NHL Playoff Tips - 25th April
Our picks for today's NHL Stanley Cup Playoff action
Hurricanes @ Capitals
This Game 7 features two teams that cannot win on the road. Neither team has been able to win a game on the road although Carolina came close in Game 2 and Washington did with Game 4. There have been blowouts and even in the last game, Washington scored first and then Carolina scored five of the last six goals.
There are several vital keys to this game. First, Game 7’s typically, see less penalties called than an average playoff game. The drop-off is about 1-1.5 penalties a contest. For example, last night’s game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins saw just two minor penalties. This drop would impact Washington a bit more as their power play is more lethal than Carolina’s even under ideal circumstances.
Then, the goalies take center stage. It has been a strange series where both goalies have been good to great at home. Then, they go on the road and the results are nowhere near the same. Alas, Petr Mrazek has come the closest to stealing a road win (Game 2 is a glaring example). That was the game where Mrazek gave up four goals but stood on his head for the third period and part of overtime. Braden Holtby enjoyed some fine moments as well. That includes a Game 5 shutout along the way. Overall, their numbers look like this.
- Braden Holtby: 3-3 with a 2.68 GAA, .916 save percentage, 1 SO
- Petr Mrazek: 3-3 with a 2.68 GAA, .895 save percentage, 1 SO
All three quality starts for Mrazek have come at home. Holtby has again fared a touch better on the road even if his numbers do not indicate it. His goals saved above average is right at average for the playoffs. Yes, average playoff save percentage is .916. That is a good bit above the regular season norm of .909 to .910.
As for Game 7 records, this is Petr Mrazek’s first experience. Braden Holtby is 2-5 in Game 7’s but pitched back to back shutouts to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning last year. This was after five straight Game 7 defeats. Washington has lost several home Game 7’s in the past including 2017 against Pittsburgh and then 2013 plus 2015 versus the New York Rangers. One believes the 2018 playoff run has muted some of the earlier failures.
Why is there a heavy focus on the goaltending? Last night’s game in Boston where two Frederik Andersen “gifts” in the first period paved the way to a Boston victory.
Finally, the third key is this. It will be intriguing to see which top-six unit gets going first. So far in this series, the Nicklas Backstrom line has been “king” in Washington with multiple-point efforts in all games where the contest takes place in Washington. The Capitals will need a fast start and the Backstrom line is typically where that starts.
If Carolina is to win this Game 7, they will need Justin Williams or the Sebastian Aho line to strike early. Taking the crowd out of the game early will be vital. Finally, special teams have their place as well and that is another edge to Washington – especially in this series. It is why a lot of signs indicate the following predictions for Game 7.
Tip: Washington Capitals