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Behind the Numbers: Capitals vs. Flyers

Braden Holtby leads Capitals, but numbers say Philadelphia has even-strength advantage

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

It will be a steep uphill struggle for the Philadelphia Flyers, who are facing the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but the numbers reveal there may be a path to victory for Philadelphia.

Here are five interesting statistics about this series:

1. Goal differential

Hockey is all about scoring and preventing goals, and the Capitals were dominant this season in both areas. Washington scored 248 goals, second to the Dallas Stars' 265, and allowed 191 goals, second-fewest to the Anaheim Ducks' 188, for the League's best goal differential (plus-57).

In contrast, the Flyers have a goal differential of plus-1, the second-lowest among playoff teams. A slow first quarter is part of the reason; since Nov. 22, 2015, the Flyers have a goal differential of plus-24.

2. Shooting percentage

The scoring gap between Washington and Philadelphia cannot be explained by lack of opportunity. The Flyers averaged 31.0 shots per game, which ranked fifth in the NHL ahead of the Capitals, who were seventh with 30.7.

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The difference in scoring levels was caused by Washington's superior shooting percentage. The Capitals' team shooting percentage of 10.0 percent ranked second to the Stars' 10.1 percent.

Philadelphia's shooting percentage was 8.3 percent, the lowest among playoff teams, and No. 25 overall.

3. First-period scoring

One of the keys to this series will be who can perform in the first period. Washington has a goal differential of plus-27 in the second period and plus-33 in the third, but were outscored 59-54 in the first period.

Likewise, the Flyers had a positive goal differential of plus-2 and plus-7 in the second and third periods, respectively, but were outscored 62-50 in the first.

The primary difference is how each team has fared when trailing after one period. The Capitals were 12-9-4 in such situations, the best record in the League; the Flyers were 4-15-6.

4. Save percentage

Conventional wisdom states Braden Holtby gives the Capitals a big advantage in this series. Holtby tied an NHL record with 48 wins, had a .922 save percentage and is well-positioned in voting for the Vezina Trophy as the League's best goaltender.

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However, the numbers suggest the Flyers actually may have the edge. Philadelphia has a save percentage of .932 in even-strength situations, second in the League behind the New York Rangers' .933. The Capitals are 11th with a .929 save percentage in such situations.

5. Special teams

Here is one of Washington's greatest advantages in this series. Though the Flyers were second in the League with 280 power-play opportunities, they scored on a lower percentage of those opportunities than the Capitals.

Washington was fifth with a power-play percentage of 21.9 percent and second with a penalty-killing percentage of 85.2 percent for a special teams index of 107.1, which is the sum of the two numbers. That's second behind the Anaheim Ducks (110.1).

With a power-play percentage of 18.9 percent and a penalty-killing percentage of 80.5 percent, the Flyers had a below-average special teams index of 99.5.

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