Sunday, December 19, 2021

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 10

Another week in the books, and it was another winning week for the Washington Capitals, despite it being a light workload.  The Caps have been a remarkably consistent club from week-to-week, described by one outlet as “a well-oiled machine.” 

Record (1-0-1)

It was the ninth time in ten weeks that the Caps finished a week over .500 in standings points earned.  Not that it was a smooth week by any means, the Caps coming back from a two-goal deficit in Chicago to force overtime against the Blackhawks, where they lost for the sixth time this season, tied for most overtime losses with the Calgary Flames.  The Caps came back to beat the Winnipeg Jets in a game that was closer than the 5-2 final would suggest, the final margin provided by a pair of empty net goals.  Nevertheless, the Caps wrapped up the week 13-3-3 in their last 19 games, the best record in the league since November 8th when they started that run.

Offense: 4.50 / game (season: 3.47 / 5th)

It was a fine week for the Caps in the offensive end of the ice, even with the two empty net goals against Winnipeg to close the week.  Three Caps – Alex Ovechkin, Conor Sheary, and Daniel Sprong shared the lead in goals scored with two apiece, Sheary getting the lone game-winning goal for the week in the 5-2 win over the Jets.  Ovechkin’s two goals left him with 752 career goals, 14 behind Jaromir Jagr for third place on the all-time list of goal scorers.  The Caps got additional secondary scoring with goals from Lars Eller, Mike Sgarbossa, and Brett Leason.

The Caps had 14 skaters record points for the week, led by the trio of Ovechkin, Sheary, and Sprong with three apiece.  Five other skaters – Eller, Sgarbossa, Leason, T.J. Oshie, and John Carlson had multi-point weeks.  The Caps did not get a goal from a defenseman in Week 10, but five blueliners had points, and none of the seven defensemen to dress had minus-ratings for the week. 

Washington averaged 42.5 shots per game for the two games in Week 10, the highest average in the league for the week.

Defense: 3.50 / game (season: 2.57 / 6th)

It was a shaky week for the Caps in the defensive end, especially against Chicago, against whom they allowed five goals in a 5-4 overtime loss.  The Caps, who started the season as one of the stingiest teams when it came to allowing shots on goal, allowed an average of 35.0 shots for the week, tied for seventh-most in the league.

Ovechkin and Sheary were the two Caps on ice for a pair of even strength goals against.  The goals in that category were spread rather liberally, 11 skaters on ice for at least one even strength goal against.  Even though the Caps allowed 93 shot attempts at 5-on-5, they finished the week plus-13 in that category, tied for 11th best in the league.

Goaltending: 3.51 / .900 (season: 2.47 / .913 / 4 shutouts)

It was an uneven week in goal for the Caps.  Ilya Samsonov opened the week allowing five goals on 28 shots in the 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks to open the week.  He was strong to start, stopping all six Chicago shots he faced in the first period, but he allowed five goals on 22 shots in the last 40 minutes of regulation and overtime.  Nevertheless, he finished the week with an 11-2-2 win-loss record for the season.  No goalie in the league has played as many games (16) with as few losses in regulation as Samsonov (two).

It hasn’t been often that a goalie stole a game for the Caps the last couple of years, but Vitek Vanecek came as close to doing that as one could hope, stopping 40 of 42 shots in the Caps’ 5-2 win over Winnipeg to end the week.  The game was closer than the final score indicated, the Caps scoring a pair of empty net goals in the last 2:40 of the contest.  Until then, Vanecek was brilliant, especially late, stopping 19 of 20 second period shots and 13 of 14 third period shots.  He is now 4-1-2 in his last seven games, with a 2.50 goals against average and .916 save percentage.

Power Play: 1-for-5 / 20.0 percent (season: 16.7 percent / 25th).

It says something about the state of the Caps’ power play when a 20 percent week could be thought of, if not good, than an improvement.  Even with the 20 percent week, the Caps are at just 15.1 percent over the last seven weeks after going 6-for-31 in the first three weeks of the season (19.4 percent).

In addition to the lack of scoring efficiency with the man advantage, the Caps are finding themselves with fewer opportunities.  The Caps had 10 or more chances in each of the first three weeks of the season, but only a total of 11 over the past two weeks.  With 2.80 chances per game for the season, they now rank 22nd in the league.

Alex Ovechkin had the only power play goal of the week for the Caps, tying him with Dave Andreychuk for most power play goals all-time (274).

Penalty Killing: 5-for-9 / 55.6 percent (season: 80.0 percent / T-14th)

Week 10 was awful for the Caps on the penalty kill, their worst week of the season.  Making it worse was allowing three goals on six chances to Chicago, a team that ended the week – with that breakout performance (most power play goals in a game this season for the Blackhawks) – 16th in the league on the power play (18.8 percent). 

The sad week brought to an abrupt halt a four-game streak without allowing a power play goal that the Caps brought into the week.  If there was a glimmer of a silver lining for the week, that three-goal disaster in Chicago was only the second time in 30 games this season that the Caps allowed multiple power play goals.  The first instance was against Florida on November 30th, when the Caps allowed a pair of power play goals in the last eight minutes of the third period to allow the Panthers to tie, and then to go ahead of the Caps in the last minute in a 5-4 Florida win.

Faceoffs: 50-for-116 / 43.1 percent (46.0 percent / 30th)

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Caps are just a god-awful team on faceoffs.  At least Week 10 was marginally better than Week 9, but this is a team that just cannot win draws on a consistent basis, either individually or as a team.

The Caps were especially bad in the offensive zone this week, winning only a third of their draws.  And considering that they only took 33 offensive zone draws to 41 in the defensive end, the ice was tilted a bit in wrong direction to Capitals’ liking.  No Capital taking more than one draw finished over 50 percent in offensive zone faceoffs.  The Caps were better in the defensive zone, but 41 percent is hardly something to look back on fondly.  Of the five Caps to take at least ten draws, only Mike Sgarbossa was over 50 percent for the week (8-for-14/57.1 percent).

Goals by Period

Odd that even in a short week, neither the Caps nor their opponents could manage a first period goal.  But that made for some wild times in the last 40 minutes of the two games.  It was not unusual in that the Caps finished the week as a top-five team in both second period goals (tied for second) scored and third period goals (tied for fourth) scored (38 in each frame).  Those first periods without a goal allowed left the Caps in fifth place for fewest first period goals allowed for the season (17).  The Caps were the only team in Week 10 to go scoreless, for and against, in the first periods of games.


The Caps are tracking very closely to the 2020-2021 edition of the team in wins (two behind last year), points (one behind last year), goals for (one ahead of last year), and shot attempts against at 5-on-5 (even with last year).  Where the Caps have had an advantage with this year’s team is in offensive engagement, the shots on goal and shot attempts at fives being significantly higher this year than last.

In the end…

The Caps have not had long winning streaks, four wins being their longest streak this season, but it is in avoiding losing streaks where this team has been effective, avoiding consecutive losses in regulation through 30 games. To do this despite all the man games lost is nothing short of amazing, and it speaks to the depth and veteran leadership in keeping the team on an even keel.

Three Stars

  • First Star: Vitek Vanacek (1-0-0, 40 saves on 42 shots (.952 save percentage)).
  • Second Star: Conor Sheary (2-1-3, plus-1, one game-winning goal, six shots on goal, eight shot attempts)
  • Third Star: Alex Ovechkin (2-1-3, plus-1, posted 274th career power play goal, tying Dave Andreychuk for first all-time, 18 shots on goal, 22 shot attempts)