Sunday, November 28, 2021

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 7

Week 7 for the Washington Capitals was an odd one, losing to the expansion Seattle Kraken to open the week, but they finished with another winning week with wins over the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers to make it three winning weeks in a row and six out of seven.


Record (2-1-0)

When the Caps opened the week in Seattle against the Kraken, they were wrapping up their second back-to-back set of games in the span of six days on the west coast.  A loss there was not expected, but neither was it especially surprising, given the workload and playing against a team looking to measure itself against one of the league’s elite teams.  With two full days off before taking on the Canadiens, the Caps recharged and made the struggling Habs pay in a 6-3 win.  The Caps continued their good fortune by besting a Florida team that found itself struggling after a 10-0-1 start to the season to stay on the heels of the Carolina Hurricanes in the race for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Offense: 4.00 / game (season: 3.52 / 5th)

The Caps scored only two goals against Seattle, the third of three games on the four-game west coast trip in which they posted two goals.  The offense lit up Montreal and Florida for ten goals total – six against Montreal and four against Florida – the 10th and 11th times the Caps posted four or more goals this season. 

Seven Caps scored goals in the three games in Week 7, led by Alex Ovechkin with four.  Tom Wilson added three more.  Ten skaters recorded points, led by Ovechkin with seven.  Evgeny Kuznetsov and Wilson added six apiece.  With two points against Seattle and three against Florida, Wilson posted his fourth and fifth multi-point games of the season. 

Wilson and Ovechkin also displayed an efficiency in their shooting, Wilson posting three goals on nine shots (33.3 percent), while Ovechkin was 4-for-15 (26.7 percent).

Defense: 3.67 / game (season: 2.38 / 4th)

The Caps have a prolific offense, but their defense has been doing its part, too.  They slipped a bit in Week 7.  The eight goals they allowed at 5-on-5 tied for eighth-most in the league for the week.  The Caps continued to be stingy in allowing shots on goal, giving up 27.0 per game for the week, fifth-fewest in the league.  They also allowed only 115 shot attempts at 5-on-5, eighth-fewest in the league for the week.

As noted, Ovechkin and Wilson had noteworthy weeks on the offensive side of the puck, but both were on ice for five goals against at even strength, most on the team, and Wilson finished a minus-1 in goal differential at even strength.  That minus-1 was not nearly as bad as Daniel Sprong, who was a team worst minus-5 for the week.

Goaltending: 3.38 / .875 (season: 2.44 / .912)

Vitek Vanecek took one for the tired Caps in the loss to Seattle to open the week, allowing four goals on 26 shots in the 5-2 loss.  After that, though, it was the Ilya Samsonov Week.  Samsonov won both of his starts and stopped 38 of 44 shots.  While the save percentage was unimpressive (.880), Samsonov just keeps winning, finishing the week 8-0-1.

Second periods were a problem for the week, the Caps’ goaltending pair combining to stop just 19 of 24 shots (.792 save percentage).  Their combined .929 save percentage in the third periods of games balanced that somewhat, but all in all it was not a particularly efficient week for the goalies.

Power Play: 2-for-8 / 25.0 percent (season: 18.8 percent / 15th).

The Caps are not intimidating opponents with their power play, but they are gradually working their way back to respectability, climbing into the top half of the league rankings overall by week’s end.  Ovechkin and John Carlson were the goal-getters on the power play for the Caps in Week 7.  That they would be the goal scorers is not surprising, Ovechkin finishing the week with four power play goals to lead the team overall, and Carlson sitting in second place with three power play strikes.

If there was anything odd about the week it was in ice time, where Connor McMichael (1:42), Nic Dowd (1:30), and Mike Sgarbossa all were credited with at least one minute of power play ice time.  The biggest surprise here might have been Aliaksei Protas, who averaged 3:16 per game in power play ice time, fifth most on the team.

Penalty Killing: 6-for-7 / 85.7 percent (season: 85.2 percent / 9th)

It was pretty much a typical week for the Caps on the penalty kill, their penalty kill rate for the week almost identical to their year to date rate.  What benefitted the Caps as much as anything was minimizing chances, their 2.33 shorthanded situations faced per game for the week tied for ninth-fewest in the league.  It is consistent with the Caps performance in this area to date this season, their 2.57 shorthanded situations faced per game through Week 7 being the third-fewest in the league.

Faceoffs: 98-for-187 / 52.4 percent (46.9 percent / 28th)

Another week, but a successful one in the faceoff circle.  The Caps were not just on the good side of 50 percent overall, but they were over 50 percent in all three zones – 51.4 percent in the offensive zone, 53.3 percent in the defensive zone, and 53.7 percent in the neutral zone.

Five skaters took at least ten draws for the week, and three of them finished over 50 percent.  Evgeny Kuznetsov was noteworthy here, finishing 39-for-71 (54.9 percent), even with a sub-50 percent effort in the defensive zone (7-for-16/43.8 percent).  Connor McMichael and Nic Dowd each finished the week at 50 percent or better in all three zones. 

Goals by Period

Balance, balance, balance.  The Caps finished the week scoring four goals in each of the three regulation periods.  They did struggle on the other side of the puck in second periods, where they allowed five goals in the three games.  The Caps finished the week with goal differentials of at least plus-10 in the first periods (plus-10) and third periods (plus-13) of games. 


The Caps’ win-loss performance is relatively unchanged, year-over-year, but how they got there is different.  The Caps were lacking in possession statistics through 21 games last season, being on the wrong side of shots taken and allowed, and shot attempts taken and allowed at 5-on-5.  This year’s club is much tighter in both areas.  The Caps are also more effective at playing within the rules, with 14 fewer penalties taken and 32 fewer minutes served.  Special teams continue to go in opposite directions, last year’s team being significantly better on power plays, while this year’s club is superior in penalty killing by a substantial margin.

In the end…

What does not show up in the TWTWTW data we display is the effect of man-games lost.  With as many injuries and illnesses as the Caps have endured so far this season, that they are leading a competitive Metropolitan Division is a pleasant surprise.  It has given others – rookies and bottom six forwards/third pair defensemen a chance to expand their range of effectiveness, and they have done so admirably.  But the season is barely one-quarter completed, and one hopes the Caps get back to full and healthy strength soon so, if nothing else, fans can see what this team is capable of with a full complement.

Three Stars

  • First Star: Alex Ovechkin (4-3-7, plus-2, 15 shots on goal, 27 shot attempts, 26.7 shooting percentage, one game-winning goal, five credited hits)
  • Second Star: Evgeny Kuznetsov (1-5-6, plus-3, 23:12 average ice time (team leader), 54.9 faceoff win percentage, three takeaways (team leader))
  • Third Star: Tom Wilson (3-3-6, even, 33.3 shooting percentage, nine shots, 13 shot attempts, one shorthanded goal)


A TWO Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 22: Capitals 4 - Hurricanes 2

The Washington Capitals visited the Carolina Hurricanes in a Sunday matinee in a battle of the top two teams in the Metropolitan Division.  The Caps took a 2-0 lead into the third period, gave it back, but scored the final two goals to come out of North Carolina with a 4-2 win.

First Period

Both teams had trouble establishing any continuity in what was a back-and-forth game to start. Carolina was awarded the first power play at 8:38 of the period when Evgeny Kuznetsov was sent off for tripping.  The Hurricanes could not convert, but they went a man up a second time at the 13:49 mark when Lars Eller went to the box for interference.  The Caps skated that shorthanded situation as well.  The teams went the remainder of the period at 5-on-5, but neither team could find paydirt, and the teams went to the first intermission in a scoreless tie.

-- Carolina outshot the Caps, 10-7, in the period and out-attempted them, 20-16.

-- Nic Dowd and Aliaksei Protas each had two shots to lead the team.

-- The Caps out-hit the Hurricanes, 15-8, Beck Malenstyn leading the team with three.

-- The Caps were just 6-for-19 in faceoffs (31.6 percent).

Second Period

Protas had a fine chance in the first minute of the period, but was turned aside by goalie Frederik Andersen.  After the save, Teuvo Teravainen was whistled for hooking, going to the penalty box 40 seconds into the period to put the Caps on their first power play of the afternoon.  The Caps were unable to convert, and the teams remained scoreless.

