There's no disputing which stat matters most in the Penguins' second-round playoff series against Washington.
It's the 2-1 lead the Capitals take into Game 4 tonight.
Forget special-teams numbers and shooting percentages and any other number generated in the first three games. What counts is that the Capitals won two of them.
Nonetheless, Sidney Crosby said yesterday that there are some stats that reaffirm the Penguins' belief that they have had an edge in play to this point, which bodes well for their chances of surviving the series.
"I feel like we've outchanced them over the three games," Crosby said.
"It doesn't matter -- we're still down, 2-1 -- but I think the belief in what we need to do is there.
"We see some good results. Not in the first two games, as far as wins, but [scoring] chances and things like that.
"We're confident that if we play this way, we give ourselves a great chance to win."
Left winger Alex Ovechkin is the face of Washington's franchise and, with five goals in the first three games, obviously has had a major impact on the series, as expected.
What few likely anticipated was that Washington's rookie goalie, Simeon Varlamov, would be at least as much of a positive force for his team as Ovechkin has been.
A few more performances like he has turned in so far, and word might leak out that his surname actually is Drydenov (as in Ken, not Dave), because Varlamov is the latest in a long line of goalies to surge to prominence by virtue of postseason excellence.
"A lot of times, people who you haven't really heard from step up in the playoffs and do a great job," Penguins winger Ruslan Fedotenko said.
The Penguins entered this series quietly confident they would be able to get to Varlamov, who was coming off a strong series against the New York Rangers, but they probably have concluded by now that he isn't likely to falter.
Consequently, they figure to put a renewed emphasis on putting as many pucks on goal as possible to make rebounds, deflections and lucky bounces possible, while doing everything they can to impede Varlamov's vision by keeping bodies around his crease.
"He's made some great saves," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We have to be real persistent in getting our opportunities and getting to the net."
Although the Penguins dominated Philadelphia on faceoffs in the first round, the Capitals have had a clear edge through the first three games of Round 2, going 103-84 on draws.
David Steckel, who also scored a goal in each of the first two games, has been the Capitals' top faceoff man, winning 34 of 51. TeammateBoyd Gordon is 15-12.
"They're just strong, big guys," Crosby said.
Both teams have scored goals stemming directly from faceoff wins, including Kris Letang's overtime winner in Game 3. It came a few seconds after Crosby controlled a draw in the Washington end.
Playing Game 5 in Washington less than 24 hours after the end of Game 4 figures to be a major challenge for both clubs.
"The obvious [issue] is fatigue," Crosby said. "You play back-to-back games, and it's wearing."
Bylsma suggested late last week that playing on consecutive days was "a test that I welcome for our team," but seemed a bit less enthusiastic about that idea yesterday,
"It's a lot of hockey in a short period of time," he said. "There's not a lot of time to re-focus and re-energize."
Letang has played some high-stakes hockey during his 22 years, competing in the world junior championships, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs and the Stanley Cup playoffs, but said "I've never scored a bigger goal" than his overtime winner Wednesday. ... Nine players -- forwards Tyler Kennedy, Pascal Dupuis, Craig Adams, Petr Sykora, Miroslav Satan, Eric Godard, defenseman Philippe Boucher and goalies Mathieu Garon and Brad Thiessen -- went on the ice for an optional workout at Southpointe yesterday.
Dave Molinari can be reached at email@example.com