Sunday, January 31, 2021

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 3

And they keep on rollin’.  The Washington Capitals had a full slate of four games in Week 3 and earned points in all of them to finish the week with a club record for consecutive games with points earned to open a season.  The week left the Caps two points clear of the rest of the East Division and with the best record in the league.

Record: 3-0-1

The Caps have been playing close to the margin in the early going.  They had three one-goal decisions in Week 3, splitting two decisions in extra time and beating the Islanders in the first of their two-game set, 3-2, on Tuesday.  Of their nine games so far, the Caps have played to seven one-goal decisions with a 4-0-3 record in those games, and to that add the season opener in which Washington scored an empty net goal in a one-goal game to beat Buffalo, 6-4, and it has been close calls for the most part in the early part of the schedule.  Nevertheless, the Caps still have a franchise best nine straight games with points to open a season, topping the seven straight games (7-0-0) they had in 2011-2012.

Offense: 4.00/game (season: 3.78/3rd)

It was a good week in what has been a good early season for the Caps.  Despite the fact that the team had 71 goals from last season sitting on the bench for three games (Alex Ovechkin: 48; Evgeny Kuznetsov: 19; Dmitry Orlov: 4) and another 21 in Tom Wilson missing two games, the Caps scored 16 goals in four games and in all four posted three or more.  They have three of more goals in eight of nine games so far and twice posted six goals.

Week 4 was a balanced week for the Caps among the skaters.  Twelve different skaters shared in the 16 goals, four of them – Conor Sheary, John Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom, and Justin Schultz – each with a pair.  Washington had 18 skater among the 23 to dress post points.  Backstrom led the way with eight points (2-6-8), and Jonas Siegenthaler was the only skater playing in all four games without a point.

It was a big week for the defense on offense.  As a group, the seven defensemen to dress posted six goals, led by Carlson and Schultz (two apiece), and five had points, led again by Carlson and Schultz (both 2-4-6).  Brenden Dillon jumped in with three even strength points (all assists) to tie Carlson and Schultz in that category.

Defense: 2.75/game (season: 3.00/T-18th)

If one looked only at this area, you might think the Caps had a difficult week.  The allowed 30 or more shots on goal in all four games, and the shots allowed topped 40 twice.  No team in the league allowed more than the 38.5 shots per game allowed by the Caps in Week 3.  It was not a fluke of shot attempts getting to the net in unusual quantities, either.  The Caps allowed 217 shot attempts at 5-on-5 in the four games, most in the league by a significant margin (Anaheim: 202 shot attempts allowed at 5-on-5 in four games).  The 68 shot attempts the Caps allowed to Boston in the 4-3 overtime win to finish the week were the most allowed by a team in any game this season.  Small wonder that the Bruins enjoyed an overall 88-43 edge in shot attempts in that game.

Goaltending: 2.69 / .929 (season: 2.91 / .909)

It was The Vitek Vanecek Show in Week 3.  The rookie got all four games with Ilya Samsonov sitting out under COVID protocol and Craig Anderson perhaps not quite ready for prime time.  He stepped up, big time, with the added responsibility.  No goalie in the league faced more rubber in Week 3 (155 shots), and none had more saves than Vanecek (144).  His .929 save percentage ranked ninth among goalies facing at least 50 shots.  His .954 even strength save percentage was fifth of 29 goalies in that group.  Vanecek did it with consistency.  He posted a .930 or better save percentage in three of the four games and a .919 save percentage or better in the first, second, and third periods he played for the week.

Power Play: 6-for-9 / 66.7 percent (season: 44.4 percent/1st)

The Caps led the league in power play conversion rate in Week 3 and were, in fact, the only team to convert more than 50 percent of their power play chances (Toronto: 41.7 percent).  Five players shared in the six powerplay goals scored for the week, John Carlson with a pair with Tom Wilson, Richard Panik, T.J. Oshie, and Nicklas Backstrom providing the others.  Eight players posted power play points, Backstrom leading that group with five.  This was the first week the Caps finished over 50 percent on its power play since Week 25 of the 2016-2017, when they went 6-for-8 (75.0 percent).

Penalty Killing: 10-for-15 / 66.7 percent (season: 75.8 percent/T-21st)

What the power play taketh, the penalty kill giveth back.  It was a double whammy for the Caps in Week 3 with giving up 15 power play chances in the four games and allowing five goals.  The penalty kill finished 27th in the league for the week.  It was not so much the time, the Caps’ 24:38 in penalty killing ice time ranking seventh-most in the league, nor was it the shots, with 23 shots in that 24:38 of ice time (less than a shot on goal per penalty killing minute).  And it was not the quality of the opponent; only Boston came into the week in the top half of the power play rankings of the three opponents.  And the nature of the opponents scoring power play goals – Eric Staal, Colin Miller, Victor Olafsson, Anders Lee, and Nick Ritchie – suggest a decent, but not elite level of scorer.  It was just a bad week.

Faceoffs: 105-for-223 / 47.1 percent (season: 45.4 percent/28th)

A below-50 percent is not much cause for celebration in this category, but it could have been worse.  Boston came into the week ranked fourth in faceoff winning percentage, and the Caps were 22-for-49, the 44.9 percent being lower than the week as a whole, but given the absence of Lars Eller to take a share of draws, not a bad outcome.  Buffalo was tenth coming into the week, and the Caps were 34-for-70 (48.6 percent). 

Eller, injured against the Islanders, was missed in the second half of the week after posting a 57.1 winning percentage to open the week (16-for-28).  That led all Caps taking ten or more draws.  Nic Dowd was the other Capital to finish over 50 percent in that group (54.3 percent).  Where the team has its struggles was in the defensive end, where they went 38-for-88 (43.2 percent).

Goals by Period:

The Caps have had their issues with the second period this season, but not in Week 3.  It started peacefully enough with the Caps scoring single goals in the second periods against Buffalo and the New York Islanders to open the week.  But then, the Caps lowered the boom on the Islanders in the middle period of their rematch on Thursday.  After posting the Isles to a 3-0 lead in the first period, Washington scored five second period goals to take a lead in a 6-3 win.  They added a single goal in the second period against Boston to finish the week with a 9-4 goal differential in the middle periods of games for the week.  It made up for an otherwise largely break-even score in the first and last periods of games in Week 3.


