We’re two games in and this series feels wide open. Maybe that was inevitable.
Game 1 was a wild affair with a ton of goals from unexpected sources. Game 2 had less scoring, obviously, but equally surprising scorers. And boy have the games been chippy, too. Maybe that, too, was inevitable, given who these teams are and how they got here.
Mike asks: “Who’s a guy you think should be getting more ice time?”
I made this point in a WWL recently but the Caps aren’t using Alex Ovechkin as much as I would like.
He’s only averaging 18:13 per night, less than Backstrom and Oshie. A big chunk of that is on the power play, too. If you have Ovechkin and have the chance to put him over the boards more often than 18 minutes a night, I don’t know why you don’t take it.
Maybe you argue, “Well it was a road game and they want favorable matchups,” which I guess probably played a role. And because both games were close — a bad bounce or missed call away from going the other way in each case — you probably feel like you did everything more or less right. That’s hockey, yeah?
But man I gotta think emptying the tank on this guy since he’s got a max of five more games this season is probably a better idea than keeping something in reserve. Every once in a while, maybe you float what would normally be a Jakub Vrana shift Ovechkin’s way instead. What’s the big deal there?
Another guy on the Caps who should probably get more ice time: Andre Burakovsky, who has three assists in the series despite playing less than 25 minutes total. See what the guy can do!
Jack asks: “If the Capitals win is everybody going to start using the 1-1-3 and become even more boring?”
I’d tend to doubt it.
Even if they win playing 1-1-3, it will be hard to argue that they won because they played 1-1-3. A lot of the copycat style — which absolutely exists — comes through easily ascribed narratives, like “the Bruins won because they were hard to play against” and “the Penguins won because they played fast hockey.” In reality, though, the teams that win the Cup more often just do so because they have a lot of talent, right?
I don’t think anyone’s under the illusion that the Caps have gotten this far because Barry Trotz became a systems genius after a putrid regular season in which they were one of the worst possession teams in the league. They have a goalie that got hot at the exact right time, and they have at least two Hall of Famers up front plus an incredible career year from John Carlson (who’s up to 95 points in 103 games this season).
T.J. Oshie is a pretty damn good forward and he’s probably the fourth-best one they have. This isn’t hard to figure out.
Michael asks: “Are we actually going to start seeing regression with MAF?”
Does seven goals against on 54 shots (.870) in two games not qualify? Honestly asking.
Pugs asks: “If Fleury wins another Cup and the Conn Smythe is he going to get in the Hall of Fame?”
“Will he?” and “Should he?” are two very different questions, but I honestly don’t know.
Because I would have bet Chris Osgood’s career earnings that Chris Osgood would have gotten into the Hall of Fame with relative ease, but he hasn’t (yet). There have been, to be fair, a lot of no-doubt HHOF guys becoming eligible the past few years, so I suppose this is a case of maybe there’s just not room for him.
Fleury is present-day Osgood.
“Meh” career numbers, 1.5 Cups as a starter right now (I’m counting last year, obviously). Horrible reputation in the playoffs until the last two seasons. And when he won his one full Cup, he wasn’t even that good. If Vegas wins it this year, it’ll be entirely because Fleury stood on his head for three rounds. The Conn Smythe will be well-earned.
But for me he’s not a Hall of Famer. I feel the same way about Osgood. Neither was ever considered anything resembling an elite goalie for more than a month or two. I’m not gonna look it up but I’m pretty sure Fleury’s only been a top-10 Vezina guy twice, and never cleared No. 7 in the league.
So yeah, if he gets Osgood’s rep as a coattail-rider, I think that’s well-earned. Hockey Men probably won’t see it that way, though.
Megan asks: “If Washington wins but Ovechkin doesn’t win the Conn Smythe, how long will we have to hear about how Crosby did win the Conn Smythe?”
I think if Washington wins it’s Holtby’s award to lose, right? But on the other hand, the romanticism of giving it to Ovechkin — who has been quite good in this postseason, to be fair — might be too big to ignore.
That’s not your question but I wanted to say that. It’s not like the guy has been a drag on team performance and they’re winning in spite of him. He’s a huge reason the Caps are here.
If he doesn’t win it, I honestly don’t think anyone will hold that against him. He’s been great and at this point I think everyone outside Vegas is rooting for him on some level.
Adam asks: “How much should fans appreciate Dmitry Orlov?”
A pretty good amount, I think. And they’ll probably get the chance to do just that after John Carlson gets a billion dollars a year this summer.
Orlov’s been sheltered a bit, for sure, but his underlying numbers and the eye test both suggest this is a guy who could do well in a bigger role. How big, I’m not sure, but he’s playing 24-plus minutes in these playoffs and the numbers are unequivocally good.
Because Washington almost certainly can’t retain Carlson, they’re gonna need someone to be the big man on their power play in his stead. Why not Orlov, baby!
Kyle asks: “Is there any justification to playing Tom Wilson in a top-line role and why is the answer no?”
Of course there is. He is, for better or worse (definitely worse) the second-best right wing on the team and, as I’ve said before, he’s not totally talentless.
Plus, you could put Oshie on that line instead of Wilson, but you understand the reasons why Trotz wouldn’t want to put almost all his offensive weapons on a single line. I’m a big believer in “find two guys who work well together and just give them a random player to work with after that,” and Trotz has now done that with both Ovechkin-Kuznetsov and Backstrom-Oshie.
You’d rather have that than make Backstrom lug Wilson around, which is your only other option if you put someone who is Not Wilson on the top line.
David asks: “So Vegas put Ryan Reaves on the ice with about 54 seconds left in the game down by a goal. I love Reaves…. but c’mon. Is there any logic behind this or did Vegas kinda screw themselves there?”
The logic, such as it is, goes thusly: Ryan Reaves scored a goal in Game 5 of the Western Conference final and Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final so he is an offensive weapon now.
Is that Gerard Gallant making a dumb mistake? Yes. Did it cost Vegas the tying goal? Probably not. I wouldn’t recommend that as a going-forward kinda thing but it’s 54 seconds when you only scored two goals in the previous 59:06.
It’s not something he should ever do again and all the people laughing at him for how silly it is to believe Reaves is some kind of hot shooter now are right to do it. But also, let’s not make too big of a deal here.
All stats via Corsica unless noted otherwise. Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.
More Stanley Cup Final coverage from Yahoo Sports