1. Never a Doubt
The Washington Capitals have played 141 playoff games in the Alex Ovechkin Era, and Alex Ovechkin has played in every one of them. So if you thought whatever upper-body ailment kept him out for the last week might prevent him from suiting up for Game 1, well, you obviously haven’t been paying attention over the last 17-plus years.
#ALLCAPS line combinations at Sunday practice ahead of RD1 series vs Florida— Ben Raby (@BenRaby31) May 1, 2022
Ovechkin taking regular reps on top line
Yeah, skating is one thing. But what about that (we assume) shoulder?
#ALLCAPS Alex Ovechkin back to work from his office— Ben Raby (@BenRaby31) May 1, 2022
Ovi returned to practice today and took reps alongside Kuznetsov and Sheary on No.1 line
8 says he felt good and that “we’ll see” when it comes to his availability for GM1 vs Florida. Has been out w upper-body injury @WTOP pic.twitter.com/vYztyrSMit
Yeah, we’ll see... Alex Ovechkin in Game 1.
2. Never Have I Ever
Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov have combined for exactly zero career playoff wins, and both netminders limped into this year’s post-season, with Vanecek going 4-4-1/3.56/.875 over his last 11 appearances dating back to March 20 and Samsonov playing every-so-slightly better, going 6-3-1/3.21/.879 over his last 11.
So who gets the nod in Game 1?
Hearing Peter Laviolette talk today, doesn't sound like he'll announce Capitals' starting goalie for Game 1 (or any playoff game) beforehand. Of course, there will be clues at morning skates that might make it obvious, but don't be surprised if nothing official before warmups.— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) May 1, 2022
Frankly, it would be shocking if Vanecek weren’t to get the start - he’s had a much better season than Samsonov. The real question is probably how long a leash Laviolette gives Vanacek. But here’s a fun stat: since beating Calgary on March 8, Vanecek has gone 1-4-1/.862/.3.92 against playoff teams, while Samsonov has gone 4-1-1/.883/3.38 over the same span against teams that are still playing. We’re definitely in the “just win, baby!” portion of the season, where volatility might be a feature, not a bug. Could we see Samsonov way sooner than later?
3. Never Tell Me the Odds
Okay, so the Caps are underdogs. Big time. But is anyone giving them a chance? No, not really.
2022 NHL playoff preview: Panthers vs. Capitals— dom at the athletic (@domluszczyszyn) May 1, 2022
The Panthers are an offensive juggernaut who likely have far too much firepower for the Capitals to handle.https://t.co/scuWUhlWn5 pic.twitter.com/HW0YvxTkf7
Stanley Cup Playoff probabilities based on my game simulation model: pic.twitter.com/6CNdaeXUMI— Patrick Bacon (@TopDownHockey) May 1, 2022
I mean, fair. But being underdogs is a strange position for the Ovechkin Caps to be in, much less to be such a longshot. In fact, the Ovechkin Caps have only played six series in which they finished with fewer regular-season points than their opponent, and they won three of those. The three they lost (Philadelphia in 2008, and the Rangers in 2012 and 2015) all went seven games, and the three they won were against Boston (2012), Tampa Bay (2018) and Vegas (2018). So... maybe just maybe this will be closer than people think?