Alex Ovechkin broke the ice in the Caps’ favor 11:58 into the period.  Dmitry Orlov collected a loose puck in the slot, drawing Carolina’s defense toward him.  Orlov slid a backhand pass to Ovechkin to the right of Andersen, and despite Jesper Fast getting his stick on the puck as Ovechkin was releasing his shot, the puck slid past Andersen's left pad to make it 1-0.

The Caps doubled the lead on a fluke play 59 seconds after the Ovechkin goal.  Protas, from the corner to Andersen’s right, tried to center the puck but it hit the skate of defenseman Tony DeAngelo and slid past the left skate of Andersen to make it 2-0, 12:57 into the period, Protas’ first NHL goal.

Washington went a man up late in the period when Brady Skjei was sent to the box for interference at 17:09 of the period.  At 18:19, Tom Wilson and Brendan Smith went off on coincidental minors, Wilson for slashing – a poke at Andersen’s pads as Andersen was covering an Ovechkin shot – and Smith for roughing when he took exception to Wilson’s actions.  With the two in the box, the Caps skated the remainder of their power play without success.  Neither team would change the numbers on the scoreboard in the last moments of the period, and the Caps went to the locker room with a 2-0 lead.

-- Washington outshot Carolina, 11-9, in the period and out-attempted them, 25-15.

-- Aliaksei Protas led the team in shots through 40 minutes with four; Ovechkin had 10 shot attempts, five of them blocked.

-- Thirteen of 18 skaters were credited with hits in the first two periods, Beck Malenstyn leading with four.

-- John Carlson led the team in ice time over the first two periods with 17:48.

Third Period

Washington went to a power play in the first minute of the period when Skjei was sent to the box for holding at the 46 second mark.  Washington posed little threat on the man advantage, and they held on to their 2-0 lead.

Carolina halved the lead off a Caps turnover in seventh minute when Protas could not clear the puck from just inside the defensive blue line.  The puck found its was to Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who rifled a shot past the glove of goalie Ilya Samsonov at the 6:22 mark.

Washington went a man short at the 11:30 mark when Martin Fehervary was sent off for hooking.  Carolina did not convert the power play, but they scored just after the man advantage expired when Nino Niederreiter snapped a shot over Samsonov’s glove from the slot to tie the game at two apiece.

Washington went to a power play at the 15:00 mark when Seth Jarvis was called for holding.  The Caps went to a 5-on-3 power play when Sebastian Aho was called for slashing at 15:30.  It was Dmitry Orlov breaking the tie as the 5-on-3 portion of the power play expired from an unaccustomed location.  From the right wing boards, Kuznetsov found John Carlson in the high slot.  Carlson fed the puck to Tom Wilson, who fed the puck back across to Orlov at the doorstep to Andersen’s left.  Orlov one-timed the puck and Andersen got a piece of it, but not enough to keep it from slithering through his pads and inching over the goal line at the 17:05 mark to make it 3-2, Caps.

Carolina pulled Andersen for the extra attacker with 2:27 left.  John Carlson filled the empty net with 1:41 left to give the Caps a 4-2 lead, the final margin of victory for the Caps.

Other stuff…

-- Carolina outshot the Caps, 32-25 and out-attempted them, 64=52.

-- Aliakset Protas and Alex Ovechkin led the team with four shots apiece, Ovechkin leading the team with 13 shot attempts.

-- The Caps had an uncommon number of skaters without a shot attempt – Lars Eller, Mike Sgarbossa, Dennis Cholowski, Martin Fehervary, and Brett Leason.

-- Nick Jensen led the team with six credited hits.

-- Eller was the only Caps taking more than one faceoff who finished over 50 percent (8-for-15/53.3 percent).

-- John Carlson had a three-point game (1-2-3), his first three-point game of the season.

-- Tom Wilson had a pair of assists, his third multi-assist game of the year.

-- Dmitry Orlov had a goal and an assist, his third multi-point game of the season and first on the road.

-- Carlson led the Caps with 26:54 in ice time.

-- Ilya Samsonov improved to 9-0-1 for the season.  No goalie in the league has as many wins and no losses in regulation.

In the end…

This was a statement game for the Caps.  Carolina has been clinging to a thin lead over the Caps in the Metro for the most part for what seems like weeks, and the Caps went into their rink, beat them, and took over the division lead.  They did not wilt when the Hurricanes tied the game in the third period.  Under the circumstances, it was among the best wins of the season for the Capitals.