The year-over-year numbers look more than a bit odd.  Shots from last year to this year, down.  Shots allowed, up.  Power play chances, half of what they were through nine games last season.  Almost twice as many power play goals allowed.  Faceoff winning percentage, down.  Shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5, down.  One could reasonably think, if they didn’t know the Caps’ record, that this team was lagging behind last year’s in wins and losses.   Of course, we do know what the Caps’ record is, but it is a signal that things under the surface might not be as rosy as the top line numbers suggest.  Still, it shines a light on the importance of banking points, even when the underlying performance is less than impressive.

In the end…

Wins are wins, and the rest is noise.  That’s the bottom line, but the Caps had their moments to give fans heartburn.  Falling behind by three to the Islanders before roaring back.  Giving up a three-goal lead to Boston before winning in overtime.  It speaks to a certain resiliency the team is building that will keep it in more games than one might otherwise were salvageable.  But in the end, wins are wins, points are points, and the Caps have as many or more of each than any team in the East Division.  It is a good thing, too, what with the Caps wrapping up their two-game set against Boston, visiting Madison Square Garden to take on the precocious Rangers, and ending Week 4 with a the first of a two-game set with Philadelphia, who tormented the Caps last season.  The wild ride continues.

Three Stars:

  • First Star: Nicklas Backstrom (2-6-8, plus-1, one power play goal, five power play points, 12 shots on goal, four blocked shots (tied for team lead among forwards), four takeaways (led team))
  • Second Star: Vitek Vanecek (2.69, .929, tied team record for consecutive games with standings points earned by a goaltender to start his career in team history)
  • Third Star: Justin Schultz (2-4-6, plus-5 (tied for team lead), three power play points, ten shots on goal)


Saturday, January 30, 2021

A TWO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 9: Capitals 4 - Bruins 3 (OT)

The Washington Capitals opened the final two-game set of their season-opening home stand hosting the Boston Bruins at Capital One Arena.  The teams came into the game separated by two points in the standings, with the Caps holding the top spot in the East Division, and when it was over, the Caps expended their lead by a point with a 4-3 overtime win.

First Period

Boston came out flying, dominating possession over the first 18 minutes, but it was the Caps who scored first.  Nicklas Backstrom collected a loose puck at the Boston blue line and skated in, backing off the defense and ripping a shot high over the left shoulder of goalie Tuukka Rask to give the Caps the 1-0 lead at the 18:06 mark.

The Caps went on the penalty kill shortly thereafter, Richard Panik going off for a tripping call.  During the Bruins power play, Zdeno Chara took a puck to the face and was helped off the ice.  Boston was unable to convert with 45 seconds remaining on the power play to carry over into the second period.

-- Boston out-shot the Caps, 19-7, and the out-attempted the hosts, 34-13.

-- Carl Hagelin led the Caps with two shots and three shot attempts.

-- Alex Ovechkin was the only one of the COVID four that missed four games to return to the lineup for this game, and his score sheet line had no marks in 4:09 of ice time.

-- The Caps, in a reflection of Boston domination of the puck, were credited with 12 hits in the period to five for the Bruins.  Tom Wilson led with four.

Second Period

Boston did not convert the carryover portion of their power play, and it came back to bite them five minutes later.  Nicklas Backstrom settled the puck along the left wing wall and surveyed the defense as he worked the puck around Karson Kuhlman defending.  He laid the puck back to Brenden Dillon and the left point, and Dillon fed it across the zone to Trevor van Riemsdyk on the right side.  Van Riemsdyl work the puck around Nick Ritchie for a better shooting angle and fired a shot through a Tom Wilson screen over the left pad of Rask on the short side to make it 2-0, 5:22 into the period.

The Caps went on their first power play at the 8:39 mark when David Krejci was charged with a hooking call.  Tom Wilson made the B’s pay when he took a feed from Alex Ovechkin, cut across the middle, and shot across his body through a Richard Panik screen to beat Rask on the stick side, making it 3-0, 10:03 into the period.  The goal was later credited to Panik.

Boston got their second power play of the game 16:43 into the period when Garnet Hathaway was whistled for interference.  The Bruins made good on their chance, when a puck off the stick of David Krejci pinballed on its way to the net and past goalie Vitek Vanecek to make it a 3-1 game, 17:32 into the period.  Nick Ritchie was credited with the goal as last Bruin to touch the puck.

-- Boston held a 33-17 edge in shots through 40 minutes and a shot-attempts advantage of 60-33.

-- Alex Ovechkin finally made some crooked marks on the score sheet – two shots on goal, two attempts, three hits, a giveaway, and an assist with a plus-1 rating for the period.

-- The Caps had a 27-9 edge in credited hits through 40 minutes, 16-8 in blocked shots.

Third Period

It was a reasonably quiet period over the first six minutes, but Brad Marchand brought the Bruins within a goal at the 6:03 mark, converting a centering feed from below the goal line from Charlie McAvoy to get the Bruins closer.

The Caps dug the hole a little deeper when Jakub Vrana was charged with a high-sticking penalty at the 6:43 mark.  Boston was unable to convert the power play chance, though, and the teams played on, 3-2 Caps.

Washington went short for the fourth time in the contest when the bench was called for a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty at 14:04 of the period. For third time in four tries, the Caps skated off the shorthanded situation.

Boston pulled Rask from the net with over a minute left, and this time with an extra skater, they converted, Charlie McAvoy jumping into the play and backhanding a loose puck in the crease past Vanecek to make it 3-3 with 57 seconds left in the period.  And that is how the teams ended regulation.


The Captain ended it, taking a back feed from Nicklas Backstrom at his own blue line, skating the puck smartly up ice to back off the defense into the defensive zone, and fired a laser past McAvoy’s left leg and past Rask’s blocker 28 seconds into the extra frame to give the Caps a 4-3 win.

Other stuff…

-- With his seventh straight game earning a point (5-0-2), Vitek Vanecek tied a club record for consecutive games with a point to open his career.

-- The overtime game winner for Ovechkin was his 111th career game-winner, breaking a tie with Brett Hull for fourth place all time.  It was his 24th overtime goal, extending his all time lead in that category over Jaromir Jagr (19).  And, it was his 708th career goal, tying Mike Gartner for seventh place all time.

-- It was Ovechkin’s 365th multi-point game (goal, assist), extending his all time franchise lead.

-- Boston out-shot the Caps, 43-23, and they out-attempted Washington, 87-43.

-- Richard Panik led the Caps with five shots on goal, including one for his first goal of the season.

-- Nicklas Backstrom (1-2-3) had his 81st career three-point game for the Caps.

-- Tom Wilson led the club with nine credited hits; the Caps out-hit the Bruins, 38-15.

-- Zdeno Chara had six blocked shots; Jonas Siegenthaler had five, as did Nick Jensen.

