A perfect record against three high-caliber terms, a power play that finally showed signs of life, an amazing week at 5-on-5, and a milestone achievement for the Captain against the team’s – and his – most bitter rival. In the regular season, it doesn’t get any better than this.
With three wins for the week, the Caps extended their season-long winning streak to eight games, their longest since a nine-game streak in Games 28 through 36 from December 12-30 last season. And when the Caps defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in the final game of the week, the team became the second-fastest to 60 points in team history, hitting that milestone in Game 42 (they did it in 39 games last season). The three wins for the week were especially noteworthy for who the Caps beat. In taking down the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Blackhawks, the Caps beat teams that closed Week 14 with a combined record of 80-35-16. They didn’t exactly beat a trio of tamata cans.
Offense: 5.00/game (season: 2.98 /game; rank: 2nd)
The Pittsburgh Penguins might not have an elite scoring defense, but the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks are top-ten scoring defenses. The Caps lit all three up for at least four goals and for a combined 15 goals for the week. Nine skaters recorded the 15 goals, and 16 different skaters had points. By the time the week was over, the Caps had four or more goals in three straight games and six of their last eight contests (averaging 4.38 per game, all of them wins).
Nicklas Backstrom tied for the team lead in goals for the week (three) and topped all Caps in points (eight). He had points in all three games, extending his personal points streak to five contests (3-7-10). He had goals in all three games for the week, the first time he had goals in three consecutive games since Games 43-45 (January 19 – February 2) last season against Columbus (two goals), Philadelphia, and Florida.
Alex Ovechkin tied Backstrom for the team lead in goals, one of them coming just 35 seconds into the first period against Pittsburgh to give him 1,000 points in his career. He added a goal for good measure and finished the week 3-3-6.
A club doesn’t get to averaging five goals for a week with just primary scoring, and the Caps got some from unusual places in Week 14. Jay Beagle had a pair of goals to begin and end the Caps’ scoring in a 6-0 win over Chicago. The odd part of that game, as much as the two goals, was his recording a career high eight shots on goal. Brett Connolly also had a pair of goals for the week, recording singles against Montreal and Pittsburgh. Tom Wilson chipped in his third goal of the season in the 6-0 win over Chicago. Lars Eller got his fourth of the season and first in ten games in what might have been the oddest goal-scoring play of the week when he chipped one off a Penguin stick, off Kris Letang’s helmet, and into an empty net to close the Caps; 5-2 win over Pittsburgh.
Defense: 1.00/game (season: 1.95 /game; rank: 1st)
In an odd way, the Caps underperformed their outcomes on defense. The 1.00 average of goals allowed is impressive, absolutely, but the Caps skated much closer to the margin in terms of shot attempts allowed. They finished the week with a 50.7 percent Corsi-for at 5-on-5 (numbers from Corsica.hockey), the relatively low number being largely due to the shot attempt advantage at fives that the Penguins had in the middle game of the week (45-35). The shot attempts did not turn into shots on goal though, as the Caps held an 84-62 edge at fives for the week (57.5 percent). Overall, the Penguins did manage 32 shots on goal, the only time the Caps’ defense has allowed more than 30 in their last nine games.
There wasn’t much to talk about in terms of on-ice victims of goals allowed, although it was a bit odd that three players – Matt Niskanen, Daniel Winnik, and Jay Beagle – should be on the ice for all three goals scored on the Caps in Week 14. Why? They were killing penalties. The Caps did not allow a 5-on-5 goal for the week, which might be the most amazing number of them all in a week full of them.
Goaltending: 1.00 / .962 / 1 shutout (season: 1.87 / .933 / 7 SO)
Braden Holtby announced with authority that he is back in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy this season. His overall numbers were amazing enough, but he was a perfect 55-for-55 stopping shots in the first and second periods of games, and he was a mind-bogglingly perfect 62-for-62 stopping pucks at 5-on-5. When he shutout the Chicago Blackhawks to close the week, it was his third shutout in five games, his fourth in ten appearances, and his fifth in 14 contests. Over those 14 contests, Holtby is 9-2-2 (one no-decision), 1.34, .950, with those five shutouts. In his last five games, since being pulled after 20 minutes against Toronto, he is 5-0-0, 0.60, .978, with three shutouts. Among 39 goalies with at least 1,000 minutes this season, he is now second in goals against average (1.85, to Devan Dubnyk’s 1.77), second in save percentage (.933 to Dubnyk’s .940) and first in shutouts (six). His even strength save percentage (.945) trails Dubnyk by just two points (.947). OK, so his 6-for-11 when shorthanded (.545 save percentage) might need some work.
