We love the work of Elliotte Friedman, whose “31 Thoughts” in podcast and column form are required listening/reading for hockey fans. So, in the spirit of respect, the cousins and I are going to brazenly steal the format as the Caps hit the 31-game mark for the season. So, here are “31 Things”…
1. The Caps hit the 20-win mark in Game 29 of the regular season. It was just the third time in team history that the Caps hit the 20-win mark in fewer than 30 games. They did it in 1991-1992, when they went 20-8-0 in their first 28 games, and again in 2015-2016, going 20-6-2 in their first 28 games.
2. Washington is the most lethal team on the power play in recent NHL history. Since 2012-2013 through 31 games this season, the Caps have converted 23.3 percent of their man advantages. Pittsburgh is second over that period (22.3 percent).
3. This year’s club is on pace to have the best road power play in team history, since 1977-1978, when the league started compiling team power play statistics. Through 31 games they have converted 14 of 51 power plays on the road for a 27.5 percent conversion rate. In the abbreviated 2012-2013, the Caps were 22-for-83 in road power plays (26.5 percent). For full seasons, the highest conversion rate before this season was in 2016-2017, when the Caps went 29-for-116 on the road (25.0 percent).
4. Through 31 games this season, the Caps are on a pace to post their best points percentage in team history (.790). The 2009-2010 team had a .738 points percentage. The Caps are on a pace through 31 games to finish with 130 points.
5. The last two-plus-31 games seasons, John Carlson has 78 power play points, tops among all defensemen and nine more than second-place Keith Yandle.
6. John Carlson has 43 points through 31 games. He is only the fourth player in team history to reach the 40-point mark through 31 games on the schedule and the first defenseman to do it. Alex Ovechkin did it three times (2006-2007; 2008-2009; and 2018-2019), Dennis Maruk did it twice (1080-1981 and 1981-1982), and Robert Lang did it (2003-2004). Only Maruk in team history scored more than 43 points in the team’s first 31 games, posting 48 points in 25 games through 31 games of the 1982-1983 schedule.
7. Alex Ovechkin has goals against every NHL team over his career. No surprise there. He has assists against every team, too, but one – Vegas. OK, so it’s only five games, but there it is.
8. Through 31 games this season, the Caps are the only team in the NHL that, since the 2004-2005 lockout, compiled an aggregate shooting percentage over ten percent (10.1).
9. Ovechkin has eight power play goals in 31 games. It is the seventh time in his career he posted eight or more in the team’s first 31 games, most of any player in team history. Four players did it twice: Peter Bondra, Dave Christian, Dennis Makuk, and Mike Ridley.
10. John Carlson has four game-winning goals in 31 games. He is the only defenseman in Caps history with that many in the team’s first 31 games.
11. Wilson has four game-winning goals. That number matches his career total through last season.
12. Over the last 40 years, know which Capital had the best shooting percentage over the first 31 games? Alex Ovechkin?...nope. Peter Bondra?...nope. Alexander Semin? T.J. Oshie? Dennis Maruk? Nope, nope, and nope. It was Alan May, who had five goals on 13 shots (38.5 percent) in 28 games in the first 31 games of the 1991-1992 schedule.
13. Through 31 games, did you think Ilya Samsonov would have a better save percentage (.917) than Braden Holtby (.910)?
14. …or goals against average (2.42 to 2.78)?
15. …or that Samsonov would have as many wins as Henrik Lundqvist (seven)?
16. The league now compiles missed shots that hit the iron of the goal frame. So far, the Caps have hit a post, a crossbar, or both, in 24 of their 31 games. The 36 posts or crossbars hit in those 31 games are, by far, most in the league (Dallas: 28).
17. The Caps scored three goals in Los Angeles in the middle game of their three-game trip to California. Think that’s not a big deal? The Caps haven’t scored more than three goals in Los Angeles against the Kings since February 10, 2001, when they beat the Kings, 4-3. That’s 13 straight games in L.A. without scoring more than three goals in a game.
18. The three goals that the Caps scored against the Ducks in Anaheim on Friday night broke a four-game streak scoring fewer than three goals in Anaheim.
19. The Caps have now beaten 20 different goaltenders so far this season. Ryan Miller became the 20th when the Caps beat the Ducks, 3-2, on Friday (they beat Cam Talbot and Sergei Bobrovsky twice this season).
20. Given this franchise’s early history, this might not seem like much, but this year’s team already has more standings points (49) than three other Caps teams compiled in a full season: 1977-1978 (48), 1975-1976 (32), and the infamous inaugural team of 1974-1975 (21). Perhaps more impressive, this team is just three points short of the 1995-1995 team (52) and eight points short of the 2012-2013 team (57), both of which played abbreviated 48-game seasons and both of which made the playoffs.
21. The Caps have left the impression at times of taking a lot of penalties. However, they are averaging 9:42 in penalty minutes per game. That is the fifth-lowest average in team history to date.
22. Seven of the team’s 22 wins have come by three or more goals. That is already more such wins than seven other teams in franchise history.
23. More impressive, this Caps team has 11 one-goal wins. Sure, this is the era of the game occasionally decided by the freestyle competition, but the 11 wins are still more than 15 teams in franchise history.
24. Spotting a team the first goal hasn’t mattered to this team so far. Through 31 games, the Caps are 8-3-2 when allowing the first goal. That .615 winning percentage is best in team history so far, eclipsing the .533 that the 2009-2010 team had (16-8-6).
25. At the other end, this year’s Caps team is the only one in team history to date to have a .500 winning percentage when trailing after two periods (.500/4-3-1). The 2009-2010 team was 8-10-4 (.364).
26. John Carlson is averaging 1.39 points per game through 31 games. Of more than 3,000 instances of a defenseman playing in 30 or more games in a season since 2005-2006, that is the highest points-per-game by a large margin, far outpacing the 1.09 points per game posted by Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang in 35 games in the 2012-2013 season.
27. The Caps’ 14 road wins through 31 games is the most they posted in any 31-game start in team history. The 1991-1992 team had 12 road wins through 31 games.
28. Todd Reirden won his 70th game as a head coach on Friday when the Caps beat the Ducks, 3-2. It gave him a points percentage of .677 (70-30-13), the second-best points percentage in league history among coaches with at least 100 games. Tom Johnson was 142-43-23 (.738) with Boston from 1970-1971 through 1972-1973.
29. Since the Caps came into the league in 1974-1975, no team has scored more overtime goals through Friday night (147, tied with Pittsburgh).
30. In that same vein, the Caps have more one-goal wins than any other club since they came into the league (619) through Friday night.
31. Next time, Cheerless is doing this list.