-- Michael Sgarbossa and Nic Dowd were the only Caps without a shot attempt recorded.

-- John Carlson led the team in ice time(21:57); Danile Sprong skated the least (7:03).

In the end…

They just keep finding a way.  In this one, they had a fine second period between two iffy periods, and when it came to overtime, a relatively quiet Alex Ovechkin, who was off his skates for a week, did what he does, step up in the extra frame with a superb singular effort.  But this is also a thin team in many respects, and despite those circumstances, the ground troops stepped up to hold Bruins’ scoring chances down despite the high volume of shots and shot attempts.  There are nights when skill takes a night off, but effort doesn’t have to, and through nine games for the Caps, it has been a welcome constant.  And it makes this team, at the moment, a fun team to watch.


Friday, January 29, 2021

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Games 9 and 10: Bruins at Capitals, January 30/February 1

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up their first home stand of the season when the Boston Bruins come to town for a pair of games this Saturday and Monday at Capital One Arena.  The Caps will be looking to extend the eight-game points streak they have to open the season, while the Bruins will come to town sporting a four-game winning streak of their own.

Small wonder who have been the spark plugs in the Bruins’ run of late.  Patrice Bergeron has four goals in four games to lead the team during their streak.  Bergeron, now in his 17th season with the club, long ago cemented his case as a Hall of Fame-worthy player.  He ranks among the top players in Bruins’ history in a wide range of categories – games played (1,096/third), goals (357/fifth), assists (520/fifth), points (877/sixth), plus-minus (plus-202/13th), power play goals (110/fifth), power play points (276/fifth), shorthanded goals (18/T-seventh), shorthanded points (40/eighth), overtime goals (8/fourth), game-winning goals (67/third), and faceoff winning percentage (57.2/second; minimum: 250 faceoffs). 

On January 7th, with Zdeno Chara having moved to Washington, Bergeron added another honor to his list by being named the 20th player in Bruins history to be named team captain.  He has responded with points in five of his first seven games and making the Pennsylvania teams – Pittsburgh and Philadelphia – pay by way of a two-goal game against each in Bruins wins. Bergeron is one of the more consistent producers in the league posting ten 20 goal/50-point seasons in his last 11 years, the only missing season being the abbreviated 2012-2013 season.  With five goals and eight points in seven games so far, he is on a pace to make it 11 in 12 seasons.  And, his skill in the faceoff circle is unparalleled.  He finished above 55.0 percent in winning percentage in each of the last 11 seasons entering this one (most over that period; Jonathan Toews has ten), and he has won 64.1 percent of his draws in the early going this season.  Bergeron is 14-26-40, minus-10, in 49 career games against the Caps.

Bergeron has a nickname, “St. Patrice.”  Brad Marchand is the “Little Ball of Hate.”  Yeah, that sounds about right.  Does any player, perhaps short of the Caps’ Tom Wilson, inspired raw hatred as much as Brad Marchand?  If there is, it’s still a short list on which Marchand finds himself.  What makes is unsufferable for non-Bruins fans is that he is a really good player.  Only once in ten seasons preceding this one did he not reach the 20-goal mark (the abbreviated 2012-2013 season when he had 18 goals in 45 games), and he has topped 85 points in each of the last four seasons, one of only four players to do it (Connor McDavid and Nikita Kucherov are the others).

Marchand leads the team in points during their four-game winning streak (3-4-7) and leads the team in points through seven games (4-6-10), posting points in six of seven games to date.  He has been especially productive on the power play with two of the team’s eight power play goals and six points with the man advantage to lead the team.  He is also the only Bruin with two points while shorthanded (1-1-2).  And, whether he is practicing self-discipline or (to the consternation of his haters) has not been caught, he has only two penalty minutes so far.  This from a player who had at least 90 penalty minutes in three of the last six seasons and ranked tenth overall in penalty minutes over that span (507).  In 32 career games against Washington, Marchand is 8-12-20, minus-10.

Last season, goaltender Tuukka Rask posted a league-leading 2.12 goals against average and had his best save percentage (.929) since 2013-2014 (.930).  He added five shutouts to those numbers, resulting in his being named to the league’s second all-star team and finishing second in Vezina Trophy voting to Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck.  This season, his goals against average is almost as impressive (2.13), but his save percentage has fallen significantly (.905), his worst since a three-game stint with the Bruins in 2007-2008 (.886), his first year in the league.  It is the difference between facing 29.7 shots per 60 minutes last season and facing 22.5 shots per 60 minutes in four games so far this season.  Although the population of games played is small, Rask has had an on-again/off-again quality to his game.  He opened the season stopping 20 of 22 shots in a 3-2 win over New Jersey, a .909 save percentage.  He followed that up with save percentages of .941, .846, and finally a .933 effort when he stopped 28 of 30 shots in a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday.  Boston has been alternating, for the most past, Rask and Jaroslav Halak in goal, and with Halak getting the win in Boston’s last game, a 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday, Rask would seem to be the pick in DC on Saturday.  Rask was held out of Thursday’s win against the Penguins due to injury, but the plan was to bring him back on Saturday.  He brings a two-game winning streak against the Caps into the game after a career against them that featured only one win in his first 18 appearances against Washington.  He is 3-11-5, 3.10, .892, with two shutouts in 20 career games against the Caps.

1.  Boston’s special teams index (power play plus penalty killing percentages) of 129.5 is second in the league (Dallas: 142.1 through Thursday’s games).

2.  The Bruins are winning faceoffs at a 59.1 percent rate, tops in the league.

3.  If the Bruins struggle, it is in 5-on-5 scoring.  Their nine goals in seven games is more than only three other teams – Calgary (eight in six games), Dallas (six in four games), and Carolina (four in four games).

4.  Boston has as many goals scored in the third periods an overtimes of games as they do combined over the first 40 minutes of games (ten).

5.  Of the 21 skaters to dress for the Bruins so far this season, 18 have points.  None of the three without a point (Connor Clifton, Ondrej Kase, and Par Lindholm) have played in more than two games.

1.  Washington’s 5-0-3 start is their longest streak of games with a point to open a season in team history.

2.  The Caps have scored 23 goals at 5-on-5, second-most in the league (Vancouver: 27).

3.  The Caps are also tied with the Canucks for the top spot in first period goals scored through Thursday’s games (10), and only Montreal has more second period goals scored (15) than the Caps (14, tied with Los Angeles).

