It Took the Caps 19 Periods to Find Their Game. Can They Do It for Another Six?

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Posted August 19, 2020

Coach Todd Reirden (Caps Outsider)

Brendan Dillon joked after the second period that it took the Washington Capitals 10 periods to find their game. In reality, it took them 19, counting the three round robin games.

After the first period, the Caps looked dead in the water. They didn’t register a five-on-five shot until they were already down two goals. Head coach Todd Reirden fired his last bullet — a timeout — but it seemed to have no effect. The tide was clearly in favor of the team from Long Island. The Islanders at one point had a shot attempt advantage of 16-1, with the lone Capital attempt coming on a shorthanded chance.

But in the waning moments of the period, the current shifted.

via HockeyViz.com

In the second period, the Caps looked like the team they always had the potential to be. The Caps dominated the Islanders across the board. At even strength, the Caps had a 16-4 advantage in shot attempts (crosi, CF) according to NaturalStatTrick.

Most importantly, the Caps had a 2-0 advantage on the scoreboard thanks to goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin. All they had to do was win another period to get some life in the series.

And behind the face of the franchise, they did just that. Ovechkin scored early in the period, and the Caps seized momentum.

The Caps continued their second period charge into the third. At one point in the period, they had held New York without a shot for 14 minutes spanning the two periods. In the third, the Caps had nearly 72% of the shot attempts (after adjusting for score effects) at five-on-five, per NaturalStatTrick.

via NaturalStatTrick

The Caps pierced the stingy Islanders defense. The 29 shots on goal by the Caps was the most the Islanders had allowed this postseason. The Caps lit the lamp more than twice for the first time this postseason.

The Caps may still have an ace in their sleeve. Lars Eller and Nicklas Backstrom have yet to be in the lineup at the same time. Backstrom now has another day or two to try and pass concussion protocol and be ready for Game 5 on Thursday.

The question now is whether the Caps can sustain this level of play for another six periods. If so, then the chance of this going to a seventh game becomes more likely. And as the Caps know all too well, anything can happen in a Game 7.