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It is a bit surprising to be in this spot — not that we’re playing a Game 7, but that the Capitals (+123) have actually had the better run of play this series than the Lightning (-143). If we look under the hood, the Capitals have actually had more of the puck and generated more scoring chances (all numbers at 5v5 and adjusted for score + venue) than Tampa Bay.
Why is this so surprising? Well, because all season Washington’s peripheral numbers told the story of a team that was getting outplayed, but winning because the Capitals have some incredible players such as Alex Ovechkin who can carry them to victories even if they don’t have the puck that often.
Something has changed since the start of the playoffs, however, and Washington has got its proverbial stuff together. Not only are the Capitals getting production from their best players, they have also improved their possession stats.
Usually, we’d put more value in the larger sample size, but the truth is that the Capitals were trending up entering the playoffs. Over the last 25 games of the regular season they improved their possession and expected goals numbers considerably. — Michael Leboff