It’s possible that tonight will be the final Capitals game at Verizon Center this season. If the Caps lose tonight and on Saturday, that’s it for the year. That’s a bit of a downer note to start on, but I want the stakes to be clear: the family name is on the line.
So, Caps fans, do your thing. Judging by history, it’s going to be a big night.
Winning the Stanley Cup is incredibly difficult. After a grueling, 82-game regular season, the top 16 teams then compete in a small sample-size lottery face off with the intensity ratcheted up approximately one hundred notches. The first team to 16 wins bring home The Cup.
The fact is– even the teams thought to be favorites to win it all have the deck stacked against them. A few bad bounces here, a couple bad calls there, and it’s easy to see why “the field” is the best pick of all over any one team when picking a Cup winner.
We’ve already discussed why the Caps won’t be having a parade in June, and we looked at what needs to go right for them to have a realistic shot at riding down F Street on a float. Now here’s the one or two glaring weakness that will prevent every playoff team from winning the Stanley Cup.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight, so that means Ian and I have to do our usual, horrifyingly inaccurate predictions for the first round.
Below you’ll see the hottest of our hot takes and the most upsetting upset picks you’ll ever see, but we’re also bringing in an x-factor, who might defeat us both in predicting the outcome of this season’s race of the Stanley Cup.
Tom Wilson draws (and takes) a lot of penalties. (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Throughout the season, the Washington Capitals have generated a lot of offense during four-on-four play. With Tom Wilson, who leads the Caps in penalties taken and drawn per 60 minutes of ice time, expected to return to the line-up, it’s not farfetched to think we may see some coincidental penalties doled in the first round series against the Islanders.
While four-on-four play only accounted for 178.5 of the 5002 minutes of the time Caps spent on the ice during the regular season, the Caps scored 13 goals (good for second in the league and among playoff teams) in those situations, meaning they scored at a rate roughly 57 percent higher than in all situations and almost twice as high as during the five-on-five play.
Photo courtesy of Monumental Network/Amanda Maglione
I was reading the PuckBuddys’ coverage of Alex Ovechkin’s Ride of Fame thing the other day. To celebrate Ovi’s success, this “mobile monument” tour created a custom bus emblazoned with his face, cruising around the Penn Quarter. It was a nice moment for a special player– and it seemed to me a complete reversal from where we were one year ago.
In early April of 2014, the only bus I was concerned about was the metaphorical one the team’s coach kept parking on his players.
Here and now, at the setting of a successful season and the dawn of the playoffs, I’m struck by the transformation this team has made in the last year. You’ve come a long way, baby.
Since then, Holtby has played even more. He’s got a 41-19-10 record, nine shutouts, a 2.21 GAA and .923 save percentage. He’s set a franchise-record 24 consecutive games and faced over 2000 shots. If Holtby plays Saturday against the Rangers, he’ll match Olie Kolzig‘s franchise record for most appearances in a single season (73). If that happens, Holtby, according to CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormley, would become the 21st goalie in NHL history to play in 73 or more games in a single season.
So, the question is this: Should the Caps rest Holtby on Saturday?
We got a lead from Evgeny Namestnikov, who we hired as a scout for us over in Russia. He said come over to watch this young man who he liked a lot, who he coached.
The Maple Leafs hired Namestnikov, a former NHL player and father of current Tampa Bay Lightning forward Vlad, to scout for them while working as an assistant coach for Soshnikov’s Atlant. This went mostly unnoticed in North America, but Russia’s top hockey reporter Alexei Shevchenko, after confirming Namestnikov’s double affiliation, referred to situation as “awkward.”
I think what the Leafs did was an unfair practice and requires an NHL investigation regarding its legality and possibly prohibiting it in the future.
This year, several NHL teams including the Capitals’ opponent tonight, Buffalo, have been awful. Two potential superstars will be avaliable at this year’s draft: Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Fans of those teams want to lose.
Waiter in Buffalo learns who I cover.
"Can you guys beat us tonight so we can get the No. 1 pick?"
Elliotte Friedman is one of the most connected and respected journalists in hockey. On Friday morning, Friedman released his latest 30 Thoughts article, in which he expounded on why the Patrick Sharp trade never materialized.