3. Squad Goals
The Caps scored 197 five-on-five goals during the regular season, good for third in the League and 2.4 per game. Through four games in the playoffs, they’ve scored five times at fives (with four of those coming in Game 2), 1.3 per game.
Bad luck or bad offense?
First, let’s take a look at shot rates (with actual and expected goals thrown in):
The Caps’ shot rates are down across the board, and most of the drop-offs are big. Of particular note, shots-for are down 26.5 percent, scoring chances down 24.8 percent (scoring chance shots down 16.0 percent) and high-danger chances are down 26.3 percent (high danger chance shots only down 8.3 percent). You get the point - shot volume is down in the neighborhood of 20-25 percent and, lo and behold, expected goals are down in that same range.
But wait a minute - actual goals are down even more than that. That must mean... yep.
Regression, you sonofabitch.
Put another way, Mrazek has been handling an easy workload pretty doggone well (contra Braden Holtby, whose placement on this chart has more to do with the guys in front of him than his actual play):
Results vs workload— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) April 19, 2019
Best goalies in the playoffs so far: Smith, Lehner
Worst goalie(s) in the playoffs so far: Vasilevskiy pic.twitter.com/zHMir9adFd
Pull it all together and, so far, the Caps have gone from a team that out-performed middling shot rates to a team that is underperforming bad ones. Real bad ones...
Couple that with a power play that has scored three times in 15 attempts and the case could be made that the Caps are lucky to be tied 2-2. Of course, with a bounce here or a bit more focus there, they could be going home up 3-1.
Hockey is weird.
And you love it.