Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Alex Ovechkin
Coming into the playoffs, both of these teams “overperformed” in the regular season, but in very different ways. Vegas overperformed in the sense that it’s a bloody expansion team playing for a championship. I mean, the Knights were listed at 200-1 to win the Stanley Cup before the season started. On the other hand, Washington overperformed in the sense that its peripheral numbers didn’t paint a picture of a Stanley Cup contender. The Capitals outran their underlying metrics, and, thus, everyone gave them a snowball’s chance in Vegas to make it to this point.
The playoffs have been a different story for the Caps. Not only has their starting goalie, Braden Holtby, found his game, but so has the rest of the team. After going a full season with poor possession numbers, the Capitals have turned a corner. They were trending upward over the last quarter of the season, but it is surprising to see them succeed this much in the playoffs, considering their competition.
The Caps went from being a below-average (50%) Corsi For (a metric that uses shot attempts at 5v5 as a barometer for possession) team to an above-average team. That increase in possession is paying dividends on the defensive side of the puck, where Washington has drastically improved its game.