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Behind The Numbers

Golden Knights in control against Capitals in Cup Final, statistics show

Have edge in shots, attempts, face-offs; plus, unlikely heroes for Vegas, Washington

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

The Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals are tied 1-1 in the Stanley Cup Final, and the best-of-7 series could be decided by success on face-offs, production from defensemen, and unlikely heroes.

Game 3 is at Washington on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Here is a look behind the numbers in four key areas from Games 1 and 2:

 

Advantage: Golden Knights

Not counting an empty-net goal for Vegas in Game 1, the Golden Knights and Capitals each scored seven times.

But most of the underlying numbers suggest Vegas controlled the play.

The Golden Knights had 57.5 percent of the shots on goal (73-54). When including shot attempts that were blocked or missed the net, Vegas had a 124-102 advantage (54.9 percent).

Of the 56 face-offs at 5-on-5 in one end or the other, 35 were in the Capitals zone (62.5 percent).

The Golden Knights led 53-36 in takeaways plus opponent giveaways.

Finally, the team losing the possession battle often is the one hitting, and Washington had 84 hits compared to 64 for Vegas.

Video: NHL Tonight on the Stanley Cup Final so far

 

Success in the circle

The Golden Knights' possession advantage started in the face-off circle, where they won 71 of 129 draws (55.0 percent), including 62 of 113 at even strength (54.9 percent).

Given the Golden Knights trailed the Capitals in face-off winning percent 50.4- 48.9 in the regular season and 49.0-47.8 percent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs entering the Final, they were not expected to have this advantage.

Vegas had its greatest success in its own zone and against Washington center Nicklas Backstrom, winning 21 of 30 face-offs in the defensive end (70.0 percent) and 24 of 35 (68.6 percent) against Backstrom, who won 125 of 233 face-offs in the first three rounds (53.6 percent).

Playing the first two games at home may have impacted these results; the home team won 51.6 percent of face-offs in the NHL during the regular season.

 

Offense from defense

Golden Knights defensemen combined for four points (one goal, three assists) in a 6-4 win in Game 1 and three points (one goal, two assists) in a 3-2 loss in Game 2.

After going without a point in the first 15 playoff games, Deryk Engelland had two assists in Game 1, and his eight shots on goal in the series are second on Vegas behind Jonathan Marchessault's 14.

Colin Miller's six shots are third, including a Golden Knights-high four on the power play. He has a goal and an assist in the series. After leading Vegas defensemen with 41 points (10 goals, 31 assists) in 82 regular-season games, Miller was fourth with three points (two goals, one assist) in the first 15 games of the playoffs.

Shea Theodore is the Golden Knights' highest-scoring defenseman in the postseason, his nine points (three goals, six assists) tied for sixth among NHL defensemen. He had an assist in Game 1 and a goal in Game 2.

Washington's John Carlson, who scored in Game 1, leads NHL defensemen with 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in the playoffs.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Carlson ties game, sets Caps record

 

Unexpected goal-scorers

The unlikely hero in Game 1 was Golden Knights forward Tomas Nosek, who scored the first game-winning goal of his NHL career, regular season or playoffs.

Nosek, who also scored into an empty net in the 6-4 victory, entered the series with nine goals in 96 NHL regular-season and playoff games.

Nosek's five takeaways in the Cup Final are tied with defenseman Brayden McNabb for the Vegas lead, and his shot-attempt differential (SAT) of plus-14 ranks second to Engelland's plus-15.

In Game 2, the unlikely hero was Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, whose game-winning goal was his first goal since Feb. 26, 2016. In that time, he had 192 shots on goal in 220 regular-season and playoff games without scoring.

Video: Orpik delivers unlikely Game 2 winner for Capitals

It was his third game-winning goal in 1,128 NHL regular-season and playoff games.

Orpik has played 146 playoff games, eighth most among active NHL players, and has scored three goals.

Orpik's unexpected offense in Game 2 didn't come at the expense of his defense: He played 3:59 on the penalty kill, second behind Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen's 5:25; his six hits were tied for second behind Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb's seven; and he had two blocked shots.

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