Sunday, November 21, 2021

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 6

The Washington Capitals finished a second consecutive week without suffering a loss in regulation time and did it while beating a bitter rival and then heading to the road for a trio of games on the west coast.  It was a challenging week, to be sure, and the Caps met that challenge about as well as one could hope.

Record (3-0-1)

The 0-2-1 record of Week 4 seems long ago after the Caps put together a 3-0-0 record in Week 5 and a 3-0-1 record this past week.  They tied the Calgary Flames for the most points earned for the week and left them one point behind Carolina for the lead in the Metropolitan Division. When they beat Pittsburgh on home ice in the first game of the week, it would be the only home game of the week, and they wrapped it up with the seventh-best home record by standings points (5-1-3/13 points) and the eighth-best record by points percentage (.722).  They went 2-0-1 in the first three games of their west coast road trip to finish Week 6 tied for the third-best road record by points (14/6-1-2) and third in points percentage (.778).

Offense: 3.50 / game (season: 3.44 / 6th)

It was a solid week of work on the offensive side of the puck for the Caps.  They outscored their season average by a small margin, but what was noteworthy was the balance.  Eight players recorded goals, led by Conor Sheary and Garnet Hathaway with three apiece.  Hathaway finished the week with five goals in his five most recent games, including a pair of two-goal games.  Fifteen of the 21 skaters to dress for the week posted points, led by John Carlson (0-7-7).  Carlson’s week enabled him to jump into a tie for second place in total scoring among defensemen (3-13-16) with Adam Fox and Victor Hedman, one point behind Roman Josi.  Carlson and his frequent partner, Martin Fehervary, led the team with a plus-7 rating for the week.  The shooting results took on a bit of an odd look.  No surprise that Alex Ovechkin led with 12 shots on goal, but three other Caps one would not associate with high shot volumes also posted double-digit shot totals – Hathaway (11), Daniel Sprong (11), and Fehervary (10).

Defense: 1.00 / game (season: 2.17 / 3rd)

The scoring defense for the Caps has been remarkable over the season to date.  It was on full display in Week 6 with only three goals allowed and 29.0 shots allowed per game, third fewest in the league for the week.  It was not quite as good a week in terms of shot attempts, where the Caps finished 13th for the week in shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 (51.7 percent).  The best part of the week on defense came in two-parts.  First, no Capital was on ice for more than two goals against at even strength.  Only four players were on ice for a pair of goals at evens – Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Garnet Hathaway.  Second, no Capital had a minus on-ice goal differential at even strength.

Goaltending: 0.98 / .964 (season: 2.27 / .916)

It would be hard to have a better week of goaltending than what Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek assembled in Week 6.  Vanecek was 1-0-1, 1.94, .929 in two games, and he was the worse of the two netminders.  Samsonov was 2-0-0, stopping all 56 shots he faced in two games to post his second and third shutouts of the season.  Of 41 goalies playing at least 60 minutes for the week, Samsonov and Vanecek finished tied for first and 11th, respectively, in goals against average, and tied for first and 19th, respectively, in save percentage. Samsonov was one of five goalies for the week to post a perfect 1.000 save percentage at even strength, but he did it facing 44 shots at evens, more than twice as many as any of the other four goalies.

Power Play: 2-for-8 / 25.0 percent (season: 17.9 percent / 19th)

It was a decent, if not exceptional week for the Caps’ power play, but it was the best week since Week 3, when they were 3-for-11 (27.3 percent).  Ovechkin and Tom Wilson were the power play goal scorers, and John Carlson, T.J. Oshie, and Evgeny Kuznetsov added assists, Carlson recording a pair.  Ovechkin (six), Kuznetsov (four), and Wilson recorded the power play shots on goal.  Ovechkin and Kuznetsov each logged more than ten minutes in power play ice time with 10:45 and 10:26, respectively.  Ovechkin finished the week as the only player in the league to have logged more than 90 percent of his team’s power play ice time (94.8 percent).

