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Could Caps score their way to a Cup?

During my chat on Tuesday, I stupidly started nattering out about how there was no reason the Caps couldn't score their way to a Stanley Cup. Correctly, a reader asked me on what basis I was making that claim. I didn't really know. But now that I've gone back and looked at some recent numbers, why not say it again: the Caps could score their way to a Stanley Cup.

Sure, playoff hockey is different. Sure, you're not going to win a Cup with a shaky goaltender or a rickety defense. That said, a good offense has seemed a better predictor of playoff success than a good defense in recent years.

If my math is correct, each of the four post-lockout Cup winners ranked at least sixth in regular-season goals scored. Only one of them ranked in the top six in regular-season goals against.

In two of the past three years, the regular-season scoring champion advanced to at least the conference finals. Only once in the past three years did the team with the fewest goals allowed advance that far. The Caps, of course, are currently leading the NHL by an insurmountable 43-goal margin, and are tied for 17th in goals allowed, a profile almost exactly matching those of last season's Stanley Cup finalists.

Here are some of the conference finalists' rankings from the past four seasons.

Goals for: Detroit (1st), Pittsburgh (tied for 4th), Chicago (tied 4th), Carolina (16th)
Goals against: Chicago (5th), Carolina (8th), Pittsburgh (18th), Detroit (19th)

Goals for: Detroit (3rd), Philadelphia (6th), Pittsburgh (7th), Dallas (tied 8th)
Goals against: Detroit (1st), Dallas (6th), Pittsburgh (8th), Philly (19th)

Goals for: Buffalo (1st), Ottawa (2nd), Anaheim (tied 6th), Detroit (10th)
Goals against: Detroit (tied 3rd), Anaheim (7th), Ottawa (10th), Buffalo (13th)

Goals for: Carolina (3rd), Buffalo (tied 5th), Edmonton (tied 13th), Anaheim (15th)
Goals against: Anaheim (tied 8th), Buffalo (10th), Edmonton (13th), Carolina (tied 18th)

By Dan Steinberg  |  March 9, 2010; 5:21 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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I think Dallas showed last night how to beat the Caps. You need a very hot goalie and opportunistic scoring, particularly on the power play. Watch out if the Caps play Buffalo in the playoffs.

Posted by: poguesmahone | March 9, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Dan, I appreciate the sentiment, but I believe the traditional thinking is not necessarily having a good goalie throughout the regular season (although that helps), but rather having a "hot" goalie in the playoffs. Something akin to Varlamov last year (at least until game 7). I guess you could argue that have a good goalie all year makes it more likely that you'll have a "hot" goalie in the playoffs ...

Posted by: Incredulous2 | March 9, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Yep, hard to believe in this team (much as I love them and desperately want to believe) without confidence in the goaltender situation... counting on someone to stand on his head series after series is pretty shaky, as plans go.

To hell with it, though... let's go win the Cup so I can make fun of myself for being such a Doubting Thomas/Nervous Natie.

Posted by: NateinthePDX | March 9, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

That would be nice. Caps scoring their way to a Stanley Cup.

I'll admit I was shaken by the fact they blew the lead last night and have an abysmal penalty kill.

I also discovered that the Caps have given up 3 LESS goals than Pittsburgh. Yes, 3 less goals given up than the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | March 9, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

That's good analysis, Steinz.

I've found that when you actually crunch the numbers, a lot of hockey cliches of success don't hold up that great.

I did an analysis that I think I posted on here a while back challenging the notion that winning the President's trophy has nothing to do with winning the cup. I think the numbers showed something like 4 of the last 10 President's trophy winners have won the cup, and 6 of the last 10 cup winners have been conference winners, with two of the remaining being 2 seeds in their conference.

Keep fighting the good fight, Dan.

I do buy the "hot goalie" theory, but don't know how one would support that with numbers.

Posted by: VTDuffman | March 10, 2010 9:14 AM | Report abuse

"I do buy the "hot goalie" theory, but don't know how one would support that with numbers."

Uh, you want numbers? Look at Lundquist last playoff season against the Caps. He was the opposite of a hot goalie.

Posted by: MACCHAMPS04 | March 10, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Goals for: Pittsburgh (tied for 4th)
Goals against: Pittsburgh (18th)

Goals for: Washington (1st)
Goals against: Washington (17th)

Just sayin'

Posted by: theamazingmouse | March 10, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Dan, excellent analysis, nicely done.

Posted by: oc_ofb | March 10, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The Caps have shown the ability the put the puck through most any of the great goalies they have faced this year. I think we might be seeing a team that can even overcome a hot goalie. No matter how good a goalie is, they can't stop every backdoor more pass at the right time = puck in net.

Posted by: theshawn | March 10, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

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