Power Play: 3-for-6 / 50.0 percent (season: 18.0 percent; rank: 16th)
Three power play goals marked the most for the Caps in a week’s worth of play since Week 10, when they went 5-for-13. It was just the fourth time in 14 weeks this season that the Caps had at least three power play goals in a week, while the 50 percent conversion rate is a season-high. It might have been better had the Caps been awarded a power play against Chicago in the last game of the week. It was the second time this season that the Caps did not have a power play chance, the other one also at the hands of the Blackhawks in the Caps’ 3-2 overtime win on November 11th.
As for the games in which the Caps did get power play chances, they were 50 percent against both Montreal (1-for-2) and against Pittsburgh (2-for-4). Alex Ovechkin had two power play goals for the week, his first one (in the Montreal game) breaking a ten-game drought without a power play strike. His power play goal against Pittsburgh gave him his first multi-goal game since he had a hat trick against the St. Louis Blues on November 23rd, breaking a 21-game streak without a multi-goal game. Nicklas Backstrom had the other power play goal of the week for the Caps.
Overall, the Caps were reasonably efficient in what power play time they had. They scored their three goals on 12 shots over a span of 7:45 in power play time.
Penalty Killing: 8-for-11 / 72.7 percent (season: 86.1 percent; rank: 3rd)
Week 14 was that rare occurrence this season when the penalty killers were outperformed by the power play. The three power play goals allowed was the most the Caps let through since they allowed four in going 13-for-17 in Week 7, the only time this season in which they allowed more power play goals than those allowed this week. The 72.7 percent kill rate was the lowest weekly number for the season. The two power play goals allowed to the Penguins was just the second time in 22 games that the Caps allowed as many as two power play goals in a game and just the third time all season they did so. Oddly enough, all three of those instances have come at home.
Faceoffs: 101-for-170 / 59.4 percent (season: 50.7% / rank: 10th)
What makes the faceoff numbers noteworthy for the Caps in Week 14 is that they actually lost the first game of the week, winning only 27 of 58 draws to the Canadiens. Against Pittsburgh and Chicago, the Caps went a combined 74-for-112 (66.1 percent). Not that any of the three opponents were among the best in the circle (Montreal ranked 15th at the end of the week, Chicago 23rd, and Pittsburgh 26th), but it was still an outstanding week.
It was a big week for three of the big four taking draws. Nicklas Backstrom (63.0 percent), Lars Eller (69.0 percent), and Jay Beagle (61.5 percent) all finished over 60 percent for the week. Backstom had a most interesting line in the Pittsburgh game, winning 12 of 13 draws against Sidney Crosby.
By zone, the Caps did well in all three. They went 35-for-53 (66.0 percent) in the offensive zone, 32-for-59 (54.2 percent) in the defensive end, and 34-for-58 (58.6 percent) in the neutral zone.
Goals by Period:
As with much of the week, it would be difficult to do better in the scoring by period than the Caps had in Week 14. They scored first and in the first period in all three games for a 5-0 edge in goals, then they followed that up by shutting out teams in all three games in the second period while adding two goals of their own. That put games out of reach, but the Caps still managed to outscore opponents by an 8-3 margin in the third period, one of the goals scored an empty netter.
At the end of the week, Washington was first in the league in first period goal differential (+24) and fourth in third period goal differential (+14).
In the end…
Week 14 was arguably the best week overall for the Caps this season. It was a dominating week – all of the decisions by three or more goals – and it was achieved at the expense of some very good teams. There were a lot of excellent performances, the number of which might overshadow good ones, like T.J. Oshie going 1-4-5, plus-5; John Carlson getting three assists; or Karl Alzner recording his 500th consecutive game played. A week like the one Evgeny Kuznetsov had – a goal and two assists to bring him to 2-17-19, plus-8, in his last 19 games – can get lost in the wash. It is the good sort of problem the Caps would want, where they are getting contributions from up and down the roster on a game-to-game basis. It might not be the sort of week that can be sustained, but it did offer a glimpse into just how well this team is capable of playing.
- First Star: Alex Ovechkin (3-3-6, plus 5, 1,000th career point, 14 shots on goal, 22 shot attempts, three hits)
- Second Star: Nicklas Backstrom (3-5-8, plus-5, 34-for-54 on faceoffs (63.0 percent), 17th career four-plus point game (1-3-4 against Pittsburgh, tying Ovechkin for third most in the league since Backstrom came into the league))
- Third Star: Braden Holtby (3-0-0, 1.00, .962, one shutout)