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The Narrative: One and Done, Three and Out and Big Decisions

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

Boston Bruins v Washington Capitals - Game Five Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

1. One and Done

A lot will be made about the Caps’ finishing touch disappearing at the worst time (again), and while that’s certainly true, to an extent, there are two ways that offenses get shut down this time of year: they don’t convert their chances (we all have a very clear example that comes to mind here) or they don’t create chances. While Game 5 certainly was more of the former, the series overall was more balanced, leaning towards the latter. These numbers are five-on-five (the impotent power play is a discussion for another day):

via NatStatTrick

Sure, they got “Rasked” in Game 5, but the big number there is the 6.2 high-danger chance rate in Games 1-4, a drop-off of nearly 40 percent from their regular-season rate, and in an area in which they converted nearly one in five shots. Let’s do the math - for a team that played 50 minutes per night at five-on-five, that’s 8.3 high-danger chances per game with a conversion rate at 20 percent, that’s one and two-thirds goals per night. Drop that chance rate to 6.2 and even if the Caps had shot their regular-season 19.8 percent, the goal total is down to one per game (shoot like they did and you’re barely above half a goal per game). Put another way...

via HockeyViz

That’s the regular-season on the left and the playoffs on the right. That massive blue forcefield in front of the Bruins’ goal was the difference in the series - the Caps simply couldn’t get to the front of the net.

Of course, if they’d shot 19.8 percent on the 26 high-danger shots they did get at five-on-five during the series, they’d have scored five goals. Instead, they scored three. Two more goals anywhere in that series could’ve changed a lot.

Five games and no even-strength goals for Alex Ovechkin. Or T.J. Oshie. Or Nick Backstrom or Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson or Dmitry Orlov. None for Anthony Mantha or Lars Eller or Daniel Sprong. It’s awfully tough to win games like that.

2. Three and Out

For a third-straight post-season, the Caps saw their season end not with a bang but a whimper. Since winning four series in the spring of 2018, the Caps have totaled five post-season wins, despite being the higher seed in each of the three series they’ve played (they’re 1-6 as the home team over the last two playoffs).

Over the three-year span, the Caps have posted a woeful 42.3 five-on-five expected goals-for percentage (with which this year’s 42.0 was right in line). For three years now, this team has been outclassed in nearly every aspect of the game - from goaltending to coaching, special teams to scoring, defending to discipline.

If the honeymoon wasn’t over already, it sure is now.

3. Big Decisions

On the plus side, an(other) early exit affords Caps GM Brian MacLellan a little more time to focus on the offseason, and he’ll need it because there are some real tough decisions ahead as he tries to get the Caps back on track for Cup contention. There are at least three major areas that Mac will need to address in what may be his most consequential offseason since his very first summer at the helm:

1. Re-signing Alex Ovechkin

2. Preparing his list of protected players ahead of the expansion draft

3. Addressing Evgeny Kuznetsov’s and Ilya Samsonov’s future with the club

Add to that questions about the stewardship of the power play, an aging core, making room for younger players, the entry draft and free agency, etc., and the front office has a busy summer ahead... and it’s starting too soon.