Week 1 was the Caps’ worst three-game start since 2013-2014, when they also went 1-2-0. The last time they had a worse start was in 2013-2014, when they went 0-3-0 under head coach Adam Oates. When the Caps lost to the Boston Bruins in the season opener, 5-2, it was the first time that the Caps lost on Opening Night since dropping a 3-2 Gimmick decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins to open the 2016-2017 season and the first time they lost a season opener in regulation since losing in Chicago to the Blackhawks, 6-4, to open the 2013-2014 season. It was the first time they lost a home opener since dropping a 3-2 overtime decision to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2019 and the first time they lost a home opener in regulation since they lost to the Winnipeg Jets, 4-2, in 2013.
Offense: 2.33/game (season: 2.33 / T-25th)
It was a rough start for the Caps, who were consistent, if not prolific. Five Caps shared in the seven goals scored for the week, Conor Sheary and Anthony Mantha each with a pair to lead the team. Alex Ovechkin drew a blank in three games, although he did have one goal washed out after a video review and barely missed another when a shot he took late in the game against Montreal toward an empty net hit the post and ricocheted out. T.J. Oshie led the team with three points on a goal – the only power play goal scored by the Caps in Week 1 – and a pair of assists. Six other Caps had two-point weeks, perhaps most surprising being a pair of points each from defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk. Twelve Caps in all shared in the points in Week 1.
Defense: 3.00/game (season: 1.50/T-16th)
The Caps put themselves in a hole early in each of the three games of the week, allowing the game’s first goal in each contest. The Caps finished the week as one of seven teams in the league failing to score first in any game and only one of two teams to do so having played in three games (Chicago was the other one). Fourteen of the 18 skaters to dress for the Caps in Week 1 were on ice for at least one even strength goal against. Dmitry Orlov and John Carlson had the most difficult time, on ice for four even strength goals apiece for the week. Team-wide, the Caps allowed 125 shot attempts at 5-on-5, eighth-most in the league for the week.
Goaltending: 2.75 / .911 (season: 2.75 / .911)
Overall, it was not a bad week for the Darcy Kuemper/Charlie Lindgren tandem in goal for the Caps. While Kuemper was charged with four goals allowed in the opener against Boston, it seemed to be more a case of poor coverage and inconsistent communication on the part of the defense in front of him than any flaws in Kuemper’s netminding. Lindgren was given the task of facing one of the most potent offenses in the league in their home opener and still allowed just three goals on 39 shots in his first game with the Caps. He stopped 20 of 21 first period shots in that game to allow the Caps to take a 2-1 lead to the first intermission. Kuemper came back to play a solid, consistent game in his return to the ice to end the week, stopping 21 of 22 shots in the Caps’ 3-1 win over Montreal for their first win of the season.
Power Play: 1-for-11 / 9.1 percent (season: 9.1 percent / 24th)
The Caps’ power play was disappointing last season, and the ineffectiveness continued into the first two games of the season, the Caps going 0-for-9 against Boston and Toronto. The week ended on a bit of a positive note with the Caps inserting Dylan Strome on the right-wing wall in the “Nicklas Backstrom” spot and moving Evgeny Kuznetsov out of that spot and onto the second power play unit. The Caps were 1-for-2 against the Canadiens, the goal courtesy of T.J. Oshie with assists from Strome and Alex Ovechkin.
Penalty Killing 7-for-9 / 77.8 percent (season: 77.8 percent / 19th)
A 77.8 percent penalty kill does not sound impressive, but it is a small population of shorthanded situations to be considered. Another was to think about it is that the Caps allowed a power play goal on the first power play they faced this season but went 7-for-8 killing penalties thereafter. Then again, the Caps also allowed a power play goal on the first power play they faced in their second game, John Tavares doing the honors for the Toronto Maple Leafs. If anything, the Caps were consistent in the volume of power plays they faced, going shorthanded three times in each of the three games for the week.
Faceoffs: 71-for-172 / 41.3 percent (41.3 percent / 29th)
Here we go again. There just is not a good spin one can put on the week in the circle. The Caps stunk on toast. They were one win over 50 percent in the offensive end for the week (31-for-60), but they were a ghastly 35.0 percent in the defensive end of the ice (21-for-60). Of the five Caps taking at least ten draws for the week, only T.J. Oshie was over 50 percent (60.0/6-for-10). On the other hand, he took only one defensive faceoff, so he avoided being a party to that disaster for the most part. Neither Evgeny Kuznetsov (not surprising) nor Lars Eller (somewhat surprising) mustered a faceoff winning percentage of 40 percent for the week, Kuznetsov going an almost inconceivable 0-for-13 in the neutral zone and Eller going 2-for-13 in the defensive end.
Goals by Period
If anything, the Caps were consistent in one respect in Week 1. They allowed three goals in each of the three periods overall for nine goals allowed in total for the week. The unfortunate number, though, was “zero,” as in no third period goals scored. They were one of four teams that failed to record a third period goal for the week.
When a 2-0-1 start in one year is followed up with a 1-2-0 start the following year, it is not surprising that this year’s three-game start trails last year’s three-game start in just about every statistical category worth considering. Wins, points, goals for, goals against, shots for, shots allowed, power play chances, power play goals, power play effiency, penalty killing efficiency, faceoff winning percentage, shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5, take your pick. This year’s start pales compared to last year’s start.
In the end…
Three games, one week. No, it was not pretty. But this was not an entirely unexpected start, either, what with the Caps integrating new parts (especially among the forwards) and missing some important pieces. The trick now is to, in the words of management expert W. Edwards Deming, “improve constantly.” The Caps will get a chance to do just that with another three-game week in Week 2.
- T.J. Oshie (1-2-3, plus-1, 7 shots on goal, 14 shot attempts, 1 power play goal, 6 credited hits, 2 takeaways, plus-1 goal differential on ice at even strength)
- Anthony Mantha (2-0-2, even, eight shots on goal, 12 shot attempts, 1 game-winning goal)
- Trevor van Riemsdyk (0-2-2, plus-3, plus-3 goal differential on ice at even strength, no goals against on ice at even strength)
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