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The Narrative: A First Time for Everything, Quantity vs. Quality (?) and The GOAT

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

Carolina Hurricanes v Washington Capitals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

1. The Carolina Hurricanes moved from Connecticut to North Carolina for the 1997-98 season (one that you may recall ended with the Caps in the Stanley Cup Final). After playing one legacy season in the Northeast Division, the ‘Canes were reassigned to the newly-created Southeast Division, along with Washington, Florida and Tampa Bay, and the Caps and ‘Canes have been division rivals ever since, riding out that sweet Southeast wave and on into the current Metropolitan Division alignment. And yet, somehow this is the first time the two will face each other (either as Carolina or Hartford, for that matter) in the post season.

Carolina will become the 15th playoff opponent in Caps’ franchise history, and the 14th current Eastern Conference club that Washington has faced in the postseason, leaving the Florida Panthers as the only squad in the East that the Caps haven’t had the opportunity to do battle with in the playoffs. The Capitals have played 174 games (98-54-14-8) against the Hurricanes franchise over the years to date (Los Angeles is next on the list of “games played without a playoff match-up” at 112), and game number 175 will certainly have a different feel to it than all of those that preceded it.

2. The ‘Canes are and have for years been a darling of the hockey analytics community, but have never really pulled it all together prior to this year. The Caps, on the other hand, have vexed fancy-statters in recent years, as their high-end finishing and goaltending talent and strong power play have allowed them to overcome middling (sometimes at best) underlying numbers.

via @ChartingHockey on Tableau

So what should we expect in this series? Well...

That’s a good reminder that when you’re looking at one metric... you’re looking at one metric. That said, the reason controlling shot and chance share (and from there it should be a pretty short leap to expected goals, talent level generally notwithstanding) is important is that it can mitigate the impact of cold streaks from shooters and goalies. Over an 82-game regular season (or a five-year sample), you can feel pretty good about the Caps’ skill leading to goal differentials that outpace what models would expect of them. But over a four-to-seven game series? Anything can happen, and those raw shot and chance disparities can become more of a focal point.

3. In case you missed it in the wee hours of Sunday morning as we all shifted to playoff mode, take a moment to acknowledge that Alex Ovechkin led the League in goals... again.

No one has ever led the League in goals as many times as Ovi has and he’s done it more in the second half of his career so far (six times in seven years) as he did in the first half (twice in seven seasons). That is, to borrow a phrase, simply sensational.