The Washington Capitals' Odds to Win the Eastern Conference Make Them a Good Bet
The road mentality in the 2017-18 NHL Playoffs has been a budding trend. It is not just that teams are several games over .500 so far; it's more the idea that some of the top teams have not been very good.
If one looks at the Washington Capitals, they are 3-4 at home, but they are 7-1 on the road. Numbers and odds have been nutty in the first three games of their series with the Tampa Bay Lightning, which stands at 2-1 in favor of the Caps heading into tonight's Game 4.
There are some crazy numbers to dig into.
Taking Advantage of Opportunities
The one thing Tampa Bay has been able to do very well against the Caps is score on the power play (5 for 12 in three games). And in Game 3, the Lightning looked more comfortable at even strength for the first time in the series, getting two even-strength goals from Victor Hedman and Brayden Point. If Tampa continues to produce on the power play and chips in with even-strength production, Washington is in trouble.
Natural Stats Trick has been instrumental in explaining how the chances are flowing in this series. Tampa was able to decrease Washington's edge by a good bit in the last game (52.94% at even strength for Washington). Those numbers were around 60% in the first two games.
What does that mean? The Lightning were able to keep the Caps' opportunities down (18 allowed) while maintaining relatively steady production of their own at 16 chances generated. Washington outscored Tampa, 7-1, at even strength in the first two games, so the Lightning must play like they did in Game 3 to have a good chance the rest of the way.
It is not like Tampa lacks talent. For as stacked as Washington's roster is, Tampa's is loaded, too. The likes of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Victor Hedman are just a few of their high-profile players. All four figured in the scoring in Game 3 and will likely need to continue to do so for the Lightning to win the series. Game 3 was the first time that Andrei Vasilevskiy played like he did for most of the regular season as he stopped 36 of 38 shots.
For Washington, it does come down to opportunities. Their scoring chances dropped by nine in Game 3, and too many times, Washington opted for more low-danger chances. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin alone combined for 11 shots at even strength, but just three of those were classified as High-Danger Chances (and only one of those hit the net).
Watch for the status of Nicklas Backstrom. He may play tonight and could see some third-line ice time with some power-play minutes. Washington would welcome that boost as the Caps' first two lines have created chances well but they aren't getting much help elsewhere.
It goes without saying -- Game 4 is a pivotal game. If Washington wins, they'll take a commanding 3-1 series lead and will have one foot in the Finals. If Tampa wins, we've got ourselves a dandy of a series.
How Will This Series Play Out?
Let's check out the likelihood of the possible series outcomes, per our models.
|Washington in 5 games||21.5%|
|Washington in 6 games||28.0%|
|Washington in 7 games||16.9%|
|Washington Wins Series||66.4%|
|Tampa Bay in 6 games||11.8%|
|Tampa Bay in 7 games||21.8%|
|Tampa Bay Wins Series||33.6%|
As you'd expect, with Washington up 2-1 and hosting Game 4, they are the clear favorites, according to our numbers, with a 66.4% chance to win the series.
Per OddsShark, the Caps are at -165 to take the series. A -165 line converts to a 62.3% win probability, which means our numbers, overall, would favor a bet for Washington.
As for Game 4
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