Sunday, February 15, 2015

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was -- Week 19

In Week 19 the Washington Capitals hit a pothole on their way through their schedule.  A disappointing loss to a rival, an extra-time win in a place where success has been rare, and a flat performance to close the week made for what was an unusual result for the Caps lately -- a losing week.

Record: 1-2-0

The 12-week streak of non-losing weeks came to an end in Week 19.  Over those 12 weeks the Caps went 21-8-7 and likely cemented a playoff spot.  Week 19 was disturbing, though, for the manner in which the Caps came to lose two games this week.  They were flat as a crepe against the Flyers, a team against which the Caps are just 1-1-1 this season and only four goals scored in the three games (a 3-1 loss this week).  They were similarly flat against the Los Angeles Kings, getting their only goal from Alex Ovechkin and more than a third of their total shot attempts from Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.  Teams go through dead spots over the course of an 82-game season, and a 12-week streak of non-losing streaks might have made Caps fans (not to mention the team) a bit complacent.  The trick will be to avoid another “red” week in Week 20.

Offense: 2.33/game (season: 2.88 /game; rank: 9th)

When Jay Beagle ties for the team lead in goals for the week, it is not a very productive week overall.  No insult meant for Beagle, but fourth line offense is not what the club is going to be able to count on from game to game.  As for Beagle, his pair of goals and an assist against San Jose in the middle game of the week represented his first career three-point game in the NHL.  Alex Ovechkin also had two goals for the week, oddly enough each of them being the only goal the Caps scored against Philadelphia and Los Angeles in losses.  Nicklas Backstrom had three assists to lead the team in that column, but the odd part there was Brooks Orpik recording a pair to tie for the second-highest assist total. He tied with Evgeny Kuznetsov, who provided the primary assist on each of Ovechkin’s goals for the week.

Defense: 3.33/game (season: 2.46 /game; rank: 8th)

It was not the shot totals that did in the Caps in Week 19.  They allowed an average of 28.3 shots per game for the week and did not allow more than 30 in any of them.  They were out-attempted for the week, though, by a 174-164 margin.  It was worse at even strength.  The Caps were Corsi minus-30 at 5-on-5 over the three games and only 44.6 percent Corsi-for.  Fenwick was worse still, minus-28 and 43.1 percent.  It was not an especially good week for either John Carlson or Alex Ovechkin, both of whom were on ice for six of the ten goals against, Ovechkin for five of the eight even strength goals against.

Goaltending: 3.02 / .893 (season: 2.40 / .915 / 6 shutouts)

Braden Holtby did not have the best of weeks.  He had all the minutes played by goaltenders and had what for him was a difficult time of it.  He had a Jekyll and Hyde (and Hyde) week of it.  Stopping all 28 first period shot he faced in three games, he was just 27-for-32 in the second periods of games (.844 save percentage), made worse by allowing three goals on 13 shots in the second period against San Jose.  In the third periods of games he was slightly worse, stopping 19 of 23 shots (.826).  The odd stat for him this week was facing only two power play shots, one in each of the last two games of the week.  He allowed a goal on the first of them, against the Sharks, and stopped the only one he faced against the Kings.  After a stretch in which he was 17-3-6, 1.90, .936, with five shutouts over a 26-game stretch of appearances, this might have been due.

Power Play: 2-for-10 / 20.0 percent (season: 23.2 percent; rank: 4th)

The ten power play opportunities in Week 19 was just the eighth time in 19 weeks that the Caps enjoyed ten or more man advantages.  It was a middle-of-the road sort of week, even with the comparatively large number of chances.  There was a sameness in the goals – Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom had points on both (Troy Brouwer recording a goal and Evgeny Kuznetsov an assist to round out the point total), but otherwise it was a power play that lacked for efficiency.  The Caps recorded only 11 power play shots on goal in 16:15 of power play ice time.  Alex Ovechkin had six of them, while five other Caps had one apiece.

