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.
- 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)