The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Oh my god I’m so sick of hearing that the Caps outshot an opponent but lost

Marc-Andre Fleury celebrates after a game in which his team was outshot, 38-19. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Hey so here’s something I never ever want to hear again for the rest of my life: The Washington Capitals played great, dominated possession and registered 437 more shot attempts than their playoff opponent, but they lost because hockey is weird and random lol.

(Sorry, I just have nothing else to write right now other than the obvious: If the Caps want to win this series, they should probably stop taking offensive-zone penalties, have their star goalie decisively outplay Pittsburgh’s backup, receive some individual greatness from their first line, and get more than one lousy puny stinking goal from their bottom six forwards.)

But anyhow.

Why are you so sick of hearing about the Caps outshooting their playoff opponents? Isn’t that a sign of possession dominance, which is a very accurate long-term predictor of scoreboard success?

Yeah I guess.

So shouldn’t it be considered a promising sign that Washington had double Pittsburgh’s shots on Wednesday night, plus an even bigger advantage in shot attempts? Doesn’t that mean the worm will soon turn? Rather than mutating into an evil flesh-eating monster worm that will devour your gall bladder?

I dunno, let’s ask Mike Knuble, after the Caps outshot the Canadiens, 54-22, in a 2010 Game 6 loss.

(Yes, we’re really doing this. You can leave now if you’d prefer.)

“The key for us is we want to go with the same pressure that we had tonight and try to keep them on their heels,” Knuble said then. “Obviously, we want to convert a couple, but we’re going to keep going with that same pressure. There can’t be any frustration in our game. No matter what’s happened with the power play, we did a lot of good things on it and it’ll pay off and we all believe that. We keep getting pucks on net, it’s going to pay off and we all believe that. And we know we’ve scored a lot of goals and we know how goals are scored.”

Way to cherry-pick one quote.

“You can see how we play,” Alex Ovechkin said after the same game. “I think we play great. We just didn’t score. We just have to find a way to score more goals.”

That’s just one game.

Okay, let’s ask Scott Walker, after the Caps outshot the Canadiens, 42-16, in a 2010 Game 7 loss.

“One time I looked up, I think, on the bench, and it was 33-11 [in shots] and we were losing 1-0,” he said. “That has to play into your mind-set a little bit as a goal scorer. … The puck just wasn’t going in the net. When it’s 33-11, you think the score would be at least 3- or 4-1, right?”

I don’t like where this is headed.

YEAH WELL I’M NOT DONE YET DANGIT. Let’s ask Barry Trotz, after the Caps outshot the Penguins, 49-23, in a Game 3 loss last spring.

“If you look at the number of chances, it was very high and very lopsided,” Trotz said. “We’ll continue. We feel good about where we went. The only thing I don’t like about it is the result.”

Please stop.

NO, I AM NOT DONE YET. Sit down. Keep reading. Let’s ask Evgeny Kuznetsov, after the Caps outshot the Penguins, 35-19, in a Game 1 loss.

“Keep doing the same thing, stay with the plan and pucks will go in the net for sure,” Kuznetsov said.

So what happened Wednesday night?

Let’s ask T.J. Oshie, after the Caps outshot the Penguins, 38-19, in a Game 4 loss.

“We had some golden opportunities to score goals, and for whatever reason, we didn’t put them in,” he said. “Those have to go in.”

This seems to be a trend.

This seems to be a trend. A trend this seems to be. Of things we see, trends there are or might be. AND I’M REALLY TIRED OF WRITING ABOUT IT AND HAVE NOTHING ELSE INTERESTING TO SAY.

I don’t want to trust the process. I don’t want you to trust the process. I don’t want to tally up moral victories. I don’t want you to tally up moral victories. Just 12 short months after I calmly argued that all you can do is put a lot of shots on net and hope for the best, I have now become every jaded 53-year-old Caps fan from Jessup who would like you to know that the only numbers that matter are the ones on the scoreboard. HE IS CORRECT. JADED JERRY FROM JESSUP IS CORRECT. SCORE-BOARD, SCORE-BOARD, SCORE-BOARD.

Do you know something weird? Really weird? There have now been 51 NHL playoff games since 2010 in which the losing team had at least 35 shots, and the winning team had fewer than 25 shots. The Caps are responsible for eight of them, more than any other team. Eight out of 51! That’s 16 percent of such losses! In the past two years, there have been just 15 of those dominate-in-shots-but-lose-in-goals playoff games; the Caps account for 5 of them. Five of 15! Either they are uniquely unlucky, or there is some reason that they are regularly outshooting their playoff opponents by such wide margins and still not winning. Or maybe it’s both!

