Four games in, and a sizable number of Caps fans (well, those who post on message boards, tweet, and otherwise practice the keyboard arts) seem a little too inclined to kvetch about the lack of style points the Caps are earning while they were in the process of earning six standings points out of a possible eight in their first four games.
As of this afternoon, the Caps…
-- Are tied for the league lead in standings points
-- Have scored more goals than any other team
-- Are tied for the second highest goal differential
-- Have more home wins than any other team (compare that to, say, Buffalo (0-2-1) or – horrors! – Pittsburgh (0-3-0))
-- Are in the top-ten in fewest goals-allowed per game
-- Are tied for first in penalty killing efficency.
OK, things aren’t entirely hunky-dory. The power play is off the rails (19th), which at the moment is probably the single biggest concern. But all in all, the team stats do not look bad. But there is another way to look at this. You would not be far gone to think that as the “Young Guns” go, so go the Caps. If you look at their raw numbers, they might not impress, at least by their standards. As a group they are 6-8-14, plus-10. But individually, are they really off to that “slow” a start?
Not if you look at their respective histories. Here are how their respective four-game starts have gone since the 2007-2008 season (all playoff years coming into this one):
And even with respect to special teams, there is a silver lining. Yes, the Caps are struggling on the power play, but their penalty kill is 15-for-15, a mark that tops any of the previous three years. If you take their power play success rate and add it to the penalty kill success rate, we have the the “ecstasy index.” A rating of more than 100.0 is the object of the exercise. And with that in mind, the Caps have a better “EI” than in any of the previous three years. And, in terms of “plus/minus” the Caps are a plus-2 on special teams so far (two goals scored on the power play, none allowed on the penalty kill), their best mark in any of the last four seasons.
The special teams have contributed, albeit in perhaps a small way, to the Caps having the second-lowest goals-allowed per game through four games (2.25/game) of any of the past four years. And, they have their best per-game goal differential (1.25 goals).
You could argue (with merit) that this is largely a product of the Caps pasting the Devils last Saturday night. But then again, what all this means, too, is that through four games the Caps have as good a record through four games as in any of the past three seasons (3-1-0).
So take a breath, because in the end it is about wins and losses. This isn’t the Miss Universe pageant or the Bowl Championship Series. Style points do not count.