A statistical look at the Caps-Lightning series

The Caps should be familiar with their second round opponent since it’s none other than their Southeastern Divisional foe the Tampa Bay Lightning.  I’m going to skip over most of the “getting to know your opponent” stuff since I’m sure most Caps fans know all about the Lightning and instead over the next day, I’ll be going into more depth about some things about the team and certain matchups I want to highlight. First, let’s take a look at the season series between the two teams to get a general idea of how they match up:

Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Game 5 Game 6 Total
Caps Goals 6 6 0 0 5 1 18
Lightning Goals 3 0 1 3 2 1 10
Caps Shots 26 29 34 23 35 30 177
Lightning Shots 41 17 38 38 25 28 187
Caps Corsi 0.430 0.52 0.495 0.439 0.549 0.598 0.504
Lightning Corsi 0.570 0.48 0.515 0.561 0.451 0.402 0.498
Caps Fenwick 0.409 0.533 0.474 0.378 0.569 0.571 0.483376
Lightning Fenwick 0.591 0.467 0.526 0.622 0.431 0.429 0.516624
Caps Save % 0.927 1 0.973684 0.921053 0.920 0.964286 0.947
Lightning Save % 0.8 0.793 1 1 0.886 0.966667 0.910
Caps Powerplay 1/1 2/4 0/3 0/2 1/4 0/3 24%
Lightning Powerplay 1/4 0/5 0/3 0/6 1/4 1/4 12%
Caps PK 3/4 5/5 3/3 6/6 3/4 3/4 88%
Lightning PK 1/4 2/3 3/3 2/2 3/4 3/3 70%

A 4-1-1 record for the Caps in the season series is very good but it should be noted that those first two games were before the Lightning acquired Dwayne Roloson to be their starting goaltender. They (well…Roloson) shut us out in the next two meetings and completely dominated the pace of play in game 4, not a good sign. However, the tables turned in game 5 where the Caps controlled the pace of play and were able to score four goals on Roli. Part of it had to do with Matt Hendricks rattling him early but take a look at ESPN’s shot chart and you’ll see that 3/5 goals came from right in front of the net.

It seems that the Caps will have to continue to do what they did against the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist to score goals.

The Fenwick numbers aren’t terribly promising but the Caps superior Corsi pencentage suggests that they are blocking shots better than the Lightning and Washington’s special teams have been more successful against Tampa Bay, as well. The Lightning also have a better Fenwick and Corsi percentage than Washington at even strength this year, too which is interesting to note.

A big player in this series has been Alexander Semin. Seven goals including two hat tricks (granted, those were against Dan Ellis/Mike Smith) and I think it’s clear that he will need to be a big player in this series for the Caps to be successful. Same with the usual “big guns” for Washington. One who appears to be in a slump now is Nicklas Backstrom (goalless in the NYR series) but one reason for it is an increase in defensive zone starts. Backstrom’s face-off numbers have remained solid despite his scoring troubles. This might be where the loss of David Steckel comes into play because Backstrom and Boyd Gordon have been getting the bulk of tough starts since Jason Arnott and Marcus Johansson haven’t been good at the dot. Maybe we could give some of Backstrom’s tougher starts to Brooks Laich to help out #19’s scoring woes. It works for the Sedins in Vancouver.

For the Lightning, the player who is the most dangerous is obviously Martin St. Louis. Obviously, Stamkos is a threat too but St. Louis was the best player in the Pens-Lightning series not named Dwayne Roloson so I expect him to carry his play over into this round. He’s won before and is coming off one of his strongest seasons. Simon Gagne has destroyed the Caps in his Flyers days so he is obviously a concern, as well. I’ll go into the Lightning players more in-depth in a later post.

The goaltending could be what makes or breaks the series for both teams. Roloson is 41 years old but he is still capable of stealing any game for the Lightning and he had to do that a few times against Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Michal Neuvirth was excellent against the Rangers but the Bolts carry a lot more offensive firepower so it will be interesting to see how well the Capitals defense handles them. The Lightning’s top line only had five points in the season series. Also of note is that Neuvirth only played in two games against Tampa Bay this season and was knocked out of one of them due to a freak mask accident. There is one back-to-back game in this series and the Caps have the option to switch goalies when/if one gets tired while the Lightning only have Roloson that could give the Caps an advantage. Varlamov played four games against the Bolts with a .949 save percentage so that’s something to take into account should the Caps be in this situation.

It’s looking like it will be a very exciting series and the Caps should like their chances here but there’s plenty of things that can go in the Lightning’s favor. Roloson can continue to stay hot and there is too much talent in their top 6 for their powerplay to stay quiet. Basically, the Caps can’t afford to take seven penalties a game like they did against the Rangers because the unit the Bolts have is 10 times more dangerous. Lots of things can go right too since the Bolts surrendered a ton of shots (over 30 per game) against Pittsburgh and if we can get to Roloson then we could see things go in our favor. The news of Dennis Wideman possibly returning should get fans excited, too.

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