Capitals Win, Dominate Game, Almost Lose
April 20, 2017, 10:11 AM ET [87 Comments]
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Riddle: When is a Win not a Win?
When it's a jar?
No. When you play the best you possibly can, against a massive underdog, completely dominate the game and still almost lose.
As the NHL's best team, being tied 2-2 with the Toronto Maple Leafs is better than being down 3-1, but the problem is, despite winning the game, you can't help but think that the Caps just gave Toronto life.
Had the game ended 4-1, I'd be writing about how the Capitals overcame a possibly media created fragility to put the series back in their favor.
But after playing their best game, the Capitals still had to get extremely lucky to escape Toronto with a tied series.
Case in point: It's the first period. Toronto looks likes their strategy is to emulate a team of house-league nerds in Leafs uniforms. The Capitals are skating, hitting, forchecking, controlling the play and have outshot the Leafs something like 14-2. The game is 2-1.
A puck goes behind Hotby towards the goal line and everyone I'm watching the game with jumps into the air like maniacs (OK, it was just me, my son and my cat, but whatever). But Tom Wilson fishes the sure goal off the line, skates down and scores one of his own.
The dreaded two goal swing.
Great news for the Caps, but it was almost 2-2. All is fine, however.
Then it's 4-1 Capitals and the Leafs should be a carcass. Instead, Holtby plays like he's already wearing his ridiculous post-game fedora. The Leafs make it 4-3.
The Capitals should still be crushing them, but they can't put the Leafs down.
Then, and only because it's the Leafs, the Ghost of Harold Ballard comes down from the rafters of the Maple Leaf Gardens, jets across town into the Air Canada Centre, heads to ice level and makes it so that a one on four line-changing rush by Burakovsky somehow ends up in the back of the Toronto net.
Despite this, the Leafs, with the spirit of a rag-tag team in a sports movie, don't quit and in fact score again, and then almost tie it before time runs out.
You got the distinct feeling the Caps were going to blow it if the game was one minute longer.
The Capitals won. The series is tied. They are back to being the favorite in this series.
But damn. They threw the Leafs their best game and the Leafs didn't flinch. That has got to be encouraging for the underdog.
The Capitals finished the night with 53% possession. But that includes having allowed the Leafs to outshoot them 19-3 in the third period. And that 19-3 is real shots, not just attempts. That's how much they were dominating the first two periods.
The Capitals played their best game and still required the following to win:
- Bad game by Andersen
- Babcock not electing to challenge clear goalie interference
- The Wilson save + goal
- Killing a full 2 min. 5 on 3
- Poltergeist intervention
Make no mistake: The Capitals remain the favorite. However, you have to credit the Leafs - they should have lost that game 12-0 and they almost won.
The Capitals are a great team - and maybe I'm biased, maybe I've just bought in to the narrative - but they look like a fragile team to me.