Penalty Killing: 8-for-8 / 100.0 percent (season: 85.1 percent / 10th)

Perfect week.  The four games without allowing a power play goal in Week 6 extended the Caps’ streak of games without allowing a power play goal to eight, and their streak of shorthanded situations killed to 18.  Making it even better was a shorthanded goal scored by Martin Fehervary to open the scoring in the Caps’ 6-1 win over Pittsburgh in the first game of the week.  Which leads to the odd statistic of the week.  The Caps had two shorthanded shots on goal, both by defensemen – Fehervary and Nick Jensen.  Nic Dowd led all skaters in shorthanded ice time with 3:26 for the week. Jensen led defensemen with 2:22.

Faceoffs: 94-for-226 / 41.6 percent (45.8 percent / 30th)

Faceoffs remain a challenge for the Caps, who finished 29th in the league in Week 6 with a 41.6 winning percentage.  Six players took at least ten draws for the Caps, and only one – Lars Eller – finished over 50 percent, and that by a single win (9-for-17/52.9 percent).  The Caps were under 45 precent in all three zones, posting identical 30-for-89 marks (43.5 percent) in the offensive and neutral zones, and going just 34-for-88 (38.6 percent) in the defensive zone.  Individual faceoffs do not exert much influence on results, and even a game-to-game pattern does not affect results to a significant degree, but there is a disturbing absence of attention to detail that makes one wonder if the Caps would have the capacity to succeed on draws in critical moments.  Nic Dowd and Lars Eller maintain season winning percentages over 50 percent (54.3 and 51.1 percent, respectively), but the performance drops off quite a bit after that. 

Goals by Period

The Caps dominated third period in Week 6, outscoring their four opponents, 8-1.  The eight goals scored led the league for the week, and the one goal allowed was bested only by Boston and Carolina, who allowed no third period goals in fewer games played.  The Caps finished the week a top-five team in scoring in each regulation period – 19 first period goals (fourth), 21 second period goals (tied for second with three other teams), and 22 third period goals (fourth).  Florida is the only other top-five team in scoring in each period through six weeks.


What leaps off the page in the year-over-year comparison is scoring defense.  Through 18 games this season, the Caps are 22 goals allowed better than last season at the same 18-game point.  And it shows up in shot attempts allowed at even strength, where the Caps have shaved 70 shot attempts off last year’s total through 18 games. Where the Caps need improvement is the power play, which is performing well below last year’s shite-hot pace through 18 games.  As far as the penalty kill is concerned, the Caps get a two-fer here.  An improved penalty killing percentage and fewer shorthanded situations faced.

In the end…

On cannot say how the Caps will perform when they are back to full health, but what they have done during the absence of scoring line forwards – Nicklas Backstrom, Anthony Mantha, T.J. Oshie – has put them in a position to contend, not just for a postseason spot, but for a high seed as well.  Youngsters have performed above what might be expected, and whether they get significant minutes going forward, players such as Brett Leason, Aliaksei Protas, Garrett Pilon, and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby have shown that the Caps might have depth to cope with unforeseen events down the road.  And the young goaltenders have been very good in recent appearances, especially Ilya Samsonov, who might be finding that consistency the team needs.  But for now, the Week 6 results show that the Caps are no fluke.  They are, at this point of the season, one of the league’s best squads overall.

Three Stars:

  • First Star: Ilya Samsonov (2-0-0, 0.00, 1.000, 2 shutouts)
  • Second Star: Garnet Hathaway (3-1-4, plus-2, 11 shots on goal, 12 shot attempts, 26 credited hits, two takeaways, no giveaways, two game-winning goals)
  • Third Star: Alex Ovechkin (2-3-5, plus-2, 12 shots on goal,24 shot attempts, 11 credited hits)

A TWO Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 18: Capitals 4 - Sharks 0

The Washington Capitals played a beautiful ugly game in San Jose on Saturday night, riding a pair of goals from both Conor Sheary and Alex Ovechkin, plus a 22-save effort from goalie Ilya Samsonov, to defeat the Sharks, 4-0, to give the Caps points in the first three games of their west coast road trip.

irst Period

Conor Sheary got the Caps off to a good start just 2:17 into the game when the Caps broke into the San Jose zone, but lacking a numbers advantage.  Nevertheless, Daniel Sprong found Sheary on his left with a pass that broke Sheary behind the Sharks’ defense, and he snapped a shot through the pads of goalie Adin Hill, who looked to have misplayed the puck.

