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The Narrative: It’s Now or Never, #Johnny2Porous, and End of an Era?

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

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders - Game Three Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

1. It’s Now or Never

There’s really not much more to say at this point, is there? We know the historical likelihood of a comeback, we’ve got our thoughts on why things are the way they are, and Todd Reirden is still harping on effort and shuffling deck chairs:

To be sure, the Caps likely will need one of their best efforts of the year if they’re to force a Game 5 in this series. And it’s wholly believable when Reirden says they’ll do everything they can (an implicit limitation which, of course, is part of the problem), and that he has faith:

Reirden believes in them. Maybe it’s unfair to nitpick the semantics here, but one thing that’s been mostly if not entirely missing from Reirden’s comments to the media during this post-season are a sense of accountability. It’s all about the players:

You get the point. And this isn’t to absolve the players - Todd Reirden didn’t let in a terrible goal to key the Isles’ comeback in Game 1, he didn’t fail to score on a breakaway (and rebound chance) in overtime of Game 3, etc. But...

Instead, this might be as close as we get:

By contrast, for example, after blowing a third-period lead to Boston last night, Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour offered the following:

That may be more first-person singular pronouns in one tweet than we’ve heard from Reirden all series. Feel free to come to your own conclusions as to how players respond to such things.

Anyway, yeah... it’s now or never.

2. #Johnny2Porous

Yeah, we touched on it yesterday via ol’ Good Tweet Pete, but John Carlson has been bad for the Caps. Like, real bad. To the point where it would be absolutely shocking (and, given his contract, terrifying) if he’s not playing with a significantly hampering malady. Granted, Carlson does lead the team with four points this round (and given that they’ve scored five goals, total, that’s pretty darn solid).

But he’s also been on the ice for all but three of the Islanders’ goals in the series (one on the power-play, two at five-on-five), and his underlying metrics have been horrific (again, there’s some mitigating context, given he’s usually pitted against top competition, but that only goes so far). At fives, the Caps have only managed 36% of shots (attempts), 24% of expected goals and 0% of actual goals (hilariously enough, Carlson wasn’t on the ice for one of the Alex Ovechkin even-strength tallies on which he registered an assist). Unsurprisingly, the Isles’ top players have eaten Carlson alive at fives: Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle have each been on the ice for 26 shot attempts-for and just three against (Anders Lee has a 26/4 split), and Barzal’s Isles have a 12-0 shots on goal advantage (and 10-0 scoring chance edge) over Carlson’s Caps when the two have been on the ice. You know what that looks like on the ice, so here’s what that looks like on a couple of charts:

via Charting Hockey
via Charting Hockey

Carlson has been one of the worst two or three players still in the playoffs.

Look, there’s playing hurt and then there’s playing hurt and hurting the team. Given his point production, it’s arguable that Carlson is still contributing enough to justify a lineup spot. However, his role at five-on-five probably needs to be reduced significantly because, at this point, he’s a net negative for team there in a huge way.

3. End of an Era?

Okay, this is a tough one, so let’s rip the Band-Aid right off: tonight could be the last time we see Braden Holtby in a Capitals sweater.

Ouch.

Holtby, of course, is a free agent after this season and, despite a down 2019-20 campaign, will no doubt be able to command the kind of dollars and term on a new deal that price him out of the Capitals’ plans as the team likely hands the goaltending reins to the promising (and cheap!) Ilya Samsonov.

So, in case this is it, let’s take a moment to recognize and appreciate all that Holtby has done for this organization, fan base and city over ten seasons. He’s second among goalies in franchise history in games and minutes played, wins, shots faced and saved and is first in all of those categories in the playoffs. His career .927 playoff save percentage ranks first all-time (min. 60 GP), and his career 2.11 playoff goals against average ranks fifth all-time (min. 60 GP).

He’s a two-time All-Star who won a Vezina (and also had second- and fifth-place finishes in voting) and a Jennings Trophy and finished in the top-ten in Hart Trophy voting twice (not easy to do with ol’ #8 on your squad).

Holtby’s off-ice achievements in D.C. have been every bit as impressive, advocating alongside his wife, Brandi, for LGBTQ equality, Black Lives Matter (putting up more than just words) and other causes, and walking the walk. His generosity should never be forgotten.

Of course, what Holtby will be most remembered for in D.C. is bringing home a championship, the Caps’ first and the town’s first in seemingly forever, and one moment in particular...

Sculpt the dang statue right now.

So here’s to Washington Capitals Legend Braden Holtby, who proved a lot of people wrong and did a lot of people right.

2008 NHL Entry Draft Portraits Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images