4.  Leading after one period has not been kind to the Caps, who are 1-0-3 in such circumstances.

5.  The Caps have played six one goal decisions to date, three wins and three extra time losses.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Boston: Charlie McAvoy

With Zdeno Chara having taken his hockey sticks to Washington, it would seem Charlie McAvoy is the number one defenseman for the Bruins now, and for the foreseeable future.  Truth be told, it might have been true last year as well, when McAvoy led the team in ice time (23:10 per game).  This season, McAvoy already has logged almost 35 more minutes in total ice time (175:34) than the next Bruins defenseman in line, Jeremy Lauzon (141:51).  McAvoy leads the club in even strength ice time per game (20:36), is second in power play ice time per game (2:01), and averages more than two minutes in penalty killing ice time (2:27).  He is one of only five defensemen in the league to average more than 20 minutes in even strength ice time and more than two minutes per game both on the power play and penalty kill (Ivan Provorov, Aaron Ekblad, Victor Hedman, and Brent Burns are the others).  After being blanked in points in his first four games of the season with a minus-3 rating, he is 0-5-5, plus-3, over his last three games.  McAvoy is 0-5-5, plus-2, in eight career games against the Caps.

Washington: T.J. Oshie

It would be hard to find a player who throws himself, and his body, more enthusiastically into his job as a hockey player than T.J. Oshie.  His fearless, damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead style has made him a fan favorite since his arrival from St. Louis in 2015, and his versatility has made him an essential ingredient to Caps success on the ice since then.  It was on display again on Thursday, when an injury to Lars Eller and the COVID-related absence of Evgeny Kuznetsov pressed Oshie into service at center, a position he had not played since his days with the Blues.

It ended up being an odd game by Oshie standards.  First, he skated only 15:34, his lowest ice time of the young season to date, and his 10:34 in even strength ice time was on the low side for him.  He did have an assist on Tom Wilson’s empty net goal to seal the 6-3 win over the New York Islanders and finished with a plus-1 rating.  In the circle, he won two of eight faceoffs, and he was credited with a single hit.  It was a relatively quiet night by Oshie’s standards, but ultimately successful, given the circumstances that pressed him into pivot duty.  Nevertheless, Oshie is still tied for third on the team in points (2-5-7, with Tom Wilson) and is third in power play points (three, tied with Justin Schultz).  He has points in five of eight games so far on the schedule and brings points in consecutive games into Saturday’s contest against Boston.  Oshie is 7-5-12, plus-4, in 22 career games against the Bruins.

In the end…

So, let’s pose the question.  The Caps have played eight games – one seventh – of their 2020-2021 schedule.  They have been without their top left wing, top center, a top-four defensemen, and their starting goalie for four games.  They lost another center to a game and change to injury.  Instead of Henrik Lundqvist taking over for the quarantined Ilya Samsonov in goal, the Caps have relied on Vitek Vanecek – a goalie with no NHL experience before this season – to dress for six of the eight games played to date.  You would think of 16 possible standings points, the Caps might have, what…nine? Ten? They have 13, a 91-point pace for this season.  Surely, they will not keep up this pace, but the points banked under adverse conditions over a large chunk of this season puts them in good position to maintain a playoff-eligible position in the standings and develop the depth they will need down the road this season.  And, if Thursday’s game signaled anything, it is don’t count this team out of any game.

Saturday: Capitals 4 – Bruins 3

Monday: Capitals 4 – Bruins 2

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

A TWO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 7: Capitals 3 - Islanders 2

The Washington Capitals started the middle two-game set of their six game homestand when they hosted the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.  In a hard fought game that seemed sure to be headed for another overtime, the Caps got a late goal to break the tie and beat the Isles, 3-2, for their seventh straight game with points earned.



First Period

The Islanders had the first shot on goal, but the Caps answered with the next seven shots in less than a minute early in the period.  The teams settled down after that, until the Isles took the game’s first penalty, Matt Martin going off for tripping at 10:12 of the period.

John Carlson converted the chance for the Caps.  Nicklas Backstrom started the play by looking over the ice for a possible shot or pass into the middle, but he fed the puck out to Justin Schultz for a one-timer that handcuffed goalie Semyon Varlamov.  The puck popped up and to Varlamov’s right, where Carlson was waiting, and the defenseman wasted no time snapping the puck behind Varlamov to give the Caps the lead at 11:06.

New York tied the game at 15:33, Noah Dobson sneaking a shot from the right point that was deflected by Anders Lee and then by Caps defenseman Brenden Dillon before it eluded goalie Vitek Vanecek, Lee credited with the goal.  That would do it for the scoring in the first frame.

-- Washington out-shot the Isles, 17-11, in the period and out-attempted the visitors, 31-15.

-- Twelve of 18 skaters had shots on goal in the period, five of them with two apiece (Schultz, Panik, van Riemsdyk, Sheary, and Carlson).

-- Sheary led the Caps in credited hits (two).

-- Nicklas Backstrom was five-for-seven on faceoffs in the period (71.4 percent).

Second Period

The noteworthy moment in the early going of the period was when Nicklas Backstrom took a puck off the stick of Adam Pelech in the left cheek at center ice.  Backstrom immediately headed to the locker room for attention.

New York got their first power play of the game when Carl Hagelin was whistled for boarding, 7:19 into the period.  The Isles failed to convert on the power play, but they did take the lead at 10:01 of the period when Zdeno Chara thought it would be a good idea to send the puck up the middle and managed only to put the puck on the stick of Mathew Barzal, who took advantage and beat Vanecek to make it a 2-1 game.

The Isles were given another man advantage 13:24 into the period when Nicklas Backstrom was sent of for interference.  Washington managed to kill off the penalty with no damage suffered.

Daniel Sprong got the Caps even with his first goal for the club, taking a feed from Daniel Carr in close quarters and snapping a shot from between the circles over the right shoulder of Varlamov, tying the game at 2-2, 17:21 into the period.

New York got its third power play of the period in the last minute, Lars Eller going off for tripping with 57 seconds left in the frame.  The Caps kept the Isles off the board for the second period portion of the penalty, 1:03 carrying over into the third period, the teams going off tied, 2-2.

-- New York out-shot the Caps, 14-9, in the second period and out-attempted them, 25-22.

-- John Carlson led the club with three shots on goal through two periods and led the club with seven shot attempts.

-- The Caps were not credited with a takeaway through 40 minutes.

Third Period

The Caps skated off the remainder of the Islander power play to start the period, and the they had the period’s best scoring chance with a three-on-two advantage, but T.J. Oshie was not able to convert the opportunity.

