This season produced many opportunities to both overreact and be genuinely concerned, and the upcoming playoffs will be no different. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between when the law of averages is catching up with events versus when something truly special going on, so let’s look at different scenarios and see which will warrant hitting the panic button.

Series lead of 3-1

The Capitals’ record when taking a three-games-to-one series lead has not been great, but superstition alone is not a reason to panic. When a team goes up 3-1 in the playoffs, it gives itself a 19 percent better chance at winning the series. Losing a Game 6, however, decreases a team’s chances of winning by about 25 percent, so that’s the real time to panic – especially because Game 7s have not been all that fruitful for Coach Bruce Boudreau’s squad in recent years.

Scoring slumps

Alexander Semin went 0 for 44 shots in last year’s playoffs against Montreal. Over his career, Semin has averaged a shooting percentage (Sh%) of 14.4 percent, indicating that he has an 85.6 percent chance of not scoring a goal on any given shot. We wouldn’t start to panic if he took five shots in a game without lighting the lamp, but how many shots without a goal is enough to indicate a statistically significant slump?

We can be 95 percent sure a statistically significant drought is occurring if the total consecutive number of shots without a goal is greater than the log(.05)/log(probability of not scoring), so in Semin’s case, the answer is 19 shots without a goal. Clearly, he was in a slump after Game 4, and fans had every reason to panic.

Here are the other scoring skaters and when we can be pretty sure they are in a shooting slump:

Time to panic when…
PlayerConsecutive shots without a goalConsecutive games without a goal
Alexander Semin196
Mike Knuble198
Marcus Johansson2014
Alex Ovechkin244
Nicklas Backstrom2410
Brooks Laich2713
Eric Fehr2914
Mike Green3213
Jason Chimera4021


Losing a key player

The injury bug keeps biting the Capitals, but a loss to one or both of their superstars in the playoffs would surely be time to panic, right? Perhaps.

Certainly losing a superstar like Ovechkin and Backstrom would be devastating, but if we look at the team’s performance during even strength this season with and without them on the ice, it is not dire.

During even strength EV TOISC%GF/60
With Ovechkin 1243.956.5%2.7
Without Ovechkin 2513.649.9%2.0
With Backstrom1133.155.7%2.5
Without Backstrom2624.450.7%2.1


Scoring chances in the Caps’ favor (SC%) take a big nosedive without Ovechkin or Backstrom on the ice, but the team manages to (barely) keep its head above water. The offense suffers quite a bit without one of the two, scoring significantly fewer goals per 60 minutes (GF/60) but keep in mind that since the trade deadline, Washington has averaged only 1.8 goals against overall, so it could remain competitive.

Losing both Ovechkin and Backstrom would be a different story. And time for panic:

During even strength EV TOISC%GF/60
With Ovechkin & Backstrom922.858.3%2.6
Without Ovechkin & Backstrom2834.750.6%1.6


Another hot goalie

The offense has perked up a bit lately, averaging 2.9 goals per game since the trade deadline, but the specter of Jaroslav Halak looms large in the hearts of Caps fans. Here are the odds the goalies of possible Eastern Conference opponents keep Washington to one goal a game or fewer:

Opposing GoalieTmSV%GAA1 game2 straight games3 straight games
Tim ThomasBOS0.9391.984 to 18 to 118 to 1
Brent JohnsonPIT0.9202.194 to 110 to 128 to 1
Henrik LundqvistNYR0.9232.264 to 111 to 132 to 1
Marc-Andre FleuryPIT0.9182.324 to 112 to 137 to 1
Carey PriceMTL0.9212.415 to 113 to 144 to 1
Brian BoucherPHI0.9142.455 to 114 to 149 to 1
Sergei BobrovskyPHI0.9182.495 to 115 to 153 to 1
Ryan MillerBUF0.9152.605 to 117 to 168 to 1
Dwayne RolosonTBL0.9142.605 to 117 to 168 to 1
Tuukka RaskBOS0.9182.695 to 120 to 183 to 1
Mike SmithTBL0.8883.117 to 138 to 1222 to 1


The Capitals can probably expect one or two gems from the likes of Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist, but if we start to see some superhero performances from Dwayne Roloson or Carey Price, they just might be getting Halak’d again.

Neil Greenberg also writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.