2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Capitals Vs. Bruins, by the Numbers

Capitals vs. Bruins, by the numbers originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

As the Capitals and Bruins prepare for what promises to be yet another physical series between the two teams, here are a few numbers to watch as puck drop draws near:

.915: Vitek Vanecek’s save percentage since April 1

Vanecek seems incredibly likely to take the net for the Capitals in Game 1, though coach Peter Laviolette has opted to keep that announcement in-house. Vanecek was in competition with Ilya Samsonov all season, who has still not returned from COVID protocols after going on the list in early May

He’s played 13 games from April through the end of the regular season and saved 91.5% percent of the shots against him with a goals-allowed average of 2.53. He was a .908 goalie over 37 games played this season. 

The Capitals can match up with the Bruins at five-on-five play, but like most series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, that won't matter if a goalie swings the tide in either direction. If the goal does indeed belongs to Vanecek, he'll have every chance to prove he deserves it.

4-3-0: Vanecek’s record vs the Bruins this season

If Vanecek is the choice in goal, he’ll certainly have had his fair share of games to work off of. 

Vanecek went 4-3-0 this season in seven games against the Bruins with a .905 save percentage and a 2.86 goals-against average. He allowed 19 goals on 199 shots in just shy of 400 minutes played against Boston. 

His last three starts against Boston have been up and down, as he allowed one goal on 25 shots on May 11, five goals on 27 shots on April 18 and one goal on 35 shots on April 11.

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59.20: Expected goals percentage of the Capitals’ second line — when available

If the importance of T.J. Oshie potentially returning to the lineup wasn’t evident enough, this should do it.

The Bruins boast two hellacious scoring lines, one quite literally nicknamed “The Perfection Line,” meaning the Capitals need whatever they can to turn the tide. Their second line of Anthony Mantha, Nicklas Backstrom and Oshie should play a part in that. If Evgeny Kuznetsov is able to return as well and set the Capitals’ lines back to what they were designed to be, the Capitals will be able to roll the lines as they want.

In 11 games this season, and just shy of 90 minutes at five-on-five play, the trio controlled 54.68 percent of the shot attempts, 56.63 percent of the shots on net, and 65 percent of the high-danger chances. Those numbers mean that not only does the Capitals’ second line control the puck more often than not, they have quality scoring chances as well. 

The 59.20 figure comes into play when factoring in what percentage of goals that line can expect to score judging where their shots are coming from. In short, they've been elite as a second line.

The actual scoring numbers haven’t been there in full, as that trio shot just 6.82 percent when on the ice together (far below the team’s 10.07 shooting percentage at five-on-five), which could indicate a progression to the mean could be in store just in time for the most important stretch of the season. If Oshie is able to return for Game 1, the Capitals will get a major boost.

Six: The goal differential in seven games from the Bruins’ top line

If there was a trio in the entire NHL that would keep the Capitals’ coaching staff, players and fans up late at night, this is the one. 

The numbers through seven games for “The Perfection Line” against the Capitals this season are basically video game numbers. They controlled 68.42 percent of the shot attempts at five-on-five and had 78 attempts in 64 minutes of time on ice together — meaning they averaged more than one attempt every minute they were on the ice together against Washington.

They outscored the Capitals 9-3 at five-on-five while on the ice together and outshot them 45-19. They shot a staggering 20 percent, which might seem bound to hurt their overall numbers, were it not for the porous 84.21 percent save percentage assuredly due to increase as well as their utter domination of possession. 

Laviolette and the Capitals will likely have, even if they make a run to the Stanley Cup Final, their toughest individual task upcoming in slowing down the top line for the Bruins. 

14: Days from Evgeny Kuznetsov’s last game to Game 1

One of the big question marks surrounding the Capitals is Evgeny Kuznetsov’s status entering Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He hasn’t played since May 1 and was absent from practice Thursday as well. And as the hours go by, his chances of being ready for Game 1 appear to be dwindling. 

In 41 games this season he tallied 29 points and, when Mantha was acquired, settled into a full-time role as Alex Ovechkin’s and Tom Wilson’s centerman. Now, that appears in jeopardy for the start of the playoffs.

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