Penalty Killing: 3-for-5 / 60.0 percent / (season: 80.3 percent; rank: 20th)

Part of effective penalty killing, especially for an inefficient penalty kill such as that the Caps have had for most of the season, is limiting opportunities.  Twice in Week 19 the Caps held an opponent to a single power play chance.  Twice they allowed a goal.  Twice they allowed a power play goal on the only shot on goal by the opponent.  Not that it mattered a great deal in the overall scheme of the week.  One power play goal was an empty net power play score by the Flyers in their 3-1 win over the Caps, the other was against the Sharks in what would be the Caps’ only win of the week.  Overall the Caps allowed two goals on five shots on three power plays covering 6:49 of shorthanded ice time.  Given the empty net power play goal scored on them in the first game of the week, it wasn’t as bad a week on the penalty kill as it might seem.  That does not, however, make it good.

Even Strength Goals for/Goals Against: 5-8 / minus-3 (season, 5-on-5 goals for/goals against ratio: 1.08; rank: 12th)

Week 19 turned on the even strength goal differential.  Washington was outscored, 2-0, at even strength by the Flyers and by a 3-1 margin against the Kings in the two losses for the week.  In those games the Caps were outshot by a 50-34 margin at evens.  In their lone win the Caps were outshot by a one-shot margin (29-28) at even strength and outscored the Sharks, 4-3.   The top line was largely absent at 5-on-5, recording only one point for the week, an assist by Nicklas Backstrom against the Sharks (Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kunzetsov combined for an Ovechkin goal against the Kings at 4-on-4).

Faceoffs: 73-172 / 42.4 percent (season: 50.9 percent; rank: 13th)

The Caps lost Week 19 in the circle in a big way.  They lost all three games and both the offensive (31.0 percent) and defensive zones (43.1 percent) for the week.  The offensive zone performance was especially poor, given that their 10-for-24 effort against the Kings was the high-water mark.  The Caps were a combined 8-for-34 against Philadelphia and San Jose (23.5 percent) in the offensive zone.  No Capital taking ten or more draws for the week finished as high as 50 percent overall. Eric Fehr came closest at 22-for-47 (46.8 percent).

Goals by Period:

The Caps were fine for one period in Week 19, scoring the only first period goal over the three games.  The second and third periods were another story.  Even with the second period of the San Jose accounted for (the Sharks outscored the Caps, 3-1), it was a minus week in the middle frame, scoring one other goal and allowing two others.  The third period was utterly forgettable, allowing two goals to the Flyers (one empty-netter), one to San Jose, and two more to the Kings.  The Caps finished the week having allowed the fourth-fewest first period goals in the league (35), but they fell out of the top third in rankings for goals allowed in the second period (11th) and were on the verge of falling out of the top third in goals allowed in the third period (tied for 10th).

In the end…

Week 19 was going to be a difficult week.  They opened against one of their oldest and most bitter rivals, a team against which they have had an odd difficulty scoring against this season (the Flyers are 24th in scoring defense).  Then it was off to California, which has not been kind to the Caps over the years, especially in San Jose and Los Angeles.  The Caps broke a string of more than 20 seasons not beating the Sharks in regulation or overtime with their 5-4 win in overtime, but they fell for the fifth straight time to the Kings in Los Angeles.  The Caps did not play above expectations in Week 19, and given their two month run going into this week probably did not meet them, either.  Week 20 does not get appreciably easier, a four-game week that will include Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, and the New York Islanders, all of which are playoff-eligible.  It might be among their toughest tests of the season.

Three Stars:
  • First Star: Jay Beagle (2-1-3, plus-3, no goals scored against on ice, goals on his only two shots on goal for the week)
  • Second Star:  Alex Ovechkin (2-1-3, points in all three games, 16 shots on goal, 30 of the Caps’ 164 shot attempts for the week)
  • Third Star:  Nicklas Backstrom (0-3-3, recorded his 18th multi-point game of the season (tied for most in the league))

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