- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Maybe it’s the Washington sports curse, or maybe it’s one of the four reasons listed below, but people might not bet their mortgages that the Capitals will win the Stanley Cup.

Bovada givesWashington the eighth-best odd out of 16 playoff teams (+1400) and just the fifth-best chances to come out of the Eastern Conference (+650).

Anything can happen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but here are five reasons Capitals fans shouldn’t get their hopes up. (For a more optimistic take, check out our five reasons you should have hope in the Capitals.)

4. Poor shot differential

The Capitals’ quantity of shots has been one of their weaknesses all year. They finished last in the NHL with 29 shots per game, and combined with an average of 31.9 shots allowed, they give up 2.9 more than they take per game, the worst differential among Eastern Conference playoff teams.

That alone didn’t stop them from winning their division with 105 points in the regular season, but now the competition will be stiffer. First-round opponent Columbus was fifth in the league in shots (33.7) and potential second-round matchup Pittsburgh was tied for first (34.4). When two offenses are more or less equitable in talent, won’t the team with more scoring chances end up scoring more?

3. The never-ending goalie question

There’s a saying in football that goes, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” I don’t know if that translates to hockey goaltenders, but the Capitals certainly have two of those.

The good news is that both men are playing well at the same time. Philipp Grubauer has won seven of his last nine starts, while Braden Holtby has won six of his last seven and hasn’t had to be pulled early since his March 6 start at Anaheim.

Grubauer has only played in two playoff games, winning his only start. Coach Barry Trotz announced Tuesday that he would start Game 1 over Holtby, but did not commit to anything past Game 1 — either one netminder or a definite rotation.

2. Tough conference

It’s good in the long run that the Capitals didn’t win the Presidents’ Trophy, but they could have benefited from an easier playoff bracket. Before the Capitals can even reach round two and a likely rematch with the Penguins, they have to take care of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Although Washington won their season series 3-1-0, the Jackets ripped off a 10-game winning streak in March that included wins over Vegas, Boston and three other playoff teams.

Whichever team come out of the Atlantic side of the bracket will be formidable. The Bruins will have a healthy lineup soon; the Lightning have both scoring threats and the conference’s top goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy; and the Maple Leafs had a whopping seven players tally at least 50 points.

1. Second-round pressure

The Capitals have lost in the second round every year under Trotz. Only the Wizards have been similarly consistent among Washington teams. They have made it to their conference semifinals three of the past four seasons, while the Nationals and Redskins can’t even make it past the first round.

But the Wizards will enter the NBA playoffs with a lower seed than usual and play either Toronto or Boston first, so the Capitals must shoulder the heaviest expectations to lift the Washington sports curse this year. No pressure, boys. Actually, a ton of it.

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