Neither team mounted much of an attack through the middle of the period, but the Caps were given an opportunity when Leo Komarov was sent off on a five-minute major for boarding Lars Eller, who made his way delicately down the tunnel for attention.  Washington recorded one shot on goal in the five-minute power play, not finding the back of the net, and the teams continued tied.

The Caps finally found a hole in Varlamov in the last minute.  Garnet Hathaway and Justin Schultz worked a give and go at the offensive blue line, Hathaway feeding Schultz, who fired a shot low to the far side that beat Varlamov past the right pad with 26.4 seconds left.

The Caps skated off the last seconds and made it seven straight games with a point with the 3-2 win.

Other stuff…

-- The seventh straight game with a point is the longest such streak for the Caps to open a season since they went 7-0-0 to open the 2011-2012 season.

-- The Caps out-shot the Islanders, 36-34, and out-attempted them overall, 72-58.

-- Brenden Dillon and Garnet Hathaway were the only Caps not to record a shot on goal; John Carlson led the team with five.

-- Carlson led the team with nine shot attempts.

-- The Caps were credited with no takeaways for the game.

-- The Caps rolled lines. T.J. Oshie led the forwards with only 18:40 of ice time.  A result made necessary with the Caps losing centers Nicklas Backstrom and Lars Eller to injury for stretches in this game.

-- With 32 saves on 34 shots faced, Vitek Vanecek is 77 for 82 in his last two games (.939 save percentage).

-- The Caps got multi-point nights from two defensemen – Jahn Carlson and Justin Schultz were each 1-1-2.

-- Daniel Carr, getting his first action as a Capital – 0-1-1, one shot on goal, two shot attempts, two blocked shots, plus-1 rating.

-- This was the Caps’ third win of the season when scoring three or fewer goals (not counting Gimmicks).  Last season they did not get their third win when scoring three or fewer goals until Game 20.

In the end…

Was this a character-building win?  It might be too early to tell, but it sure felt like one.  The Caps had 92 goals from last season and their starting goalie on the bench.  They lost two more centers for chunks of this game.  And still they prevailed.  If you want to pick nits about this game, feel free, but these guys deserve credit to grinding a tough win out against a team against whom such wins are hard to come by.


Monday, January 25, 2021

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Games 7 and 8: Islanders at Capitals, January 26/28

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals continue their first home stand of the season with the New York Islanders coming to town for Tuesday and Thursday games at Capital One Arena.  The Caps enter the contest with points in each of their first six games on the schedule, while the Islanders come to Washington on the second stop of a five-game road trip, losers of their first contest on the trip, a 2-0 blanking at the hands of the New Jersey Devils.

The Islanders rank dead last in the NHL in scoring offense (1.80 goals per game), so it is hardly surprising that only five of 19 skaters to dress for the club so far have posted goals.  Four of those players – Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Jordan Eberle – each have a pair, which Jean-Gabriel Pageau has the other.

Conspicuously absent from the list is Anthony Beauvillier, who has a lone assist after five games after posting 18 goals for the Isles last season, his third straight season posting at least 18 goals for the club.  Beauvillier is one of those late first round draft picks who can get lost in the noise of more celebrated members of his draft class, especially given he was the 28th overall pick in the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel draft of 2015.  Nevertheless, he ranks tenth in his draft class in game played (291), tenth in goals (66), 17th in assists (62), and 14th in points (128).  He did it over his first four NHL seasons with a healthy shots per game average (1.82 per game) and respectable shooting percentage (12.7).  This season, however, Beauvillier recorded an assist in the season opener in a win against the New York Rangers, but he is without a point since, and he has only four shots on goal in three games.  He left Sunday’s game against the New Jersey Devils in the second period with an undisclosed injury after logging only seven minutes of ice time.  Beauvillier, who is 2-6-8, plus-5, in 15 career games against the Caps, is part of the secondary scoring the Islanders have not had and will miss in his absence.

Josh Bailey is another Islander whose output has been disappointing in the early going.  Through five games, Bailey has but one assist, a slow start for a player who comes into this season having posted four consecutive 40-plus point seasons for the Islanders.  His slow start stands in stark contrast to the start he had last season when he went 6-6-12 in his first 14 games.  What might be of some concern for the 13-year veteran is that since he posted a 71-point season in 2017-2018 (18-53-71 in 76 games), his goals, assist, and point totals have dropped in each year since (16-40-56 in 82 games in 2018-2019 and 14-29-42 in 68 games last season).  Bailey is the active leader among Islanders in scoring against the Caps, posting a 5-15-20, minus-14, scoring line against Washington in 48 career games.

It would be hard to think of how a goalie can get off to a hotter start than that Semyon Varlaomov has had to open the season for the Islanders.  He is tied for the league lead in wins (three), ranks first in goals against average (0.33), ranks first in save percentage (.988), and is the only goalie with two shutouts so far.  Part of his success might be facing relatively light workloads (averaging 27 shots faced per game), but it is an impressive start nonetheless.  Since finishing second in Vezina Trophy voting in 2013-2014 on a record of 41-14-6 (league leader in wins), 2.41, .927, with two shutouts with the Colorado Avalanche, Varlamov was up and down with the Avs before signing with the Islanders as a free agent in July 2019. His first season was respectable (19-14-6, 2.62, .914, with two shutouts), but still failed to approach his best performances in Colorado.  He is off to a much better three-game start than last season, however (1-2-0, 3.15, .905), which makes him a key element for the Caps to solve in this contest.  The former first round draft pick of the Caps (23rd overall in 2006) is 4-6-1, 2.74, .924, in 11 career games against Washington.

1.  The Islanders are the only team in the NHL currently averaging less than two goals scored per game and two goals allowed per game.  Don’t count on this being how the Islanders finish. The last time it happened was in 1935-1936, when the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, and New York Rangers all finished under two goals per game on both sides of the puck.

2.  The Islanders lead the league in faceoff winning percentage (58.0).  Makes one wonder just how many draws the Caps (28th in the league) will win.

3.  The Islanders are one of two teams (Nashville is the other) having played as many as five games with only six 5-on-5 goals allowed.

4.  New York has nine goals so far – five at 5-on-5, four at 5-on-4.

5.  The Islanders are the top team in the East in blocked shots-per-60 minutes (17.60).

1.  Washington ranks third in the league in hits-per-60 minutes (29.66).

2.  The Caps lead the league through Sunday’s games in first period goals scored (nine); they have allowed more second period goals (ten) than any team in the Eastern Conference.

3.  Only Montreal has more goals scored at 5-on-5 through Sunday’s games (18) than the Caps (16).

4.  Washington is 1-0-3 in games in which they led after one period, their .250 winning percentage ranking 28th in the league.

