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.
- 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)