The Washington Capitals will play their 11th game seven since 2008, the most in the NHL, tomorrow night in Tampa Bay. For long-suffering Capitals fans, game seven has not been kind. The Capitals are 3-7 since 2008 and are 4-11 all-time. Only the Boston Bruins have more game seven losses, 12, in NHL history, but the Bruins have been involved in the most game sevens, 26, and have a winning record at 14-12.
The Capitals’ woes in game seven mirror their franchise frustration. They have been very competitive, and often right in the series, but in game seven they haven’t been able to get it done.
They lost in OT to the Flyers in 2008, despite firing 41 shots on Marty Biron. Joffrey Lupul scored a PP goal six minutes into OT. In 2010 Jaroslav Halak stoned the Capitals, stopping 41 of 42 shots. The Habs scored two goals on 16 shots to win. They lost 2-1 to the Rangers in 2012 and 2015 and 2-0 to the Penguins last year.
The Capitals biggest challenge in game seven has been goal scoring. All three of their wins since 2008 have been by scores of 2-1.
Will the Caps end their game seven struggles tomorrow night? Gawd, I hope so.
1. I don’t cheer for teams anymore, but I do have favourite players and I am a huge Alex Ovechkin fan. He is the dominant goal scorer of his era, and one of the greatest of all-time. He is great skater, can be physically dominant when needed and I like the enthusiasm he plays with. He is a fun player to watch.
2. Since 2008 only two teams haven’t played in a game seven — Vegas and Columbus. These 19 teams have won at least once.
Los Angeles 4-0.
San Jose and Tampa Bay 3-2.
St. Louis and Carolina 2-0.
Minnesota and Winnipeg 1-0.
New Jersey and Vancouver 1-1.
These ten are winless in a game seven since 2008:
Arizona, Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, Dallas, Edmonton, Florida and the New York Islanders are 0-1.
Toronto and Ottawa are 0-2.
3. The Ottawa Senators are 0-6 all-time in game sevens. The Arizona Coyotes (0-3)/Winnipeg Jets (0-2) franchise is 0-5. Only two franchises are undefeated. The Minnesota Wild are 3-0 while the Atlanta/Thrashers/Jets are 1-0 with the Jets defeating Nashville in round two this year.
4. In the previous 18 Conference Finals which needed a game seven, the home team is 11-7. This will be Tampa Bay’s fifth game seven of a conference final. They are 2-2. They won at home in 2004 over Philadelphia 2-1. Their other three games were on the road where they defeated the Rangers 2-0 in 2015, lost 1-0 to Boston in 2011 and lost 2-1 in Pittsburgh in 2016. Based on recent history of the Lightning and Capitals in game seven, don’t be surprised if we see a low-scoring affair.
5. Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom will play in their 11th game seven versus Tampa. Only six players in NHL history have played in more. Patrick Roy and Scott Stevens played in 13, while Glenn Anderson, Stephane Yelle, Ken Daneyko and Zdeno Chara have played in 12.
6. The Vegas Golden Knights Cinderella story continues. I’ve seen many write how George McPhee got a second round pick to take Marc-Andre Fleury from Pittsburgh. Keep in mind the Pens had won consecutive Cups with Matt Murray playing in both Finals. Fleury had a NMC so he had to agree to waive it, and Vegas agreed to not claim Murray to take Fleury. Fleury’s career postseason sv%, including this year, is .913. This season he has an NHL playoff-best .947sv%. No one would have expected him to play this well. It is a great story, but I don’t think it should be looked at as though Vegas fleeced Pittsburgh in that deal.
7. No doubt Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers are regretting their decision to give up Jonathan Marchessault to Vegas, just so the Golden Knights would claim Reilly Smith and his $5 million cap hit for five years. That was a major blunder by the Panthers, but many of the other moves were not considered horrible. Vegas, to their credit have played exceptionally well, obviously better than anyone expected, but will it continue next year?
8. I see some similarities between the Golden Knights and the gritty Oilers teams of 1997 and 1998. The Oilers had a world class goalie in Curtis Joseph, and they won a round each year. The difference between them and Vegas today, is the salary cap evens the playing field. The Oilers could upset one team with twice the salary, but they weren’t going to defeat Dallas, Colorado and Detroit in the same year. Ryan Smyth went from two goals in 1996 to 39 in 1997. William Karlsson went from six goals last year to 43 this season. Smyth did score 36 goals and 31 twice in his career, but he never surpassed 39. Will Karlsson reach 43 again?
9. The Oilers blueline had Boris Mironov, Luke Richardson, Dan McGillis, Drew Bannister, Roman Hamrlik, Janne Niinimaa, Greg Devries, Drake Berehowsky and Bryan Marchment in those two years. Will Nate Schmidt, Colin Miller and Shea Theodore become better than Hamrlik, Niinimaa and Mironov?
10. I love the Vegas story, even though I haven’t picked them in any playoff series thus far (idiot), but I think what they are proving is how important team camaraderie, confidence and playing for a cause can help a team in ways which are difficult to accurately track. Of course they play a good system, are getting out-of-this-world goaltending and have some skill, but many teams with more skill haven’t won. I know some won’t like to hear it, but Vegas is proving intangibles are hard to measure, or track, and how important confidence and belief play a part in sports. We have seen many teams have a great one-year run, but were never able to stay competitive. I’d argue Vegas’ biggest challenge won’t be defeating Tampa/Washington, but trying to remain competitive next season. They won’t have the same “chip” on their shoulder. They won’t be the Vegas Misfits again.
11. The Islanders hired Lou Lamiorello this morning and he will have the final say on hockey matters. One of his first decisions will be John Tavares. How much will they offer him? Tavares turns 28 in September and he’ll likely be looking for a $10 million/year contract. The challenge for the Islanders is an eight year deal will hurt them down the road, but Tavares likely won’t sign a five or six-year pact. It will be a challenging negotiation, and I’m curious to see how Lamiorello navigates it.
12. An NHL scout told me the one concern with Tavares long-term is his skating. The game is getting quicker every year and this scout said, “Tavares is so smart, and has elite skill, but you wonder if his skating will allow to be produce like a ten million player, which I assume he will become, for the term of the contract,” said the scout. Interesting.
13. What will Darnell Nurse’s new contract look like? It is a hot topic in Oilersnation. Nurse had 26 points last year, all of them at even strength, and tied with Colton Parayko for 34th most EV points among defenders. Nurse turned 23 in February and with 197 regular games under his belt everything points to him being better in the next 200 games. Peter Chiarelli believes strongly in building up his blueline, and he hasn’t shied away from signing D-men, or giving up very good assets to acquire defenders. A month ago I felt a bridge deal was the most likely, but after conversations with a few sources I think a long-term deal might be more realistic than I originally thought. I still lean towards a bridge deal, but not as staunchly as before. A bridge deal scares some due to the potential of Nurse having a breakout season, and then cashing in big, but if the Oilers aren’t planning on using him on the PP then it will more difficult for him to put up big numbers. A healthy Oscar Klefbom will limit Nurse’s PP time, which is why I could see him signing a long-term deal similar to what Adam Larsson signed three years ago.
14. Larsson signed a one-year deal for $900,000 after his ELC expired. He then went out and scored 24 points (21 at EV and three SH) and earned a six-year deal worth $4.16m/year in the summer of 2015. Nurse had 26 points this past year and plays a similar role to Larsson, EV and PK. The salary cap was $71.4m in 2015/2016. The cap is projected to be around $80 million this year. Could Nurse land a six-year deal worth $4.5 to $4.7 million? Or do you think he gets a bridge deal?