1. Flat Out
Maybe it’s an empty-calorie post-game platitude, but Nicklas Backstrom pretty perfectly summed up what we all saw on Friday night:
Nicklas Backstrom on the mindset headed into Game 5: “We have to want it ... we’ve got to be mentally ready and we’ve got to play for each other. That’s maybe something we didn’t do tonight.”— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) May 22, 2021
Granted, you’re not going to get a player saying, “They’re just better than us.” But it sure did look like the Caps weren’t ready to play Game 4 and didn’t show much life until the game was all but decided.
Through two periods at five-on-five, Boston held a 20-8 edge in shots, a 17-6 advantage in scoring chances, an 8-1 lead in high-danger chances, and were up 1.54-0.43 in expected goals-for. At one point from the middle of the first period until the middle of the second, the Caps went 18:40 without a single shot on goal.
And yet, they were only down 1-0 via a Brad Marchand power-play goal.
The Bruins got two quick goals to start the third and the Caps had a small push or two thereafter, but it was way too little, way too late.
Laviolette: "Well, we got to play a better game than we did. The first three games were relatively close and they go to overtime. This one, we just weren't good enough. We weren't fast enough. We didn't execute well enough." #Caps— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) May 22, 2021
As Lars Eller put it, “We just need five guys wanting to have the puck, supporting each other. When we’re pretty spread out, it feels like there’s one or two guys attacking. We’ve gotta support each other a lot better... play faster. Just everything. Every aspect of the game, we’ve got to be better.”
And more from Backstrom: “We have to create more offensive chances. [We need to] just move around more and make sure we create those chances for ourselves. It’s not just going to happen. I just think that when we got a chance there, we have to create some more offensive zone looks. They’re blocking a lot of shots and you gotta make it harder for them to defend.”
Right now, these are just words. And so far, they haven’t translated into actions.
2. Not so Special
On paper, the Caps’ had a slight advantage over the B’s on the power play.
On ice, it hasn’t really shaken out that way, as the Caps failed to make anything out of a couple of early gift power-play chances in Game 4, and only cashing in once in six opportunities with the extra man on a third-period own-goal to cut the lead to 3-1. The Caps are now 3-for-17 (17.7%) in the series.
Meanwhile, the Bruins’ power-play is 5-for-16 (31.3%) after a 3-for-5 performance in Game 4.
Frankly, watching the Caps’ power play in Game 4, it’s a wonder they’ve scored at all. Their zone entries were terrible, and on the rare occasion that they did get a chance to set up in the offensive zone, more often then not Alex Ovechkin was stubbornly trying to shoot pucks through Boston defenders, four times having those shots soundly rejected as if by Dikembe Mutombo.
The Caps only managed six shots on goal in 10:38 on the power play in Game 4. The Bruins also managed six (in 6:36)... but scored on half of them. That was the difference in Game 4 (on the scoreboard, at least).
3. Damn, Sam
Once again, Ilya Samsonov gave his struggling offense every chance to win a game. Through two periods, Samsonov had stopped those 20 five-on-five shots, 17 scoring chances and eight high-danger chances, saving more than a goal-and-a-half above expectations.
Samsonov has now played two games in the series and stopped 56 of the 59 five-on-five shots he’s faced (for a .949 save percentage), including 46 of 47 low- and medium-danger shots.
When Samsonov starts Game 5, it will be the first time in his NHL career he’s started three-straight games. Regardless of what his future holds with this team, he’s shown well in this series.