Either way, the window for this group might not be closed after this season, but that day is coming. They can’t keep everyone together. The stars are getting older. They won’t always be this good. And when they’re gone, you don’t want to be left with a banner reading The Underlying Process Was Solid, or We Sure Had a Lot of Chances, or We Liked Everything But the Result.

At least they never have to worry about bad bounces.

“We couldn’t get a bounce, even,” Mike Green said after the Game 7 loss in 2010. “We couldn’t get one bounce. Sometimes you need those bounces and those shots to go in. It creates more emotion, motivation.”

“If we play our game, it’s going to go our way sooner or later,” Braden Holtby said after last year’s Game 5 loss to the Flyers, when Washington had 18 billion more shots than Philadelphia but still lost. “The last two games, we just haven’t gotten any lucky bounces and haven’t had any luck go our way.”

“A couple lucky bounces,” Marcus Johansson said, after last year’s Game 3 loss to the Penguins.

“It was just bad bounce,” Dmitry Orlov said Wednesday night, after kicking in an own goal.

Honestly, they were all probably correct, and yet if I ever have to hear about or write about or think about or talk about any sort of lucky or unlucky bounces in a playoff hockey game when Washington dominated in shots but did not win, I will unluckily bounce my head off an unlucky wall until it spurts unlucky blood. Please, Capitals, attribute your misfortune to an evil and spiteful nocturnal demon who just really wants greater Rockville to be unhappy. Enough with the bounces. I feel like an angry old man. Gah.

Ha-ha dude chill out and anyhow maybe it’s just about a hot goalie LOL LOL LOL.

Yeah ha-ha hot goalies LOL LOL LOL.

“Unfortunately, we ran into a really hot goaltender at the wrong time,” Mike Green said of Jaroslav Halak.

“This loss was beyond explanation — Washington was far and away the better team Friday night — except that the Capitals couldn’t solve goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who made 44 saves to shut them out,” The Post wrote after that loss to Philly last year.

“This was a game [the Caps] deserved to win,” SI wrote after that Game 3 loss to the Penguins last year. “By a wiiiide margin. [Matt] Murray wouldn’t let ’em.”

“Fleury stopped 36 of 38 shots in the 3-2 victory before a sellout, standing-room-only crowd and has emerged as the shining star on a team suddenly in need of one,” a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist wrote Wednesday night.

The pain. It stings. What if it’s just that the Caps had some good chances but didn’t convert on them oh look I died and am now dead.

“We have chances; we just didn’t score the goal,” Ovechkin said after Game 5 of the Halak series.

“We got great looks and we missed chances,” Boudreau said after that series.

“We kind of played the way we wanted, too,” Tom Wilson said after Game 3 last year. “A couple of bad breaks ended up in our net, and that’s the way the games go sometimes. … If we play like that, we’re going to give ourselves a good chance.”

“We had a really good push in the third and we had lots of opportunity,” Trotz said after Game 1 of this series. “I mean, we put, I think, 80-plus pucks at their net tonight. They put 40 at ours. So we did a lot of good things, but we didn’t obviously do enough.”

“We had a lot of zone time, we had a lot of chances,” Trotz said after Game 4. “Fleury was a big player today. I look at the 5-on-5 chances, they didn’t have much. They really didn’t have a whole heckuva lot. We had some good chances and we didn’t bury ’em.”

Sheesh. What’s that old saw again? That the definition of insanity is running into a brick wall again and again and again until there is blood running down your face and little flecks of flesh flying off your cheeks and all you can think about is about how you had some good chances and ran into a hot goalie and needed some lucky bounces and can’t get frustrated and it will turn eventually and maybe this time if you run into that brick wall your body will actually fly through it to the other side like you are a supernatural ninja rather than just a sad sports fan. Maybe that will happen. It’s possible.

“We’ve seen this movie before,” poor Al Koken said on CSN’s post-post-post-post-post game show late Wednesday night. Then he started comparing this series to the 17th “Fast and Furious” sequel.

“This is the Freaking Frustrated Eight,” he went on. “You always see this. They play well enough to win. We see momentum, we see puck possession, we see them outshooting everybody, but they make the dumb plays at the wrong time and it always comes back to bite ’em.”

Anyhow you already knew all this. If you watched that Caps game Wednesday night, you absolutely — deep in your bones — felt like you had watched that exact same Caps game 15 times before. Plenty of shots, too many mistakes, a disparity in goaltending, too many missed chances, trust the process, get ’em next time.

So Jaded Jerry from Jessup was right all along, eh?

“There’s only one stat that matters at the end of the night, and it’s the one up on the scoreboard,” Trotz said at some point, and damned if that isn’t the truth.