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The Narrative: Blueline Blues, Rebound Control, and Dead Cat Bounce?

Photo courtesy of the Washington Capitals

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

1. Blueline Blues

There’s an alternate universe in which the Caps had Nick Jensen, Rasmus Sandin and Ethan Bear in the lineup for Game 1, but that’s not the universe in which we’re living. (As a sidenote, in that universe, Nicklas Backstrom makes a Willis Reed-like return for Game 3 at Cap One Arena.) Instead, half of the Caps’ Game 1 blueline was made up of a trio of guys who played 118 games in the AHL this year Vincent Iorio’s 60 and Dylan McIlrath’s 58) and just 48 in the NHL (39 of which belonged to Alexander Alexeyev). Misplays by Alexeyev and Iorio cost the Capitals dearly on the Rangers’ first two goals in Game 1, and the latter incident looks likely to cost the Caps more going forward, as Iorio did not skate on Monday after leaving Game 1 on the play in question.

On the plus side, Nick Jensen and Rasmus Sandin skated again and are considered possibilities for Game 2 (though just about everyone is a possibility this time of year; Update: both skated in no-contact jerseys Tuesday morning, so they’re almost certainly out for Game 2). If none of the three can go, you might assume that Lucas Johansen would slot in… but that may not be a safe assumption:

Hardy Haman Aktell, come on down? [Update: Yup! Update to the Update: … but Johansen is in]

Here’s Carbery’s full availability (the answer on Johansen is at the ~6:50 mark, and you can judge for yourself just how likely Carbery seems to be to play him):

2. Rebound Control

Ask people who have paid any real attention to this year’s Washington Capitals to describe the team in one word and the answer you’ll probably hear more than any other is “resilient,” and their 30-year-old netminder, Charlie Lindgren, is resilience personified. After all, this is a guy who had made 29 NHL appearances before signing with the Caps the summer before last, had nearly that many in 2022-23, then bumped it up again to 48 in 2023-24 as he wrested the starting job away from 2022 Stanley Cup Champion Darcy Kuemper.

That’s Lindgren’s resilience at the 30,000-foot level. At the day-to-day level, the Caps have seen it all year in Lindgren’s ability to give the Caps quality starts following losses. To wit, Lindgren was 11-8-3 this season following a Caps loss, but posted a 2.49 goals against average and a .918 save percentage in those games (including a huge bounce-back performance against Tampa after a disheartening loss to Buffalo). On a personal level, Lindgren has been even better at bouncing back, going 13-6-3/2.67/.912 following a loss and 7-2-2/2.16/.932 following losses in which he allowed four goals or more (including shutting out the Rangers after one such game back in December).

And so Charlie Lindgren will head into Game 2 having lost and surrendered four goals in Game 1. Let’s hope he – and his team – can continue that resiliency trend.

3. Dead Cat Bounce?

If you’re looking for reasons for Game 2 optimism and are the type that leans on history (much of which was written by players that have long since departed these teams), WhoWins has your back:

When leading a best-of-7 MLB/NBA/NHL playoff series 1-game-nil, the New York Rangers have a series record of 23-14 and a Game 2 record of 15-22. When trailing a best-of-7 MLB/NBA/NHL playoff series 1-game-nil, the Washington Capitals have a series record of 10-10 and a Game 2 record of 11-9.

More recently, and with an eye to the bigger picture, not only have the Rangers lost four out of six games on multiple occasions this season (most recently four-in-five from January 18-26, which included a four-game Western swing), they’ve also dropped four-in-a-row (January 6-13, culminating with a 3-2 loss to the Caps). Overall, the Rangers went 5-8-2 from December 29 through January 26. As good as the Presidents’ Trophy winners have been, they’re not unbeatable.

Talking Points