The Hurricanes and Capitals face off tonight for the final spot available in Round 2. Home ice advantage has been key so far, with the road team yet to win a single game in this series. This obviously plays in favor of the Capitals, who will be in front of their fans for this crucial Game 7 as they hope to defend their title and be the only division winner to advance past the first round this season. Three games is a small sample size, but they must be ecstatic to be home because their play on the road has been appalling in these playoffs.
The Caps scored only two goals on the road at 5v5, both in Game 6. A lot of numbers are in a similar range, but there’s a massive drop in inner slot shots. Considering 6 of their 10 goals at 5v5 have come from the inner slot so far, their inability to get pucks in the net on the road shouldn’t be surprising.
It’s hard to do worse than two goals in three games, but the Hurricanes are trying their best. Their performance drops across the board when playing in Washington, where they have only four goals at even-strength in as many games and see some of their key performance indicators fall off by over 50%.
Their slot and inner slot shots per game at home would place them second and third, respectively, in the playoffs this year, while their road average would rank dead last. On the plus side, even their worst performance isn’t all that far from the Capitals’ play. Game 6 was high in intensity, with Alex Ovechkin even getting ejected when the game got out of hand, but the Hurricanes need to avoid penalties to try and keep the game at even strength. The Capitals unsurprisingly have the edge in powerplay goals 6-3, but it’s the Hurricanes who have been the most effective 5v5 with a +3 goal differential (14-11). Their best chance of pulling off the upset and neutralize home-ice advantage is to avoid taking unnecessary penalties in what should be another high-intensity matchup. If they can’t stay out of the box, Ovechkin and co. will be more than happy to make them pay.