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Capitals Countdown: Two Games, Too Soon

Ranking the individual Caps through two games

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Two games is an almost impossibly small sample size from which to draw any meaningful conclusions, especially predictive ones. Still, through two games of the Capitals/Bruins first-round series, some Caps players have played well and others, well, have not. So with the necessary caveats in place, let’s take a look at how twenty Caps performed on home ice to open up the first round, shall we? Counting down from worst to first, here we go...

20. John Carlson

Carlson missed four of the Caps’ last seven regular-season games due to a lower-body injury and doesn’t look anywhere close to 100 percent healthy. He’s playing big and difficult minutes, and simply not handling them well, sporting a team-high 5.49 expected goals-against (xGA) per sixty at five-on-five, and not making up for his defensive shortcomings with any offense of which to speak, leaving him with a team-low 18.5 expected goals-for (xGF) percentage. Yikes.

19. Conor Sheary

Sheary was a revelation in the regular season, scoring 14 goals and finishing second on the team to Alex Ovechkin in individual expected goal rate. Through two playoff games, he’s third-worst on the team in that metric and is the only Caps skater that hasn’t yet managed a shot on goal (he averaged 1.7 per game during the regular season). Yes, his role has had a bit more of a defensive focus, frequently matching up against the Bruins’ top line, but he hasn’t fared well there either. The Caps need more from Sheary.

18. Michael Raffl

Arriving from Philly at the trade deadline, Raffl actually posted a team-high 64.5 xGF%. That number has dropped to 29.8 through two games, as no Cap has been on the ice for a higher rate of scoring chances against at five-on-five. Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect much from Raffl at this point in his career.

17. Vitek Vanecek

We have to put him somewhere on this list, and this seems like a fine place to stick a guy who looked like he was in a bit of a groove, having stopped a couple of tough shots early before misplaying a relatively easy one and injuring himself. Brutal.

Boston Bruins v Washington Capitals - Game One Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

16. Carl Hagelin

If instead of going for a line change with the puck in the defensive zone, Hagelin had supported the breakout by being high in the zone on the left wing, does Brenden Dillon’s blind pass up the boards end up in the back of the Caps net? Maybe not. Is that enough to push him this far down the list? Given that he hasn’t done much of anything else, yeah, sure.

15. Dmitry Orlov

This might be a controversial place in the countdown to slot Orlov - after all, he had two terrific primary assists in Game 2 and has had some strong defensive plays and offensive rushes. But he also handed the Bruins their second goal in that game, and he and Carlson have been absolutely caved-in by Boston’s top-six forwards. It’s looking more and more like the pair should be broken up... for Orlov’s and the team’s sake.

14. Nicklas Backstrom

Another key Cap who was banged up down the stretch, Backstrom has yet to find the scoresheet after leading the Caps with 53 points in 55 games during the regular season. In fact, Backstrom didn’t go pointless in back-to-back games until his last two matches of the campaign... and is now in a four-game drought. The Bruins got their top line going in Game 2, the Caps need theirs in Game 3 and beyond. As one of the Caps’ only “healthy” centers, there’s a lot of pressure on Backstrom to produce.

13. Justin Schultz

No Cap skater has been on the ice for more goals-for so far (3) than Schultz, but he hasn’t had much to do with that, and hasn’t registered a point. His numbers are unsurprisingly similar to Dillon’s, and the pair has largely been fine.

12. Brenden Dillon

The scapegoat on the Game 2 winner (fairly, but maybe not entirely, as noted above), Dillon also potted his first career playoff goal in his 71st career playoff game in Game 1, blocked a shot to start the game-winning play later that game and has been relatively solid (emphasis on “relatively”) in the second pair alongside...

11. Daniel Sprong

How can Sprong be this high up the list with one assist through two games? It must be his team-high xGF/60 and ixG/60 (individual expected goals), a number that ranks him sixth in the League. If he’s allowed to keep at it, Sprong will find the net sooner than later.

10. Nic Dowd

Overtime goals are cool.

9. Lars Eller

One of the keys to this series was going to be Eller and his line’s ability to saw off the Bruins’ top line. After a bend-don’t-break Game 1, Eller broke in Game 2 and that opened the door for that line to breakthrough (Eller was still in the game when Patrice Bergeron scored). The Caps’ success in this series may hinge on Eller’s ability to get healthy and play well.

8. Nick Jensen

In third-pair minutes, Jensen has the team’s highest xGF% (59.0), highest high-danger scoring chance percentage (75.0) and highest shots-for percentage (63.3), lowest scoring-chance against rate, and leads the team in blocked shots, and has delivered more than six perfect minutes on the penalty kill. Get this guy more ice time.

7. Garnet Hathaway

Hathaway scored his first two career playoff goals in Game 2, including the go-ahead third-period tally, after a solid if unspectacular Game 1. He’s also one of two Caps who hasn’t been on the ice for a goal-against yet (Hagelin). Score twice and give your team a good chance to win in half of your games and you’re going to be high on any list, regardless of questionable underlying numbers.

6. Zdeno Chara

What can you say about how well Big Zee has played facing his former club? Chara has been the Caps’ top penalty-killing defender (7:52 of scoreless time), top possession blueliner (54.0 Corsi-for percentage), is just behind pair-mate Jensen in xGF% (58.9) and has been on for a higher rate of high-danger chances than anyone on the team.

5. Alex Ovechkin

Ovi has yet to dent the twine in this series, but it is, of course, not for lack of trying - his 16 shot attempts leads the team. He looked dangerous in Game 1, less so in Game 2, but managed an assist in each game. His possession numbers are good (54.8 CF%, 61.3% SCF%), and he’s been a physical presence. But, as with Backstrom, the Caps need more from their top line, and that means The Captain.

4. Tom Wilson

Wilson opened up the series scoring with a gorgeous goal and was the best skater on the ice in Game 1, adding a secondary assist on the game-winner. But he had a bit of a rough encore performance and has been on the ice for the highest rate of high-danger chances-against of any Cap (while also leading the team in individual high-danger chances-for).

3. Anthony Mantha

Like Sprong, Mantha is high on the list despite not yet scoring, but, like Sprong, it’s only a matter of time before he does. Mantha has a team-high eight individual scoring chances, six of which have been categorized as high-danger (which is as much as the next two guys on the team combined). He also has a team-high 58.6 CF%, and the lowest expected goals-against rate and highest xGF% of any Caps forward. Oh, and he already has more playoff points this season (one) as Jakub Vrana had in his last two. So there’s that.

2. Craig Anderson

Thrust into the starter’s role, Anderson has exceeded any reasonable expectations (statistical or notional) and given the Caps a chance to win both games. Not bad for an old man.

1. T.J. Oshie

If Nicklas Backstrom is the brains of the Caps and Alex Ovechkin their brawn, T.J. Oshie is their heart. Seemingly riding a wave of emotion that’s been with him for weeks now (along with a late-season injury), Oshie has filled in as the Caps’ third-line center and potted a goal and two assists (primary helpers on the Wilson and Dowd goals in Game 1) to lead the club in scoring, while giving 110 percent on every shift. What else would you expect from him?

What do you think? Who has been the best Cap through two games?


Who has been the Caps’ best player through two games?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Craig Anderson
    (31 votes)
  • 63%
    T.J. Oshie
    (187 votes)
  • 10%
    Garnet Hathaway
    (31 votes)
  • 9%
    Tom Wilson
    (28 votes)
  • 5%
    (16 votes)
293 votes total Vote Now