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The Narrative: The Good, The Bad and The Fugly

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

NHL: Washington Capitals vs. Florida Panthers in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

1. The Good

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, so let’s start by remembering a time long ago when the Caps actually held a 3-0 lead in their eventual Game 5 loss. The Caps took a lead into the locker room after the first period for the first time all series thanks to a quick whistle on a puck that was sorta under Ilya Samsonov, 15 saves from Sammy (including a number of biggies in a late-period Florida surge), and yet another T.J. Oshie deflection on the super-efficient power play:

Justin Schultz (yes, that Justin Schultz) pounced on and buried a loose puck early in the second period...

... and Oshie converted a picture-perfect Evgeny Kuznetsov feed 1:25 later to put the Caps up a field goal:

No one would blame you if you stopped reading this post and x’d out of this window right now.

2. The Bad

For the second-straight game, the Caps blew a significant lead. In Game 4, the lead was smaller but much later, and had the Caps peaking at 95 percent likely to win; in Game 5, that three-goal early second-period lead “only” put them a bit above 90 percent to come out victorious. And there’s this from WhoWins:

“At low ebb, the host Florida Panthers in series 1485 Game 5 trailed the Washington Capitals by three goals as late as 6:49 into the second period, but rallied for the game victory: In the history of best-of-7 NHL playoff games (1939-2021, inclusive), home teams trailing by three goals as late as 6:49 into the second period had a game record of 7-104 (.063)”

From the point the Caps went up three, the Panthers scored on five of their 20 shots on goal (all at five-on-five) while the Caps went 0-for-20. Samsonov’s line for the night ended up looking pretty ragged, but he still stopped all 22 low- and medium-danger shots he faced on the night - things were just way too easy for Florida (more on that in a sec):

via NatStatTrick

The Panthers registered series highs in five-on-five shot attempts (54), shots on goal (34), scoring chances (32) and high-danger chances (14) (granted, some of that is the result of score-effects) because the Caps were unable to slow the game down, particularly with the lead.

So whaddya think of that, Huntsy?

3. The Fugly

That “second game”? It wasn’t just bad (see above), it was fugly, chock full of veterans making rookie mistakes. We hear a lot about how this team isn’t panicking, how they’ve been here before and know how to handle pressure situations (unlike their opponents in this series), but they showed the exact opposite when it mattered most in Game 5. Like when T.J. Oshie tried unsuccessfully to dangle in the neutral zone and turned the puck over seconds before the Panthers’ first goal:

Or John Carlson whiffing on a one-timer rather than making the safer, smarter decision to settle the puck and feed it back behind the net (the forwards being caught too deep and Martin Fehervary over-committing to the puck carrier didn’t help either):

Or Nic Dowd letting a puck clear the zone and probably wiping a goal off the board in the process.

Or the collective failure to win a puck battle and clear a loose puck (or freeze it) despite outnumbering the Panthers 2-to-1:

Or whatever the heck Dmitry Orlov thought he was doing here (bonus points for Nicklas Backstrom skating in quicksand):

Or another Carlson turnover just inside the blueline leading to an odd-man rush against:

Those are some brutal decisions from guys with upwards of 100 career playoff games, and they proved fatal to the Caps’ Game 5 chances. And now they’re facing a first-round elimination for the fourth-straight year. But don’t worry... they’re not panicking, they’ve been here before...