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WPL video: Can the Caps make a playoff run?

Tarik El-Bashir and John Feinstein were in studio on Washington Post Live today to talk about the elements the Caps need to make a run deep into the postseason, including the goaltending situation and how the team stacks up against the Eastern Conference.

By Lindsay Applebaum  |  April 12, 2010; 10:53 PM ET
 
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Comments

Repost from last thread

The Caps were 14th in the league when it came to minors they were 9th in total PIM. The Habs took 26 more minors then us over the season. Which means for the series we should get one or two more PPs.

Here are some special teams numbers that I think favor the Caps.

1. The Habs only scored 4 SHG all season. Since our PP has a tendency to give some of them up this is important because it seems it will be very unlikly to happen in this series.

2. Their PK is 83% and their PP is 21.8% This means their PP is successful(57 times) almost exactally as often as their PK gives up a goal (53) This means that their special teams only gave them an advantage of 4 goals over the entire season. The Caps meanwhile were about the same with a PK of 78.8% (67 goals against) and a PP of 25.2% (79 goals). This means the Caps special teams gained the team 12 goals. So for the season our special teams were better when it came to +/- then the Habs. For those who are asking both teams have 4 short handed goals and have given up 8 shorties.

3. If our PP can just match thiers we are the best 5 on 5 team in the league and they have the least 5 on 5 goals.

4. The Habs PP actually struggles at home (16.9%) and is best on the road (28.3%) which is good for the Caps because their PK is much better at home (83.2%) then it is on the road (74.8%). So when we play on the road where our PK struggles their PP will be at home where they struggle and when their PP is on the road where they do better we will be at home where we kill better.

5. Both teams were shorthanded about the same amount Caps-316 Habs-311 but the Caps had a very large advantage in PP opportunities of 313 to 261. Which means while they both take about the same amount of penalitiy the Caps draw much more so the Habs should have to kill more often then the Caps. (Surprising side note the Cans had the most PP opportunities the Pens were tied for 3rd with TB). The Habs also got more of their PPs at home (148) where they struggle then on the road (113) where they were very good.

I know come Thursday all of this means nothing but there are some numbers that should make some people here feel a little better going into the game.

Posted by: icehammer97 | April 12, 2010 11:09 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: icehammer97 | April 12, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

You can look at all the stats you want but there is really only ONE realistic way that Montreal can be competitive against the Caps... as always the case in the playoffs it will come down to GOALTENDING.

Not just great goaltending on the part of the Habs but that combined with questionable goaltending by the Caps is the ONLY way a team like them can upset the Caps because they're simply not good enough of a team.

Goaltending is always the great equalizer in any playoff series, always has been and always will be.

Posted by: joek443 | April 12, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

Great roundtable, strong points across the board. Only point I disagree with is re: Semin's mental state of late. He has been absolutely on FIRE the last week. His motivations are probably more individualistic - getting career highs in goals and points - but I don't care. He looks in it to me.

Good stuff.

Posted by: ThisGuy | April 13, 2010 12:19 AM | Report abuse

A bone to pick on #2. Yes, We have a better overall +/- on PPs, but that's because of the stat you mentioned in 5 - that we had 50 more PP opportunities than they did. Really, you should be adding the percentages for an overall special-teams power score:

83 + 21.8 = 104.8
78.8 + 25.2 = 104.0

This actually gives Montreal a slight edge, but it's really a wash. Our 5 on 5 numbers are what make us so unlikely to drop this series. If we stay out of the box and Halak plays like MAF, we'll win easy. If we get into penalty trouble and Halak plays like Luongo, it'll be a tough series.

Posted by: Raber | April 13, 2010 12:23 AM | Report abuse

I think the Caps will take it in 5. The Habs are horrible in 5-on-5, and the Caps will dominate because of that. When you look at how the offense has been working recently, Halak will need to be marvelous constantly to even keep the Habs in the game - and I don't think he'll be able to maintain that kind of play for long.

Posted by: timmyv38 | April 13, 2010 12:44 AM | Report abuse

Interesting note - last year the #8 Habs played the #1 Bruins in the first round. Those Habs had 93 points vs this year's 88 points. The Bruins swept them - even though the early commentary by the "experts" were concerned about Boston's lack of offense, and how they would play in the Bell Centre...

We can all find statistics and points to make us confident of a Caps victory or worried about an upset - or both. I keep wondering why fans on the Devils and Sabres blogs are so upset that they didn't get Montreal, seeing a much easier matchup.

Bottom line is I've decided to stop reading all this stuff as it's too stressful. Let's just see what happens when the puck drops on Thursday and have confidence in the fabulous team we've been watching all year - we know that they have been waiting since last year's game 7 for this opportunity. I think their mental toughness is much better than last year and that they are ready to take on all comers.

Posted by: DevilsCapsGal | April 13, 2010 1:06 AM | Report abuse

Great roundtable, strong points across the board. Only point I disagree with is re: Semin's mental state of late. He has been absolutely on FIRE the last week. His motivations are probably more individualistic - getting career highs in goals and points - but I don't care. He looks in it to me.

Good stuff.

Posted by: ThisGuy | April 13, 2010 12:19 AM | Report abuse

@ThisGuy -- my thoughts exactly. Tarik has never been a Semin supporter. Semin has been absolutely incredible of late. Indeed, the last couple of months he has been one of the best players on the ice consistently. He's been playing responsible D, getting great steals, and scoring like mad.

The stupid penalties really seem to be something of the past (though he lucked out on the high stick of Chara). Anyone know where you can find out where a player took what penalties when? I think the drop off for Sasha between the first half and second would be significant, not to mention last year vs. this.

But penalties aside, he is playing incredibly.

Posted by: Justafan | April 13, 2010 6:15 AM | Report abuse

The point about individual play this year vs. last is one that makes you like the Caps chances.

Consider Green. Schultz(!) The elevation of play for those two is big. Add in Semin, Flash, Fehr, Laich, all having much improved years. Backstrom has always been good but now he's better than ever. And Theo -- huge plus.

Personnel changes have been a plus. We've added Knuble, Chimera, BMo, Belanger, Walker and Corvo. Take away Pothier, Nylander Kozlov, Fedorov, Brashear, and Clark. You have to put an exclamation point near Knuble, who has been worth his weight in gold, and overall there's improvement there.

Our bench is far deeper. Nice.

And I would go out on a limb and say that the Caps have been playing better together as a team.

Maturity, fewer penalties, more responsible D, incredible scoring ability. Just about everything but the PK you have to like the 09-10 playoff team compared to 08-09.

Posted by: Justafan | April 13, 2010 6:46 AM | Report abuse

For once I agree with Tarik when he said that Semin's penalties are not the lazy kind as much as his desire to go for the puck, in other words he is a competitor not a lazy player. Another thing about Semin that most people ignore is the fact that this guy has not had a steady line all year. The closest player he played with is Laich. Imagine if he had a good center to play with all year, like Stamkos had St. Louis. This guy is by far the most talented and dangerous guy this team has, and contrary to most everyone on this blog I think he should be playing with OV and Backs on the first line. That line is unstoppable.

Posted by: nimes1 | April 13, 2010 6:47 AM | Report abuse

I went through hockey withdrawals last night because I have been watching hockey constantly because the playoff races were so tight.

Now my playoff tickets finally showed up on my doorstep around 5pm yesterday so I am set. I have a feeling the argument outside of stats for the Caps is they are hungry as heck. They are not just happy to be in the playoffs anymore. Talent plus desire is usually a lethal combination. I wish the boys luck and am ready for the ride. Let's go Caps!

Posted by: fanohock1 | April 13, 2010 7:24 AM | Report abuse

Can't wait for Thursday night! Good discussion, even though somehow Feinstein managed to talk about Navy football AGAIN. Seemed accidental though.

Posted by: hithere1 | April 13, 2010 7:34 AM | Report abuse

Have I mentioned how much I hate Mike Wise?? Now trying to make the life long Caps fans the villians for not "allowing" bandwagon fans like himself to jump onboard. I say bring them all on except for Wise himself....he has spent the past few years trashing the game of hockey and now wants to jump on the train when they have a chance of doing something great? No Wise, we have nothing against the bangwagon fans, we just have something against YOU!!

Posted by: PhilR | April 13, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Anybody know who this d-bag is in ESPN's chat today?

Stephen Rotruck (Hagerstown, MD)

No denying Alexander Ovechkin is a great player, but it seems when big games come around he seems to go onto the backburner and doesn't perform like one would think he would. Examples being Russia-Canada game, game seven last year versus the Penguins, and even recently with his zero point game against Boston. Do you think he will break this streak of high pressure blunders or step up his game to the clutch performance Crosby or Miller? ...

No, but I'm asking around. Hagerstown is my home rink. Someone will probably have a little chit-chat with him. :)

Posted by: BetterOffWithFedorov | April 13, 2010 7:50 AM | Report abuse

For once I agree with Tarik when he said that Semin's penalties are not the lazy kind as much as his desire to go for the puck, in other words he is a competitor not a lazy player. Another thing about Semin that most people ignore is the fact that this guy has not had a steady line all year. The closest player he played with is Laich. Imagine if he had a good center to play with all year, like Stamkos had St. Louis. This guy is by far the most talented and dangerous guy this team has, and contrary to most everyone on this blog I think he should be playing with OV and Backs on the first line. That line is unstoppable.

Posted by: nimes1

I agree and disagree. From the first time I saw Semin live I was a fan. He had the most awesome curl-and-drag (aka toe drag) I had ever seen. Back to the point, yes a lot of his penalties are fighting for the puck penalties which are not lazy. However, he has also takes frustration and/or retaliation type penalties. As far as the line combos the Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin line is a thing of beauty to watch. However having the one-two punch as it were is also good. So, I like it the way it is and you put the big 3 together whenever you need a goal.

Change of topics:

Mike Wise finally gets it! Now if only he had started out with that attitude. Instead he has infuriated Caps fans to the point they may not be able to forgive him. I would suspect that most long time Caps fans will welcome the newcomers with open arms.

Posted by: BetterOffWithFedorov | April 13, 2010 8:11 AM | Report abuse

"Can theCaps make a playoff run" seems like a silly thread title. A "run"?? Nothing short of the Stanley Cup finals would be an acceptable outcome for a team who won the President's Cup so long ago, and a team who scored 60 goals more than their nearest competitor in the East.

"A run" seems to imply that the question is, "can the team have some success in the playoffs". To me, anything less than the finals would be a disaster. The Caps are THAT good, and surely are looking to do more than make a run.

Jeff

Posted by: PensFan98 | April 13, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Interesting article about Ovi....

http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/36205246/ns/sports-nhl//

Posted by: OviFan08 | April 13, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Seems Wise is just being defensive. What Caps fans are not allowing new fans in? Seems he's just reacting to commentary to his shallow columns. Most people must reading today's column must just think, "huh?"

@PensFan98, "make a run" understates it for sure. I would not say that anything less than the Cup would be disaster, though. Making the Finals, for instance, would be great progress and not a disaster. It would be an incredible disappointment to lose at that stage but not a disaster.

Let's take it one game at a time, though. Listening to Hockey This Morning on XM, when asked whether the Avs or Habs could get an upset one of them said the Habs, since the Caps tend to play down to opponents. Personally, I think the Caps shed that habbit half way through this season. Even more important, the sense of purpose and drive to get through the first series in the shortest possible time, plus the leadership of the Captain, will outweigh chances for an upset here. One game at a time.

Posted by: Justafan | April 13, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Been a Caps fan since the Clippers left Baltimore and a STH since 1999 (the Cup Run made me sign up) and I would MORE than welcome Bandwagon Fans... Yes I hate having to wait longer for the concessions, but I just plan better :)

But one thing for sure... I will not welcome a man that has bashed the fans and the team and now wants a seat on the bus... I would rather have Wilbon and Tony K on the bus than Wise

Just my thoughts...

GO CAPS!!

Posted by: Hunter21 | April 13, 2010 9:18 AM | Report abuse

OviFan08: Thanks for the article. Two parts really stuck out for me. First, Backstrom saying Ovi is digging in his pockets to give to a homeless person every time he sees one. The other was how he tracks down players to trade sticks with them. I think the article mentioned he will come back from a road trip with a half dozen sticks. Ovi has said on a few occasions that he can't believe he is playing in the NHL and that it is an honor. Going after things such as sticks is something fans do. Even though he is one of the reasons the NHL is becoming more popular, he is still a fan himself. I think Ovi is one of the truly good guys in the game even though the league would like to market him as the villian.

Posted by: fanohock1 | April 13, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

I agree that having a healthy Green could be a game changer from last year too. Tarik made a good point with that because Green was in shambles last year. He is going to be a big help this year I think. I also think not having Fedorov in the lineup will help. Although he scored the most important goal of the post season last year, he was too much of a nonfactor for all the minutes he received. I think BMo, Belanger, or even Fleish will be much more active than Feds was. And we also have two net crashers this year, where last year we had none. Should be a good year this year. We just have to hope the Caps give all of the opponents the respect they deserve and don't get overconfident.

Posted by: LloydChristmas | April 13, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I think one aspect of the Caps game they have to be wary of is letting another team cycle in their end for too long. The Caps tend to get one or more of these per game and usually regret it by giving up a goal or a penalty (and the pk, well you know). If the Caps can limit being pinned in their own end and play committed team hockey, there is no way they lose this series. Jose is playing hot, esp. at the end of games. The forwards have to be committed to back-checking and the blueliners have to pay attention to who is free down-low.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | April 13, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

@ PensFan98: I sense you are a great fan of the game..and though you are a Pens fan your constructive comments are welcome here. Refreshing actually. ..and of course Lets Go Caps! Wink.

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | April 13, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

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