Caps’ Mistakes Prove Costly, Again

Posted April 30, 2017

Kevin Shattenkirk (Caps Outsider)

There’s a style of play in hockey that no one really plans for, but it sometimes works. The strategy is, when being outplayed, pounce on their mistakes. This has cost the Caps two games against the Penguins, not to mention countless other playoff games in past years.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: The ‘better’ team has possession and shoots a lot. The other team, sometimes with a hot goalie, is still able to limit the high-quality chances. The more the ‘better’ team has the puck, the more casual they’ll get with it. Eventually, they’ll turn it over, and the goalie on the ‘better’ team hasn’t faced enough shots to get into a rhythm.

While this isn’t a strategy that tends to work out well throughout the regular season, it’s fine for the playoffs, particularly for lower-seeded road teams. Very good teams routinely lose games this way, and sometimes get eliminated.

While the final 6-2 score of Saturday’s Caps/Pens game can’t entirely be explained by this strategy, it was definitely the case in the first two periods, when the Caps outshot the Penguins 27-14 but trailed 3-1. Kevin Shattenkirk, and later Justin Williams, each took a shot from the point, hitting the closest defender’s shinguards, both of which led to Penguin breaks and goals. Two early second period mistakes in Game 1 also proved costly.

The Caps can ‘control’ play, toss the puck at the net, into Marc-Andre Fleury’s gut, cycle, dipsi-do, doopsie-dip, and make those Corsi charts look like a stat-geek’s wet dream for the rest of this series. And they’re supposed to win because of that, at least according to ‘advanced’ analytics.

But we’ve seen that’s just not enough. All the Caps can do now is tighten up, make, um, zero mistakes, and they’ll be fine.

Warm-up photos: