Sunday, April 02, 2017

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was -- Week 25

Week 25 for the Washington Capitals was one that might be described as a three course meal.  They had a tasty appetizer, followed by a satisfying entrée, and ended it with deflated souffle.  It might be the stale cake that fans remember most, but let’s not complain about the entire meal.

Record: 2-1-0

The schedule for Week 25 called for three games to open a season-long five game road trip. It is a trip that will take the Caps through five cities, four states, one Canadian province, and three time zones.  The leading leg of it took the Caps on a roundabout route from Minnesota to Colorado to Arizona against three teams in various states of distress.  The Caps faced a Minnesota Wild team that was 2-9-1 in their previous 11 games before facing the Caps.  Washington took a two-goal lead into the last five minutes of the game, but needed overtime to subdue the Wild after losing that two goal lead in the last five minutes.  In Colorado they faced an Avalanche team with the worst record in the league, by far, and with a 3-12-0 record in their previous 15 games before facing the Caps.  The Caps had a three-goal lead late in the second period and almost gave it all back before scoring an empty net goal in the last two minutes of a 5-3 win. 

They never got the chance to hold a lead against the Arizona Coyotes, the team with the second-worst record in the league, in the last game of the week.  The Coyotes scored three goals in the first 14 minutes of the contest, held off a challenge by the Caps mid-way through the game, and then dispatched the Caps in a 6-3 decision.

Offense: 4.33/game (season: 3.23 /game; rank: 2nd)

Washington had no problems scoring goals in Week 25.  They did it against struggling teams, but they did do it.  The Wild had allowed 39 goals over their previous 11 games before facing the Caps, and the Avalanche and Coyotes had the two worst scoring defenses in the league.  It was not surprising that an offense as deep and skilled as the Caps averaged more than four goals for the week.  The two games in which the Caps scored five goals to open the week were the first instances of consecutive games with five or more goals since the put together a four-game streak of such games in Games 53-56 in early February.  It was the first time they recorded five or more goals in consecutive games on the road since they scored seven goals in each of Games 44 and 45 against Pittsburgh and St. Louis in mid-January last season.

On an individual level, Alex Ovechkin led the Caps in goal scoring for the week with three, all of them coming in the 5-4 overtime win over Minnesota in the first game of the week.  It was his 17th career hat trick, the most in the NHL since he came into the league in 2005-2006 (Eric Staal has 13).  In your odd Ovechkin fact of the day, those 17 career hat tricks are as many as any NHL player has accumulated since the 1994-1995 season.  Former Cap Peter Bondra had 17 hat tricks from 1994 to 2004.

T.J. Oshie was the other Capital with a multiple goal week (two), and he had both of his goals in that same game against the Wild.  It was Oshie’s sixth multi-goal game of the season for the Caps and second in five games, since recording his only hat trick of the season in a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 18th. 

Marcus Johansson had himself a whale of a week.  With a goal and seven assists, his eight points led the Caps in scoring, twice as many points as any other player.   The eight points made him a 50-point player for the first time in his seven-year career (23-33-56), and he finished the week on a five-game points streak (1-10-11). He is the 15th player and the seventh on the current Caps team to have recorded at least one 50-point season since the 2004-2005 lockout.

Defense: 4.33/game (season: 2.22 /game; rank: 1st)

It was an odd week for the Caps on defense, and not in a good way.  There was the 13 goals in three games, which was bad enough.  But there was the odd result for the week of what happened in terms of shots attempts allowed.  The Caps had a very nice week overall with a 53.65 percent Corsi-for at 5-on-5, fueled by holding opponents to a combined 51.23 shots per 60 5-on-5 minutes.  But how they got there was bizarre.  The Caps were underwater in both of their wins in Week 25 – 36.67 percent against Minnesota and 49.49 percent against Colorado – both of them wins.  They dominated Arizona at fives in the last game of the week with a 66.09 percent Corsi-for and holding the Coyotes to 41.32 shots per 60 5-on-5 minutes (numbers from   In all three games, the Caps lost the goals for and against at fives, 3-1 to Minnesota, 3-2 to Colorado, and 4-2 to Arizona.

What seems a bit more revealing is the overall shot attempts in close situations.  The Caps were under 50 percent for the week in their win at Minnesota (38.24 percent) and in the loss to Arizona (46.15 percent).  They did manage to get above 50 percent in their win over Colorado (55.0 percent), but it was not enough to save the week (47.00 percent over the three games; numbers from

Goaltending: 4.29 / .862 (season:  2.12 / .923 / 11 shutouts)

It was not a good week between the pipes, especially for Braden Holtby.  He got most of two game’ worth of work and struggled with it, going 1-1-0, 5.22, .818 in 115 minutes of work, getting pulled from and then sent back into the nets against Arizona to close the week.  He ended the week with an unenviable recent road record, going 2-3-0, 4.50, .843 in his last five games on the road.  It was a case of having poor first periods and going downhill from there.  His .857 first period save percentage was the only period above .800 for the week, going .789 in the second periods and .786 in the third periods of the two games he played.  He did stop the only shot he faced in the overtime win over Minnesota to open the week.

Philipp Grubauer got the middle game of the week and the last 6:48 of the second period against Arizona in relief of Holtby.  His performance was uneven, but certainly more solid than Holtby’s.  He had healthy save percentages in the first (.929) and third periods (.933) against Colorado, but his second period performance (.833) was off, and he had the odd experience of not having to face a shot on goal in that 6:48 he played against Arizona.

Power Play: 6-for-8 / 75.5 percent (season:  23.6 percent; rank: 3rd)

If there is one thing truly clicking for the Caps these days, it is the power play.  Washington had its best week of the season in goals scored (six) and efficiency (75.0 percent) of any week this season.  Half of those six goals came from Alex Ovechkin in recording his hat trick against Minnesota in the first game of the week.  He managed that feat on the only three power play shots he took in that game.  John Carlson, Marcus Johansson, and Nicklas Backstrom had the other three power play goals for the week.  Eight different players had power play points, Johansson leading that group with five points on the man advantage. 

It was an especially efficient week for the Caps on the power play.  They scored on half of their shots (6-for-12) and recorded 12 shots in just 8:08 of total power play time.  The Caps were successful in both of their power play opportunities this season, the first time they scored two power play goals in any of the 21 instances in which they had two power play opportunities.

Penalty Killing: 8-for-10/ 80.0 percent (season: 84.2 percent; rank: 7th)

It was a fair week on the penalty kill that might have ended superbly, but for an iffy effort against Arizona in the last game of the week.  Washington killed off all five shorthanded situations they faced against Minnesota, then skated off another three against Colorado.  With the chance for a perfect week, the Caps ended up allowing power play goals on both Coyote power plays to end the week, a disappointing outcome against a team that finished the week 26 in the league in power play efficiency overall and 23rd at home.

Those first two games were almost a clinic in penalty killing, holding the Wild to just four unsuccessful shots on goal in 9:53 of power play time, then holding the Avalanche to just three shots in six minutes of power play time.  Sure, the Avs had the worst home power play in the league to end the week, but the Wild finished the week as the second best home power play in the NHL.  It made it that much more disappointing to allow the Coyotes two goals on two shots in 2:41 with Arizona possessing the league’s eighth-worst home power play.

Faceoffs: 82-for-170 / 48.2 percent (season: 49.9 percent; rank: 14th)

Overall, the Caps had a difficult week in the circle, although they did improve as the week wore on, finishing with a 35.3 percent winning percentage in the first game of the week against Minnesota, then following it up with a 50.0 percent effort against Colorado, and then winning 57.1 percent of their draws against Arizona.  It was a different story by zone.  The Caps won 53.2 percent of their neutral zone draws for the week, but lost at both ends of the ice – 40.8 percent in the offensive zone and 49.2 percent in the defensive zone.

Three of the big four (ten or more faceoffs for the week) were at 50 percent or better for the week – Evgeny Kuznetsov (50.0), Jay Beagle (52.2) and Nicklas Backstrom (54.8).  Only Lars Eller among that group was under 50 percent for the week (43.8 percent).

Goals by Period:

It was tight for the Caps in Week 25 in terms of goals by period, finishing the week with a minus-1 goal differential in the first and third periods, while finishing with a plus-1 differential in the second period and overtime.  That first period differential was positive until allowing three goals to Arizona to put themselves in a deep hole out of which they could not climb in the last game of the week.  And it was the minus-1 that the Caps had against Minnesota in the third period of their game that sent the context to overtime before the Caps won.

Still, the Caps did maintain their positive goal differential in all three periods for the season, and overtime, and they even improved a bit on their comparatively weak second period (plus-2 for the season).

In the end…

Week 25 was the 17th winning week for the Caps this season and their third in a row, over which they are 7-2-1.  Still, that Arizona game sticks out, for falling behind so deeply and so quickly to start the game, for allowing six goals to a team that had trouble scoring against air in March, and for leaving two points on the table that could have given them a stranglehold on the top spot in the league standings.  It makes for a bit more urgency in the Caps’ Sunday evening contest in Columbus against the Blue Jackets.  That made Week 25 a week that was good, but one that could have been so much better.  Certainly better than the deflated souffle the Caps were left with to finish it.

Three Stars of the Week:
  • First Star: Marcus Johansson (1-7-8, even, 1-4-5 on the power play, five-game points streak to end the week)
  • Second Star: Alex Ovechkin (3-1-4, minus-1, hat trick, three power play goals on three power play shots, ten shots on goal 16 shot attempts, five hits)
  • Third Star: Kevin Shattenkirk (0-3-3, plus-1, seven shots on goal, ten shot attempts, two hits, two takeaways, nine blocked shots)

No comments: