Sunday, November 02, 2014

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was -- Week 4

The Washington Capitals took an oh-fer in Week 4.  Losers of all three games for the week, the Caps are now in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, 14th in regulation and overtime wins.  It left the Caps right where they were after ten games last season – 10 points after 10 games.

Record: 0-3-0

This was the first three-loss week for the Caps since Week 17 last season when they went 1-3-0.  It is their first winless week in one with more than two games since Week 16 last season.  It was the first time the Caps lost three straight games in regulation time since they lost five straight in Games 47-51 last season.  After a 3-0-2 start in their first five games, after which they found themselves in second place in the Metropolitan Division and third in the Eastern Conference, they have slipped three spots in the division and nine places in the conference.

Offense: 2.33/game (season: 2.90/game; rank: 11th)

Not a good week for the offense.  Not only did the Caps shoot poorly (seven goals on 87 shots; 8.0 percent), they did not get much from the players who have to give them much.  Alex Ovechkin had one assist, breaking a personal worst five game streak without a point.  He was 0-for-15 shooting.  Nicklas Backstrom had one assist. Mike Green had two assists, but he did not have a goal.  Ditto John Carlson.  If anything, the Caps got their secondary scoring.  Marcus Johansson had two goals and an assist to lead the Caps in scoring for the week.  Troy Brouwer had a pair of goals. Evgeny Kuznetsov got his first of the year.  Eric Fehr had a pretty goal against Tampa Bay following up his own shot.  Even Liam O’Brien had his first NHL goal.

Defense: 4.00/game (season: 2.50/game; rank: T-13th)

The Caps finally allowed a team to reach the 30-shot mark in a game, giving up 34 shots to the Vancouver Canucks in the Caps’ 4-2 loss last Sunday.  They followed that up by getting right back with the program, allowing a total of 50 shots in the last two games of the week in losses to Detroit and Tampa Bay.  The 5-on-5 play was, to be charitable, interesting.  Oddly enough, the Caps won the possession wars for the week with a 53.02 Corsi-for percentage at 5-on-5, a 53.67 percent Fenwick-for (winning handily in both against Detroit and Tampa Bay, losing closely against Vancouver).  Unfortunately, they out-performed the shots-for (50.37 percent) and goals for (35.7 percent).  If there is an emerging bright spot here, it is the play of the Mike Green-Nate Schmidt pair on defense.  As a pair, they have been on ice for just one of the last 17 goals scored against the Caps, that coming against Detroit last Wednesday (Green was on for the empty netter scored by Vancouver in the 4-2 loss to the Canucks last Sunday).

Goaltending: 3.74 GAA / .867 SV (season: 2.36 GAA / .904 SV / 1 SO)

Justin Peters allowed three goals on 33 shots in almost 59 minutes against the Vancouver Canucks in the 4-2 loss last Sunday.  That was the high point of the week as far as goaltending was concerned.  Braden Holtby was in net for the last two games of the week, and it did not go well. Holtby allowed eight goals on 50 shots (.840 save percentage) in taking the loss in both games.  What was worse was his even strength save percentage-- .811.  He faced only 15 even strength shots against Detroit (12 saves) and 22 even strength shots against Tampa Bay (18 saves).  Even if not all the goals are attributable to poor play on his part (especially against Tampa Bay), Holtby, who in the past thrived on high workload volumes, is going to have to find a way to find and maintain his focus as the Caps transition themselves into a team that denies shot attempts.

Power Play: 2-10/20.0 percent (season: 25.7 percent; rank: 3rd)

There was a glass half-full/half-empty aspect to the power play in Week 4.  On the plus side, the Caps had a fairly efficient week – two goals on 17 shots (11.8 percent shooting) in 13:08 of power play ice time. On the other hand, getting an 0-for-6 in shooting (and only one shot on goal in each of the last two games of the week) was probably not in the plan for Alex Ovechkin.  Last year’s power play goal-scoring leader has not had a power play goal since Game 3 against San Jose on October 14th.  He has 16 power play shots on goal for the season, not much different on a per game basis than last season (1.60 per game compared to 1.69 last season); it is just his shooting is off (6.25 percent compared to 9.84 percent last season).

Penalty Killing: 3-11/72.7 percent (season: 80.6 percent; rank: 17th)

When the Caps denied the Tampa Bay Lightning a goal on two power play opportunities on Saturday, it broke a five game streak in which the Caps allowed at least one power play goal.  It was not an especially efficient week.  The Caps allowed 15 shots on goal in 12:39 of power play ice time.  It was not all that effective, either.  Washington allowed three goals on nine shots in the first two games of the week before shackling the Lightning in the last game of the week.  This was a place where Holtby stood out in a good way in goal.  He stopped 10 of 11 power play shots, lifting him into 13th place in shorthanded save percentage among 41 goalies playing in at least four games.

Even Strength Goals For/Goals Against: 5-9 / minus-4 (season, 5-on-5 goals for/goals against ratio:1.11; rank: T-13th)

It was not a good week for the Caps in this regard.  They were lit up in shots on goal by Vancouver to start the week (outshot at even strength, 30-19), but they came on at the end of the week (49-37 to the good).  Opponents just feasted on the Caps in terms of efficiency, though, shooting to a 13.4 percent mark at even strength for the week, while the Caps were only at 7.4 percent.  How odd was it?  Marcus Johansson scored as many even strength goals in Week 4 as he did in all of last season (2).

Faceoffs:  77-for-155 / 49.6 percent (season: 49.3 percent; rank: 19th)

The Caps were one draw under 50 percent for the week, but they did manage a good week in the defensive end (57.5 percent).  What set the week apart was the incidences more than the percentages by zone.  The Caps took 57 draws in the offensive zone (47.4 percent), only 40 percent (57.5 percent).  It was the defensive zone draw that got away that proved critical in the Caps’ loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday.  Steven Stamkos won a draw cleanly from Nicklas Backstrom, and Jason Garrison coverted into the game-winning goal in the Caps’ 4-3 loss to the Lightning.  That draw put Backstrom one under for the week in the defensive end, while he was above 50 percent in other two zones in taking 53 draws (winning 28), more than twice as many as any other Capital.  The second highest number of draws (24) was taken by Andre Burakovsky, who had a good week (58.3 percent).

Goals by Period:

No secret what the problem was here.  After holding opponents even over the first two periods, the Caps had their lunch eaten in front of them to the tune of a 5-0 margin.  They allowed the game winning goals in the losses to Detroit and Tampa Bay in the third period, and with having allowed a third period empty net goal against Vancouver, the Caps allowed third period goals in each of the three games for the week.

In the end…

Playing well in terms of possession only goes so far.  When the team gets no standings points for the week when winning the possession wars (a theme spilling over from Week 3), it is frustrating.  The best that can be said is that if the Caps continue to “play” as they have, the wins will come.  They have to get better than a .750 save percentage from Braden Holtby in the third period of games, though.  And, they have to get their primary scoring to rise to the level of their secondary scoring.  You know, the usual things a team needs in its performance numbers to win.

Three Stars:
  • First Star: Marcus Johansson (2-1-3, minus-3, four shots on goal, Corsi minus-3)
  • Second Star: Andre Burakovsky (0-2-2, minus-1, 58.3 percent on draws)
  • Third Star: Justin Peters (0-1-0, 30 saves on 33 shots, 28-for-30 at even strength)

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