It was the worst week, record-wise, for the Caps since Week 6, when they also went 2-2-0. In the intervening five weeks they were 14-2-1, so perhaps a correction was due. The problem was that even with a lackluster 2-2-0 record for the week, the week was worse than that. A three-goal loss and two one goal wins, one of them coming after the Caps took a 3-0 lead into the final period, to teams well below them in the standings (New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils), plus their worst loss of the season – an 8-4 shellacking by the New York Islanders – made for a more disappoint week than the record would suggest. When one considers that the last 11 games on the Caps’ regular season schedule include seven against playoff-eligible teams and a pair against a Rangers team against which the Caps have struggled, leaving points on the table in Week 12 is something the Caps cannot afford to repeat next week.
Offense: 3.25/game (season: 3.38 / 3rd)
The Caps did not lack for offense, although it was a bit top-heavy in Week 12. John Carlson and T.J. Oshie (three goals apiece) accounted for almost half of the 13 goals the Caps scored in four games. Six other Caps had goals, Tom Wilson among them with the only other multi-goal week (two). There was more balance in the point production, 16 of the 19 skaters to dress for the week posting at least one. Oshie led the point-getters with five, followed by John Carlson (four). Nicklas Backstrom, Dmitry Orlov, and Tom Wilson had three points apiece. Three Caps finished the week with double-digit totals in shots – Alex Ovechkin (13), Oshie (12), and Wilson (11). All 19 skaters dressing for the week had at least one.
As a group, the Caps were reasonably efficient shooting the puck, finishing the week with an 11.2 shooting percentage, ninth-best in the league. Individually, seven Caps were over ten percent, John Carlson leading all skaters with three goals on eight shots, a 37.5 shooting percentage. T.J. Oshie (3-for-12/25.0 percent) and Nic Dowd (1-for-5/20.0 percent) finished at 20 percent or better.
If there was an odd fact about the Caps’ offense in Week 12, it centered on Brenden Dillon. He had only one point for the week (an assist) but he was on ice for more even strength goals than any other Capital (seven), and there is more to this story below.
Defense: 4.50/game (season: 3.00 / T-19th)
Where did it all go wrong? The Caps had a decent week in limiting shots on goal (29.0 per game, tied with the Islanders for 11th-fewest). And although they allowed more shot attempts at 5-on-5 (168) than any other team except Minnesota (170), they were tied for the 13th-fewest shot attempts allowed at fives per game (42.0, with Detroit).
Where it breaks down is in the quality of chances. Only two teams allowed more high danger scoring chances in Week 12 than the Caps (41), and they were far and away the worst team in allowing goals in high danger scenarios (14), almost double the total Boston had (eight).
Back to Brenden Dillon. Not only was he on ice for more even strength goals scored than any Capital for the week, he was on ice for more even strength goals against than any other skater (eight). None of the 19 skaters dressing for the week was spared an up-close and personal look at even strength goals against. In fact, there were none who were on ice for fewer than two goals against; all six of the defenseman were on ice for three or more even strength goals against. The breakdown was a team effort.
Goaltending: 4.20 / .833 (season: 2.76 / .902 / 2 shutouts)
Bad defense was not bailed out by good goaltending. Vitek Vanecek had the better week, but it was nothing to put in the scrapbook. In just under 140 minutes of work over three games, he went 1-1-0 (one no-decision), 3.01, .879. it was a case of starting and finishing poorly. He stopped 21 of 24 first period shots (.875 save percentage) and 14 of 17 third period shots (.824), which more than negated a fine performance in second periods (13-for-14/.929). He did make up some of the misery with a fine overtime performance against New Jersey in which he stopped excellent chances from Travis Zajac and Jack Hughes to give the Caps an opportunity to win and grab a needed extra standings point.
Ilya Samsonov had a week he might like to forget, and given the circumstances might have little memory of some of it. He recorded (earned seems a bit much) the win to open the week, a 5-4 win over the Rangers, but he allowed four goals on nine shots to make what should have been a laugher a nail-biter. That was the better of his two games for the week. Against the Islanders on Thursday, he collided with T.J. Oshie behind his own net and was dazed, going off to clear his head. He would return to action with the Caps down, 2-1, and endured a barrage over the remainder of the contest that ended with him allowing six goals on 24 shots. For the week he stopped only 34 of 44 shots (.773 save percentage) and played to a 5.81 goals against average.