Washington was awarded the game’s first power play when the puck was shot over the glass for a delay-of-game penalty on Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 13:29 of the period.  Alex Ovechkin made the Sharks pay by converting a pass from John Carlson into a one-timer from the top of the left wing circle at 13:58, Ovechkin’s first goal off a one-timer from his office this season.

The Caps had their second power play when Noah Gregor cross-checked Garnet Hathaway in the ribs in the neutral zone at the 17:34 mark.  The power play was wiped out when T.J. Oshie was called for interference at 18:00 of the period.  The Caps took another penalty when Justin Schultz was called for goalie interference when he cleaned out Hill in the San Jose crease at 18:30 into the period.  The Caps killed the 4-on-3 Sharks advantage and almost all of the two-man advantage when the horn sounded to send the teams to the locker rooms with the Caps holding a 2-0 lead.

-- The teams split 12 shots on goal evenly, and San Jose out-attempted the Caps, 14-12, in the period.

-- The two teams combined for 32 credited hits in the period, the Caps with 17 of them and T.J.Oshie leading the team with four.

-- Connor McMichael had a fine period. In 5:43 of ice time, he had a shot on goal, two credited hits, and won five of six draws.

-- Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with 7:21 in ice time.

Second Period

San Jose started the period with almost a full minute of carry-over power play time, but they failed to convert the opportunity.

San Jose dominated zone time in the first 15 minutes, and then they were awarded a four-minute power play when Carl Hagelin was called for a double minor for high sticking at 14:49 of the period.  The Caps killed off both ends of the double minor penalty and then received a power play of their own when the Sharks took their second delay of game/puck over glass penalty, this one charged to Gregor at 18:58 of the period.  Washington did not convert the extra-man chance before the end of the period, but 62 seconds would carry over into the third period.

-- San Jose outshot the Caps, 10-7, in the period and out-attempted them, 23-10.

-- Nic Dowd and Evgeny Kuznetsov had a devil of a time trying to win faceoffs in the first 40 minutes, combining to win only seven of 26 draws (26.9 percent).

-- Conor Sheary led the Caps in shots on goal (three) and shot attempts (five) through two periods.

Third Period

The Caps did not convert the remainder of the power play carrying over into the period, and the teams played on with the Caps holding on to their 2-0 lead.

The teams fought back and forth without either team getting many in the way of chances until the 16th minute when Sheary got his second goal of the game when he followed up his own shot from the seat of his pants, finding a hole between Hill’s pads to make it 3-0, 15:10 into the period.

Ovechkin put an exclamation point on the effort with an empty net goal 18:56 into the period to make it a 4-0 game.  That would be how the game ended, with Samsonov earning the shutout.

Other stuff…

-- For Ilya Samsonov it was a second consecutive shutout and his third in his last five appearances.  Over those five games he is 4-0-0 (one no-decision), 1.36, .950, with those three shutouts.

-- Conor Sheary had his first multi-goal game of the season with his pair of tallie, and he had his second multi-point game, his first on the road this season.

-- Alex Ovechkin had a three-point game (2-1-3), the 120th of his career, tying Mark Recchi and Ray Bourque for 28th place all-time.

-- Ovechkin’s empty net goal was the 42nd of his career, second all-time (Wayne Gretzky: 56).

-- John Carlson had the 77th two-assist game of his career, third best in team history.

-- San Jose outshot the Caps, 22-21, and out-attempted them, 51-34.

-- The teams combined for 79 credited hits, San Jose one better than the Caps, 40-39.  Garnet Hathaway had nine for the Caps; T.J. Oshie had eight.

-- Sheary and Ovechkin led the Caps with four shots on goal apiece; Sheary led in shot attempts with five.

-- The Caps extended their road points streak to six games (4-0-2) and their overall points streak to seven games (6-0-1).

-- With the win, the Caps increased their goal differential to plus-23, tied for third in the league behind Carolina and Florida at plus-24 apiece.

In the end…

Nice game.  Very efficient, very much a textbook road game – get a lead, clamp down, limit chances late when the outcome is in doubt, put it away at the end.  Do it again on Sunday, and a 3-0-1 record on this west coast trip looks mighty fine.