5.  Only Montreal has scored first more often among Eastern Conference teams (five times) than the Caps (four times).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New York: Nick Leddy

The New York Islanders have a tradition of fine defensemen – Hall of Famer Denis Potvin, Ken Morrow, Tomas Jonsson, Stefan Persson among them.  Nick Leddy has quietly climbed the ranks of the Islanders defenseman rankings over seven seasons since he was traded to the Islanders from the Chicago Blackhawks in October 2014.  Leddy ranks tenth on the all time list of games played by an Islander defenseman (467) and will likely become the eighth defensemen in team history to suit up for 500 games later this season.  He, like the rest of the Islanders defense corps, has not yet registered a goal this season, and this could be a point of concern for a club lacking in offensive depth.  Leddy posted 36 goals in his first four seasons with the Isles, but had a total of only seven in 142 games in the two seasons preceding this one.  He is tied for the team lead in assists and points among defensemen (three, with Noah Dobson), and he is the only Islander defenseman with a personal shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 over 50 percent (52.9).  But conversely, he is below 50 percent in on-ice goals for percentage (33.3).  His performance, like that of the Islanders generally, has been a mixed bag.  Leddy is 1-7-8, minus-9, in 29 career games against the Capitals.

Washington: Nicklas Backstrom

When the Capitals lost the services of four key players as a result of COVID protocol violations, it would be reasonable to expect that Nicklas Backstrom would have to step up and assume a bigger role than the large role he already plays for the Capitals.  But the thing is, Backstrom has stepped up since the season opener.  He recorded a goal and an assist in the season opening 6-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres, and he has points in five of six games to date.  His four goals leads the club, as do his seven points.  He has half of the team’s power play goal total (two of four) and leads the Caps with three power play points.  What is unusual about Backstrom’s output so far is not just his goal production but that he has not assisted on an Alex Ovechkin goal, while Ovechkin has assists on two Backstrom goals.  Backstrom is off to a hotter goal-scoring start than he was last season, when he did not post his fourth goal of the season until his 18th game of the year.  It took him 16 games in 2018-2019 to get to four goals and 28 games to get to that number in 2017-2018.  A cooling off period might be coming, Backstrom posting a 23.5 shooting percentage through six games, but he has been quite productive in the early going.  He is 11-37-48, plus-13, in 47 career games against the Islanders.

In the end…

Let us face it, the Islanders are just the kind of team that gives the Capitals fits.  They counterpunch, they play deliberately, their underlying numbers do not impress, but somehow they grind out wins by bending the style of the game to their liking.  With a lot of the Caps’ offense on the shelf for this two-game set, perhaps the Caps will matchup with the Islanders in a way that is less to the Islanders’ liking.

Tuesday: Capitals 2 – Islanders 1

Thursday: Capitals 3 – Islanders 2

Sunday, January 24, 2021

A ONE-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 6: Sabres 4 - Capitals 3 (OT/Gimmick)

The Washington Capitals closed out their second two-game set against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday afternoon, dropping a 4-3 Gimmick decision to the visitors.  Nevertheless, the Caps extended their season-opening streak of games with points to six.

First Period

The teams went back and forth in grinding fashion over the first third of the opening frame, and it was the Caps’ grinding effort that resulted in the game’s first goal.  Garnet Hathaway started the scoring play without touching the puck, flattening Taylor Hall in the corner to the left of goalie Linus Ullmark and forcing Hall to fire the puck around the end boards to the opposite point.  Justin Schultz settled the biscuit and fired a shot that seemed to clip Nic Dowd on the way through, sneaking through Ullmark’s pads to give the Caps a 1-0 lead 6:58 into the game, Schultz credited with his first goal as a Capital.

Connor McMichael had a chance to get his first NHL point late in the period, setting up at the top of the crease for a redirect attempt, but instead of converting that, he was whistled for his first NHL penalty moments later.  The Caps successfully killed off the ensuing power play, thanks largely to some fine netminding by Vitek Vanecek.

Neither team was able to mount much of a consistent threat over the last few minutes of the period, and the Caps took a 1-0 lead to the first intermission.

-- Buffalo double up on the Caps in shots on goal, 16-8, and they out-attempted Washington, 25-16.

-- Conversely, the Caps out-hit the Sabres, 10-3.  Garnet Hathaway led the team with four, and Richard Panik added three.

-- Nicklas Backstrom led the club in blocked shots in the period with three.

-- Connor McMichael’s first period in the NHL…one shot on goal, two shot attempts, a minor penalty in 4:56 of ice time.

Second Period

Washington enjoyed the rare Sabre penalty early in the period, Jake McCabe going off at 1:23 of the period on a tripping call.  The Caps managed four shots on goal on the power play, none of them eluding Ullmark.

The teams traded two-on-one breaks in the eighth minute of the period, but Vanecek foiled the Sabres’ chance, and Ullmark got enough of his glove on a Nic Dowd attempt to keep it a one-goal game.

Buffalo got their second power play of the contest when Zdeno Chara took a tripping call 8:20 into the period.  With Trevor van Riemsdyk losing his stick and using Lars Eller’s, Buffalo converted, Colin Miller firing a one-timer through a clot of players past Vanecek’s left arm to tie the game at 10:07 of the period.

The Caps got their second power play chance 10:45 into the period when Rasmus Ristolainen hauled down Nicklas Backstrom behind the Buffalo net.  Washington converted when Justin Schultz took a feed at the top of the offensive zone, stepped up and fired a shot that was deflected by T.J. Oshie past Ullmark to make it a 2-1 game, 11:51 into the period.

Washington went a man short shortly after the tie-breaking goal, Nic Dowd going off for tripping, the fourth tripping call of the contest (two apiece).  The Sabres converted, working the puck smartly down low, Victor Olafsson converting a pass from Sam Reinhart to tie the game at the 13:04 mark.

The Caps took their third tripping call of the period when Jonas Siegenthaler was sent off at the 15:46 mark.  The Sabres tried several attempts to set up Olafsson for one-timers, but to no avail.  The Caps killed the penalty.

The Caps had an excellent chance in the last minute with Lars Eller leading a two-on-one entry into the offensive zone.  He fed the puck across to Richard Panik for a one-timer, but Ullmark smothered the attempt.  The teams left the ice tied, 2-2, after 40 minutes.

- The Caps were out-shot, 19-9, in the period and out-attempted, 29-13.

- Eleven of the Sabres’ 19 shots were on power plays.

- Nicklas Backstrom led the team in shots on goal through two periods (three) and was tied in blocked shots (three) with Justin Schultz.

- Through two periods, the Caps were not credited with a takeaway, and Buffalo was not charged with a giveaway.

Third Period

Less than two minutes into the period, Schultz had an excellent chance from between the circles, but the shot was smothered in front as Ullmark was sliding across his crease.

Washington took the period’s first penalty when Nic Dowd was called for cross-checking 6:03 into the period, his second minor penalty of the game.  Eric Staal made the Caps pay, firing a one-timer from the right wing circle over Vanecek’s left shoulder on the short side to make it 3-2, Sabres, at the 7:24 mark.

The Caps went on their own power play less than a minute later, Brandon Montour going off for interference.  Nicklas Backstrom converted when he pulled a loose puck away from Ullmark at the goal line and snapped a shot from below the line off Ullmark’s pad, off the far post and in to tie the game, 3-3, 9:28 into the period.

Just past the half-way mark of the period, Taylor Hall got behind the Caps’ defense and drew a penalty shot when he was prevented from a scoring chance.  Hall’s attempt hit the post to Vanecek’s left and out – no goal.  Although Buffalo dominated territory over the last half of the period, the teams finished regulation tied, 3-3.


Jack Eichel was a one-man stickhandling show to start overtime, and he almost won it when he toe-dragged the puck through John Carlson and tried to feed the puck between Vanecek’s pads, but the goalie prevailed.

Eichel had another chance in the third minute, but his one-timer as the late arriving forward was gloved down by Vanecek.

Justin Schultz had his own chance to win it for the Caps, taking a feed as he was steaming down the middle, but his snap shot was gloved by Ullmark.  Backstrom had his chance on a first shot and rebound on a break, but he was stopped both times by Ullmark.  That would be the last, best chance as the teams went to…

The Gimmick

  • Carlson: save
  • Eichel: goal
  • Oshie: save
  • Mittlestadt: save
  • Backstrom: save

Sabres win, 4-3

Other stuff...

-- The Caps went to extra time for the fourth straight game, the first time they went four in a row since late in the 2010-2011 season, when they went 3-0-1 over a four-game extra time stretch, losing in a Gimmick against Carolina before taking three decisions over Columbus, Buffalo, and Toronto.

-- This was the third Gimmick for the Caps in six games.  Last season, the Caps played their third Gimmick in Game 20.

-- Only five rookie goalies in Caps history faced more shots in a game than the 48 Vitek Vanecek faced, and the last one to do it – Al Jensen – did it in February 1982, when he faced 56 shots in a 7-3 loss to the Minnesota North Stars.  Bernie Wolfe is the only Caps goalie to face more shots as a rookie on home ice, facing 54 shots against the Philadelphia Flyers in December 1975 in a 7-5 loss.

-- Buffalo out-shot the Caps, 48-31, and out-attempted them, 78-54.

-- Nicklas Backstrom led the Caps with six shots on goal; Justin Schultz led the club with nine shot attempts.

-- Trevor van Riemsdyk was the only Capital not recording a shot attempt.

-- The Caps allowed three power play goals, the first time they allowed that many in a game since they allowed Tampa Bay three power play goals in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Lightning on March 20, 2019.

-- Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist for his 247th career multi-point game.

-- John Carlson logged 28:52 in ice time to lead the team, but it was Justin Schultz who led the team in even strength ice time (20:46).

-- Connor McMichael’s first game line… 9:54 ice time, 0-0-0, even, one minor penalty, one shot, two shot attempts, won only faceoff.

In the end…

Six games, six games with points.  Frankly, things could be much worse for this club, but they have shown a resiliency in grinding through difficult situations.  It gets harder from here with the New York Islanders coming to town, but even with today’s result, the Caps are finding a hard-edged character that might do them well, in a few months.


Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 2

Week 2 was a disappointment for the Washington Capitals on more than one level. They opened the week with consecutive extra time losses to their hate rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, before salvaging the week with a Gimmick win over the Buffalo Sabres to complete the week.  And, there was the matter of four players breaking COVID protocols, one of them contracting the virus and two others testing positive for COVID-antibodies, earning all four players a four-game absence for quarantining purposes.  Finally, there was Tom Wilson missing the last third of the week’s final game with a lower-body injury that might keep him out of the lineup for a time.  But the Caps did avoid suffering their first regulation loss for a second week, and in a short season banking those points is gold.

Record: 1-0-2

The Caps played three extra time games in Week 2, the first time they went to extra time in three straight contests since Games 12-14 last season when they lost to Edmonton in overtime before winning consecutive games against Vancouver (in a Gimmick) and Toronto (in overtime).  The two consecutive extra time losses to the Penguins to open the week snapped a two-game winning streak the Caps brought into the season against the Pens.

The extra time win over Buffalo to end the week was the Caps’ third win over the Sabres this season and extended their streak of games without a regulation loss to the Sabres to five games (4-0-1) dating back to last season.  The win in what was also the home opener for the Caps extended their fine record in home openers to 16-1-2 in their last 19 games to open the season in Washington.

Offense: 3.33/game (season: 3.60/7th)

Ten goals in three games, especially when recorded as consistent a fashion as the Caps did (twice with three goals, once with four) is a solid team performance, especially given that Alex Ovechkin had only one of those goals and missed the last game of the week for violating the league’s COVID protocols.

Seven Caps shared the ten goals for the week with Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, and Nic Dowd each getting a pair.  Thirteen Caps recorded at least one point for the week, Wilson leading the team with four (2-2-4).  Three other Caps had three apiece – Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Jakub Vrana, all of them going 1-2-3.

Kuznetsov and Ovechkin led the team in shots on goal with eight apiece, while Conor Sheary was the only one among 21 skaters for the week not to record a shot on goal (in one game played).

The Caps did get points from three defensemen (John Carlson with two, Zdeno Chara, and Brenden Dillon), but all points came on assists, not goals.

Defense: 3.67/game (season: 3.20/T-20th)

In the early going of the Peter Laviolette era, the Caps are a team with defensive issues.  Be they “defense,” broadly construed, goaltending, the new aspects of systems, or a combination of the three, the fact is that the Caps have allowed three or more goals (not including Gimmicks) in four of their first five games, including all three in Week 2.  What it does not appear to be is a product of shots on goal allowed.  The Caps allowed 30 of fewer shots in all three games for the week (all of them settled in extra time), and in four straight after allowing 31 shots in the season opener.  They allowed more than ten shots on goal in three of nine full periods of hockey.

