Much of the credit for this Capitals run – which currently has them one win shy of their first Stanley Cup – has gone to their smothering defense, physicality, and clogging the middle to ice, stifling the transition game of opponents.
While those factors have played a huge role in the Caps success this postseason, don’t let that make you think Washington’s identity as an offensive juggernaut – an identity they’ve carried during the Alex Ovechkin era – has gone away. In fact, it’s as real as ever.
Nobody knows this better than Marc-Andre Fleury, who came in the Stanley Cup Final as the unabashed leader in the Conn Smythe race. That was before he allowed 16 goals in the first four games of the Cup Final, allowing three-plus goals each game. Fleury is the latest in a long line of netminders victimized by the Caps offense this postseason, as Washington has found the back of the net at least three times in 17 of their 23 postseason games. They hung three or more in all six of their games against Blue Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky in the First Round, three more times against Matt Murray in the second, and then three more times against Andrei Vasilevskiy in the Eastern Conference Final. So while Fleury’s .845 save percentage and 4.08 GAA in this series is ugly, he’s not in bad company.
The Capitals have scored an average of 3.57 goals per game in these playoffs, which currently stands 13th all-time among teams that have played at least 20 games in a postseason. No team has reached that threshold since the 1996 Avalanche averaged 3.64 en route to a title. The closest any team has come since was the 2010 Blackhawks, which averaged 3.55. After that it’s the 1998 Red Wings and 2014 Kings, who averaged 3.41 and 3.38, respectively.
And it’s coming from up and down the lineup, too. Four players have scored 20 points, the 17th time a team has had four players reach that threshold in one postseason. If John Carlson gets one more point, they’ll become the sixth team in NHL history to have five different players with 20 points in one postseason, and the first since the 1991 North Stars. The previous four came from the 1980s Oilers (who did it three times) and Islanders, two teams that nobody would accuse of being anemic.
With Lars Eller within striking distance of 20 (he currently has 17 points), the Capitals could become just the third team ever to have six. They would join the 1983 Islanders and 1985 Oilers.
Tom Wilson (14 points) makes it seven players with double digits with Matt Niskanen (9 points) and Jay Beagle, Dmitry Orlov, and Brett Connolly (8 each) sitting on the doorstep. Nine different players have scored at least five goals.
Meanwhile, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin are leading the way with historically-good postseasons.
Kuznetsov, who had four assists in the Capitals 6-2 win in Game 4, has 31 points this postseason. Only two other players have reached that mark since 1997, when Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby put up 36 and 31, respectively, in 2009.
Ovechkin is sitting on 14 goals, which is tied for the most by a Capital in a postseason. With one more goal, he’ll become the 22nd player in NHL history to score 15 goals in a postseason. Crosby, who potted 15 in 2009, is the only player that has reached that mark since 1997.
And while Kuznetsov is the 27th player to reach 31 points in a postseason and Ovechkin would be the 22nd to get 15 goals, they represent an outlier on the spectrum of NHL history.
Of those 27 postseason performances in which we saw 31 points, 24 came in a period between 1981-96 – a period when, well, you’ve probably seen some of those games. Of the 21 in which we’ve seen 15 goals, 17 came during that same time period.
Many of those performances featured names like Gretzky, Bossy, Lemieux, Kurri, Messier, Sakic, etc.
The offensive numbers the 2018 Capitals have put up mimic something from 1988. So while we’ve seen this Capitals team do some things we haven’t seen in quite some time, the offense has gone nowhere. It’s as good as it’s ever been.