Power Play: 2-for-9 / 22.2 percent (season: 24.2 percent / 7th)
Reasonably efficient on a per-opportunity basis, but the recurring theme is “too few chances.” The Caps’ 2.25 chances per game in Week 12 ranked tied for 21st in the league and below their 29th-ranked average of 2.46 chances per game for the season. This week, they just could not finish. Recording 17 shots in 13:27 of power play time is a pretty good shots-to-minutes rate, but two goals on those 17 shots? One expects more efficiency from a power play with this much talent than 11.8 percent. That is below their league-leading overall shooting percentage (12.1 percent).
What success the Caps did have came the middle of the power play setup, something they have seemed to lack of late. T.J. Oshie had both power play goals for the Caps for the week. On the other hand, it has been a while since Alex Ovechkin has had one. His streak without a power play goal reached eight games at week’s end.
Penalty Killing: 9-for-10 / 90.0 percent (season: 82.0 percent / 10th)
The Caps were better on this side of special teams. It might have been the best area of play overall for the week. Nine of ten shorthanded situations killed. Only 2.50 chances allowed per game (tied for 13th-fewest in the league). Only five shots allowed in 17:34 of shorthanded ice time. The only blemish was a late power play goal in the first game of the week that made things too interesting at the end of a 5-4 Caps win over the Rangers.
Faceoffs: 123-for-226 / 54.4 percent (season: 49.2 percent / 20th)
Week 12 was an example of the idea that faceoffs, in general, don’t really matter much in the larger scheme of wins and losses. The Caps had the third-best faceoff winning percentage for the week (54.4 percent) but finished with a .500 week in wins and losses.
What was noteworthy in the overall numbers was the discrepancy between offensive and defensive ends of the ice. The Caps won only 44.0 percent of 75 offensive draws for the week, but they won 61.0 percent of the 59 defensive draws taken. That difference between offensive and defensive end draws taken and their results suggest the Caps wasted some opportunities in the offensive end to get possession and apply pressure.
Individually, it was a good week for Caps taking more than ten draws. Only T.J. Oshie, who won nine of 20 faceoffs, finished under 20 percent among the five players in that group. But there was that offensive/defensive zone issue. Only Nic Dowd among the five won more than 50 percent of his offensive zone draws, but he took only five (4-for-5/80.0 percent). On the other hand, the four players in that group of five who took defensive zone draws (Oshie took none) all finished over 60 percent in the defensive end.
Goals by Period:
Third periods…ugh. The Caps allowed ten third period goals in the four games, the late game leakiness continuing to be an issue. It was a matter made worse by anemic offense in the third periods overall, the Caps finishing with two third period goals for the week. The result of the generosity in the third periods of games is that the Caps finished the week having tied for the fifth-highest number of third period goals allowed for the season (46) and taking residence in a neighborhood they would just as soon avoid. The teams with more third period goals allowed – Arizona (47), Chicago (47), Anaheim (48), and Detroit (49) – all rank in the lower half of the league standings, and only Arizona among them is playoff-eligible, barely.
The 2-2-0 week left the Caps still behind last year’s club at similar points of the season. If there is a big difference in any year-over-year category that merits attention, it is in the 5-on-5 shot attempts generated. This year’s Caps are running 7.6 percent behind last year’s club in this category, and they are not making it up with a proportionate reduction in shot attempts allowed at fives. In other categories, the Caps show evidence of better discipline. First, they seem to be managing the puck better, the volume of giveaways with which they are charged being 28.7 percent lower than at a similar point last season. Then there are the penalties, down 18.9 percent from last season, and the penalty minutes, down 20.2 percent from last year.
In the end…
Losing to the Islanders on Long Island is not a completely unexpected result. The margin of victory and breadth of the defensive collapse were. But that aside, losing to the Rangers has become an unwelcome habit, one that could cost the Caps the top spot in the East Division when the points are tallied at the end of the season. The Caps are entering what looks to be a portion of the schedule in which they have to earn points consistently against weaker teams. Over their next eight games, five will be against clubs not currently playoff eligible (Philadelphia and Buffalo twice, and New Jersey). Come out of that with a record similar to what the Caps had this week, and an East Division title might prove out of reach.
- First Star: T.J. Oshie (3-2-5, plus-1, two power play goals, one game-winning goal, 25.0 shooting percentage, no shots missed in 17 shot attempts)
- Second Star: John Carlson (3-1-4, minus-3, recorded seventh two-goal game of his career, passed Mike Green and Calle Johansson for third place in goal scoring among defensemen in Caps history (115))
- Third Star: Dmitry Orlov (1-2-3, minus-4, one overtime/game-winning goal, 20:31 in average ice time, tied Robert Picard for 11th place in goals in franchise history (42) and is one short of reaching the top-ten (Ken Klee: 43))