What appeared to be a problem for the Caps was yielding shot attempts in close game situations.  Overall, their shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 for the week was unimpressive (48.1), but it was worse in tied game situations (45.6).  The odd part of this statistical area was that the Caps did well in terms of shooting plus save percentage at fives (102.9).  Defense is, to date, very much an unsettled matter for the club.

Goaltending: 3.45 / .869 (season: 3.09 / .887)

While the defense seems to have issues through which it needs to work, goaltending for the Capitals has to be better.  Five games in, and four instances of a goaltender finishing his work with a save percentage under .900.  Vitek Vanacek was the exception, posting a .968 save percentage in his NHL debut in Week 1.  In Week 2, Ilya Samsonov stopped 24 of 27 shots (.889) in his only appearance, a 4-3 Gimmick loss to Pittsburgh to open the week. That would be his work for the week, he being one of the COVID Four to be suspended from play for four games for violating protocols. 

Vanecek finished the week stopping 49 of 57 shots over two games (.860) in posting a 1-0-1 record.  Even though it was a two-game week for Vanecek, he had his ups and downs.  Although his save percentage in each game was under .900, how he got there took two different paths.  He had a very good even strength save percentage against Pittsburgh (.923), but allowing two power play goals on three shots did him in.  He was not so fortunate at evens against Buffalo to end the week, posting a .864 save percentage, the same as that posted by Samsonov against Pittsburgh to start the week.

Power Play: 1-for-7 / 14.3 percent (season: 22.2 percent/16th)

Well, at least they got more opportunities in Week 2 than in Week 1, so that is progress.  On the other hand, the Caps managed a 4-on-3 power play goal last Sunday against the Penguins, but were otherwise blanked with the man advantage.  This despite recording a respectable ten power play shots in 10:56 of total ice time.  More disappointing, the Caps failed to convert a 54 second 5-on-3 opportunity against Pittsburgh in the middle game of the week, and then failed to convert the rest of the 5-on-4 in what would end as a 5-4 overtime win for the Pens.  Despite dressing for only two games in Week 2, Alex Ovechkin led the team with three power play shots on goal.  Nicklas Backstrom had the lone goal on two shots, and Justin Schultz added a pair of power play shots.

If there was an odd result for the Caps this week, it was in power play ice time.  Fourteen different skaters logged time on the man advantage.  While some of that is transition at the end of a man advantage (Zdeno Chara had nine seconds), ten skaters logged more than two full minutes for the week, three of them defensemen (John Carlson – 6:57; Justin Schultz – 4:58; and Dmitry Orlov – 2:23).  Nicklas Backstrom was the ice time leader with 7:50 in power play time.

But what was the low point of the week for the Caps came on its 5-on-3 power play in Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh.  Holding a 4-2 lead and 54 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage, with the chance to put the game away late in the second period, they allowed a Teddy Blueger breakaway 3-on-5 shothanded goal that started the Pens on a three-goal run, the last in overtime, to steal a 5-4 win and an extra standings point that the Caps left on the table.

Penalty Killing: 8-for-10 / 80.0 percent (season: 83.3 percent/T-11th)

It was an “Oreo” penalty killing week for the Caps – two perfect penalty killing efforts sandwiching a gooey mess in the middle.  The opened the week killing all five shorthanded situations they faced against Pittsburgh and holding the Penguins to only four shots on goal in eight minutes of power play time.  The Caps ended the week blanking the Buffalo Sabres on both of their power play chances and allowing four shots on goal in four minutes of Sabres power play time.

The middle game of the week did not go so well. There was that 3-on-5 shorthanded goal that the Pens scored to start their late game run, but in the midst of that the Caps allowed the Pens a pair of power play goals on three chances.  It is worth noting here that the Pens’ last four goals of that game were scored: power play, shorthanded, power play, 3-on-3 (overtime).  Not good game management, and the penalty kill was right in the middle of it.  The Pens had only three shots on goal in 3:15 of power play time, but that was enough to do damage to the Caps’ chances.

Faceoffs: 77-for-186 / 41.4 percent (season: 44.2 percent/28th)

Faceoffs continue to be a blemish on the Caps’ weekly performances.  Only Carolina had a worse winning percentage in Week 2 (33.3), and they played only one game.  The 41.1 percent winning percentage even looks better than it was, the Caps finishing an abysmal 36.4 percent in the offensive zone and 41.1 percent in the defensive end.  The neutral zone wins (46.9 percent) did little to lift the overall result.

Nicklas Backstrom had a particularly frustrating week in the circle, managing a 29.8 percent win mark overall (31.6 in the offensive end, 25.0 percent in the defensive end).  None of the five Capitals taking ten draws or more overall managed a winning percentage in the offensive end.

Goals by Period:

Overall, the week might be described as being what the Caps earned in the first period, they gave away in the second.  A 6-3 edge in first period goals gave way to a 4-7 deficit in second periods overall (only Vancouver allowed more second period goals (11) for the week).  What made it an odd result is that neither the Caps nor their opponents scored any third period goals for the week.  The Caps were the only club to go the entire week without a third period goal scored or allowed.


What one might notice first about the year-over-year numbers in Week 2 is the almost docile approach to shooting so far.  The Caps are down 24 shots, year-over-year (almost five shots per game), and they are down 33 shot attempts at five-on-five (almost seven per game). The drop in shot attempts has been matched by a substantial increase in shot attempts allowed, leaving the Caps a net minus-51 in differential, year-over-year.

There is also the matter of power plays – opportunities to be specific.  The Caps to date have fewer than half the opportunities (nine) than they had through five games last season (20). A better conversion rate (22.2 percent versus 20.0 percent) makes no difference if the opportunities dry up.

In the end…

Only points count in the standings, and the Caps have points in all five games they have played to date.  Banking points is important, especially in a short season, but perhaps just as important when the underlying numbers just do not look very good.  Perhaps the rough edges are to be expected, what with the absence of preseason games and a new coaching staff.  But this is a veteran team, too, one with a considerable amount of talent.  They have a difficult stretch to come, with four players still on the shelf for disciplinary reasons and another key piece who might miss some time to injury.  Week 2 was an example of a team grinding through adversity to earn success in spite of it.  But these are issues the Caps will have to work through quickly if this season is to be successful.

Three Stars:

  • First Star: Tom Wilson (2-2-4, plus-1, seven shots on goal, 18 credited hits, only forward to average more than 1:00 per game on both power play and penalty kill)
  • Second Star: Jakub Vrana (1-2-3, plus-3, six shots on goal)
  • Third Star: Nic Dowd (2-0-2, plus-2, tied for team lead for week in goals, 11 credited hits, no giveaways)