1. Evgeny Kuznetsov is on a roll. Alex Ovechkin is the superstar in Washington but let’s not overlook what Evgeny Kuznetsov has been doing for the Capitals this postseason, and especially lately. Entering Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night Kuznetsov is riding an 11-game point streak and is the NHL’s leading scorer this postseason with 25 points in 20 games.
That is also one of the most productive individual performances in recent postseason history.
Over the past 25 years there have been more than 450 players to play in at least 20 games in a single postseason. Out of that group Kuznetsov’s 1.25 point per game average is the 12th highest.
Since the 2000 only nine different players have recorded more than 26 points in a single playoff run. Given the way he has been going for the Capitals recently he seems destined to join that group.
2. The Capitals better win tonight. At the very least it would be in their best interest to win because If they do not history is not on their side.
As noted by Sean Leahy this afternoon, teams that grab a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final are 46-5 when it comes to going on to winning it all. Teams that win the first two games on home ice 36-3.
The most recent team to overcome such a deficit was the 2010-11 Boston Bruins who lost the first two games in Vancouver and then won four of the next five.
The 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins also did it after losing the first two games of that series in Detroit against the Red Wings.
3. Vegas’ fourth line truly was dominant in Game 1. This was perhaps the most stunning development in the first game of this series. All postseason, and especially in recent games, Vegas’ offense has been carried by the play of its dynamic top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith. As expected, they were also productive in Vegas’ 6-4 Game 1 win. But it was the performance of the fourth line that really stood out. Not only did they score the game-tying goal in the third period, quickly answering a Tom Wilson go-ahead goal on a controversial play that saw goal-scorer Ryan Reaves cross-check John Carlson out of the way, but they absolutely dominated possession when they were on the ice. The trio of Reaves, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Tomas Nosek were all better than 70 percent in the shot attempts department as individuals. When all three were on the ice together Vegas out-attempted the Capitals by an 18-5 margin and outscored them by a 2-0 margin. They did all of that in just 8:40 of ice-time.
Over the past two games the trio is 25-9 in the shot attempts department and 3-0 on the scoreboard. You get that sort of play from your fourth line, good things are going to happen for your team.
The big question is whether or not they are capable of doing it again, or if the past two games — and especially the most recent games — were just well-timed outliers.
(Data via Natural Stat Trick)
4. Bounceback game for the goalies? Perhaps the most frustrating thing for the Capitals in Game 1 was that they were actually able to get to Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, scoring four goals on 28 shots.
This is nothing new for the Capitals. In their two previous playoff matchups against Fleury they scored more than enough goals against him to win only to end up losing because they could not stop anybody. The exact same storyline played out on Monday.
The concern for the Capitals is that Fleury has not really had consecutive bad games this postseason. Game 1 was the fourth time this postseason that Fleury has allowed at least four goals in a playoff game. In the previous three he came back the next game and won each of them with a combined save percentage of .932.
On the other side, Braden Holtby‘s Game 1 performance was one of his worst of the playoffs — and one of the worst of his career — stopping only 28 of the 33 shots he has faced.
Trouble here is that Holtby has been extremely hot-and-cold over the past seven games. He came through in a big way in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference Final to record back-to-back shutouts (his first two shutouts of the entire 2017-18 season). But in the other five games he is only 1-4 and had a save percentage above .864 only once.
They need the great Holtby in Game 2.
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub