Week 22 was an odd week for the Washington Capitals.
They lost ugly to a division rival, lost in
overtime to another division rival while allowing a player to score five goals
against them for only the second time in team history, but bookending the week
were a pair of wins, including one over their arch rival, to give the Caps a
second-straight winning week that felt like anything but.
A second straight two-win week, while hardly the stuff to
inspire handsprings, is encouraging after three straight losing weeks. The problem, though, is that the Caps went
1-1-1 against Metropolitan Division opponents.
The Caps might be bending that curve a bit, though. Their overall record against the Metro at the
end of Week 22 stands at 11-12-2 with three games remaining (at Columbus, at
Pittsburgh, and hosting the New York Rangers).
The Caps’ three games in Week 22 against Metro teams went loss/overtime
loss/win. When added to a win over the
Pittsburgh Penguins on February 23rd, the Caps are 2-1-1 against
Metro teams after losing four in a row against division rivals. On the other hand, and in a strange twist of
fate, the Penguins are the only Metro team that the Caps have beaten since
January 18th, having done so twice.
What should not get lost in the divisional noise in Week 22
is that the Caps beat the Minnesota Wild on the road to open the week. That win broke a four-game road losing streak
for the Caps that had been their longest of the season.
Offense: 4.00/game (season: 3.44/2nd)
It is hard to find fault in a week in which the Caps scored
four or more goals three times in four games.
Ten different Capitals shared in the 16 goals scored. Alex Ovechkin led the club with four goals,
posted in two-goal games against Minnesota and the New York Rangers. His second goal against the Rangers forced
overtime in that game and gained the Caps a standings point; it also lifted
into a tie with Boston’s David Pastrnak for the league lead in goals (47),
although Pastrnak reclaimed the lead with a goal against Tampa Bay on Saturday
night. The two multi-goal games gave
Ovechkin a league-leading 13 multi-goal games this season and 145 for his
career, fourth all-time.
Three other Caps had multi-goal weeks. Richard Panik, Nic Dowd, and Garnet Hathaway
had a pair apiece. Dowd had the first
multi-goal game of his career when he posted a pair in the Caps’ 5-2 win over
the Penguins to end the week. Hathaway’s
two goals gave him goals in three of his last six games at week’s end after
suffering through a 24-game streak without a goal. Panik’s two goals, one to start the week
against Minnesota and the other to end it against Pittsburgh, ended a slump in
which he went without a goal for 13 straight games.
The Caps had 15 skaters record points for the week, Richard Panik
leading the way with six (2-4-6). The
six points over four games gave him his longest points streak as a Capital
(four games) and matched his point total over his previous 14 games. The balance was evident with Ovechkin
registering five points (4-1-5), and four different Caps posting four points:
Carl Hagelin (1-3-4), Nic Dowd (2-2-4), Nicklas Backstrom (1-3-4), and Ilya
In an odd result, Hagelin matched Ovechkin’s shot total for
the week (11), aided by Ovechkin not recording a shot on goal in the 5-2 win
over the Penguins to close out the week.
John Carlson added ten shots on goal of his own. He also had three assists to hit the 60
assist mark for the season, a career-high and making him only the second
defenseman in Caps history to hit the 60-assist mark. Scott Stevens did it twice (60 assists in
1987-1988 and 61 assists in 1988-1989).
Carlson became just the fourth defensemen since 2005-2006 to post at
least 15 goals and at least 60 assists in a season (15-60-75), joining Nicklas
Lidstrom (16-64-80 in 2005-2006), Erik Karlsson (16-66-82 in 2015-2016), and
Brent Burns (16-67-83 in 2018-2019).
Defense: 4.00/game (season: 3.09/T-18th)
The Caps have had their problems on the defensive side of
the puck. It went from bad to worse when
the Caps started the week allowing three goals to the Minnesota Wild, then five
goals to the Philadelphia Flyers, and finally six goals to the New York
Rangers, five of those goals scored by Mika Zibanejad, including the overtime
game-winner in the Rangers’ 6-5 win. It
was only the second time in Capitals history that the club allowed a player to
score five goals in a single game.
Sergei Fedorov scored all five goals, including the overtime
game-winner, on December 26, 1996 when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Caps, 5-4
The 6-5 overtime loss to the Rangers made it ten consecutive
games that the Caps allowed an opponent three or more goals and the sixth
consecutive game of three or more goals allowed on the road.
The week had an odd twist to it in that the Caps were either
stingy, twice holding the Flyers and Penguins under 30 shots (29 and 28,
respectively), or generous, allowing Minnesota 40 shots and the Rangers 39
shots on goal. The Caps have been a bit
leaky in this regard lately, allowing opponents more than 30 shots in six of
nine games through Week 22. The Caps did
limit the Flyers and Penguins to fewer than 40 shot attempts at 5-on-5 (34 and
39, respectively), ending a six-game streak in which they allowed 40 or more
shot attempts at fives.
Goaltending: 4.02 / .882 (season: 2.93 / .902 / 1 shutout)
When the defense struggles, the goalies’ numbers take the
hit, and both goalies did just that in Week 22.
Braden Holtby got the call three times for the week, and what
distinguished his performance, not in a good way, was how his save percentages
deteriorated from period to period -- .929 in first period (26 saves on 28
shots), .909 I second periods (30 saves on 33 shots), and .861 in third periods
(31 saves on 36 shots). The detail was a
bit different, though. Holtby faced
fewer than ten shots in five of nine regulation periods he played this week and
was perfect in four of them (he allowed two goals on four third period shots
against the Flyers). In the four
regulation period in which he faced more than ten shots, he stopped 57 of 65
shots (.877 save percentage).
Ilya Samsonov was in goal for one game this week and allowed
six goals on 39 shots in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Rangers. It was his fifth straight loss over six appearances
(0-4-1) in which he stopped 133 of 153 shots (.869 save percentage). It is quite a reversal from his 11-win streak
from November 20th through January 31st over which he
stopped 278 of 297 shots (.936).
Power Play: 1-for-10/10.0 percent (season: 19.5 percent/17th)
The Caps are in a serious slump on their power play. Week 22 was the fifth time in the last eight
weeks that they finished under 15 percent for the week. Over those eight weeks they are 13-for-83
(15.5 percent), 24th in the league over that span. Only once in that span did they score two
power play goals in a game (February 13th at Colorado).
The Caps did not apply a lot of power play pressure in Week
22, at least in terms of shot volumes.
They had 15 shots on goal in 18:15 of power play ice time. Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson had four shots
on goal apiece, although they got to them in different ways. Ovechkin got his over the first three games
of the week, while Wilson recorded all of his in the game against the Rangers.
Ovechkin scored the Caps’ lone power play goal of the week
on the Caps’ first power play of the week, that on a 5-on-3 advantage against
Minnesota. They then went 0-f0r-9 over
the remainder of the week.
Penalty Killing: 14-for-20/70.0 percent (season: 82.8 percent/5th)
Twenty shorthanded situations faced is quite a volume for a
week’s work. The Caps have not faced
that many shorthanded situations in a single week since Week 18 of the
2015-2016 season when they went 17-for-20 on the penalty kill. The impressive, for lack of a better word,
part of the penalty kill in Week 22 was that the Caps spent more than half a
game – 34:31 in ice time – killing penalties.
The heavy penalty killing workload pushed the Caps over 400 minutes in
shorthanded ice time, the only team in the league to top that mark through Week
The Caps went shorthanded five or more times three times
this week, bringing their total of such games to 17 for the season. They are 10-5-2 in those games, but it is a
dangerous way to play.
Faceoffs: 104-for-232 / 44.8 percent (season: 48.4 percent/28th)
Another week, another under-50 percent effort in the circle,
but Week 22 comes with a twist. The Caps
finished the week over 50 percent in the offensive zone (32-for-61/52.5
percent), but they took 36 fewer draws in the offensive end of the ice than
they did in the defensive end, where they were just 38-for-97 (39.2 percent).
On an individual level, there was the good and the bad, and
there was a pattern to it. Nicklas
Backstrom, Lars Eller, and Evgeny Kuznetsov all finished over 50 percent in the
offensive zone, but in the other end, they all finished under 50 percent. On the other hand, Nic Dowd struggled in both
ends, finishing under 50 percent in both, but did top 50 percent in neutral zone
Goals by Period:
The Caps did well in first periods, even if they were a bit
misleading. Of eight first period goals
scored for the week, the Caps had three of them in the 4-3 win over Minnesota
to open the week, and they had three more in the 5-2 win over Pittsburgh to
wrap up the week.
The progress by period of goals against was another matter
and not as pleasant to contemplate. The
Caps were leakier as games went on, allowing seven goals in four third periods
for the week, almost half of the week’s total goals allowed. Those seven goals allowed in the third period
brought the Caps’ total for the season to 74, placing them in the top-ten in
third period goals allowed (tied with Florida, Ottawa, and Los Angeles, ot a
neighborhood in which they might want to find themselves).
The saving part of the week is that the Caps did get out of
it with 93 third period goals scored for the season. That is tops in the league, five more than
The recent struggles of the Capitals have brought this
year’s team into an almost identical record as last year’s club through an
equivalent number of games.
Unsurprisingly, the similarities between last year and this extend to
the scoring for and against, this year’s club scoring only four more goals than
last year’s club and the scoring defense now being identical for the two
years. The Caps are continuing to limit
5-on-5 shot attempts this year compared to last, and the possession effects appear
in the lower blocked shot and takeaway numbers.
Credited hits run counter to that trend, with this year’s club running
almost ten percent ahead of last year’s club, an unexpected result if a team is
better at dominating possession.
In the end…
Week 22 had a glass-half-full/glass-half-empty quality to
it. The Caps went 2-1-1, which continues
the improvement from their three-week streak of losing weeks, but losing twice
to division rivals, including the one now in a flatfooted tie with them in
record (the Flyers) hurts, and is part of a year-long struggle against
Metropolitan Division teams. But any
week that includes a win over the Penguins is not all bad, especially when it
is the win that closes a week and leaves fans happy. But with only 14 games left in the season,
the Caps are going to have to show more, especially in the defensive end of the
ice, to suggest they have a deep playoff run in the cards.
- First Star: Richard Panik (2-4-6, plus-5, one game-winning
goal, five hits, three blocked shots, plus-5 on-ice even strength goal
- Second Star: Nic Dowd (2-2-4, plus-4, first career
multi-goal game, nine hits)
- Third Star: Ilya Kovalchuk (1-3-4, plus-4, eight hits,
plus-4 on-ice even strength goal differential)
Captain rates the week…