One can see this season slowly bleeding away, and it is looking as if the Caps do not have an answer to fix their problems.
Week 18 makes it six weeks in a row that the Caps have not had a winning record. Two losing weeks and four break-even weeks, including Week 18. They were 2-0-0 in Week 12, but since then, they are 6-8-2. The new calendar year is proving to be a long-running nightmare, the Caps going 6-8-2 from January 1st through Week 18, tied for 23rd in points and 25th in points percentage over that period. Worse, the Caps lost four straight on home ice through Week 18 and are 2-6-1 in calendar year 2022 through Saturday, tied for 25th in points (five) and 30th in points percentage (.278).
Offense: 4.50 / game (season: 3.24 / 11th)
Scoring goals was not a problem in Week 18, seven Caps sharing the nine goals in the two games. Tom Wilson and Joe Snively were the two-goal scorers for the Caps for the week. The odd part about the point distribution is in the leaders. Evgeny Kuznetsov with three points (1-2-3) sharing the lead in points is not surprising, but Joe Snively (2-1-3) and Carl Hagelin (1-2-3) is. All in all, the Caps did have a decent distribution of points overall, 13 skaters posting at least one.
Defense: 3.50 / game (season: 2.76 / 11th)
Strange week. The Caps allowed 44 shots allowed in one game, 26 in the other. They were minus-21 in shot attempts differential at 5-on-5 in one game, plus-10 in the other. They won the former and lost the latter. Part of it might have been score effects, the Caps being minus-22 when ahead in their 5-2 win over Montreal, but still, the disparity by game was eye-popping.
Fourteen of 18 skaters dressing for the week were on ice for at least one goal against at even strength, perhaps the kind of distribution one does not want to see. Conor Sheary was on ice for three even strength goals against, most on the team for the week. Every defenseman to dress for the week was on ice for at least one even strength goal against. The odd part here was in the five players to escape without an even strength goal against when on ice. Among that group were Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Joe Snively, Brett Leason, and Connor McMichael. Not exactly the group one might have expected, even if Leason and McMichael averaged less than nine minutes of even strength ice time.
Goaltending: 3.52 / .900 (season: 2.56 / .908 / 6 shutouts)
There is good, bad, and ugly. But there being only two games, the goaltending divided between good and ugly. The good was Ilya Samsonov, who stopped 42 of 44 shots in the Caps’ 5-2 win over Montreal to close the week. It was the third time this season that Samsonov faced more than 40 shots and his second win. What kept his week from qualifying as excellent was allowing going 6-for-7 in 16 minutes in the Caps’ the three goals on four shots in five minutes in the Caps’ 5-4 loss to Columbus to start the week, but it was a minor blemish on one of his best weeks of the season.
The ugly was Pheonix Copley, who stopped only 15 of 19 shots (.789 save percentage) in 42 minutes in that loss to Columbus. His has been the very good against the very bad in his two appearances for the Caps, his other being 21 saves on 22 shots (.955) in a 5-3 loss to Edmonton when he relieved an ineffective Samsonov. Another illustration of the uneven, inconsistent goaltending the Caps have had over much of the season.
Power Play: 1-for-7 / 14.3 percent (season: 15.3 percent / 29th).
Getting seven chances on the man advantage was the good part of the week for the Caps. Getting one goal against the 15th ranked (Columbus) and 30th ranked (Montreal) penalty kills was not. Evgeny Kuznetsov had the lone power play goal, and Alex Ovechkin, who missed the Montreal game due to Canadian COVID restrictions, extended his streak of games without a power play goal to eight. For the Caps, the week left them tied for the fifth-worst power play goal differential since January 1st – seven power play goals for, two shorthanded against (plus-5).
Penalty Killing: 5-for-8 / 62.5 percent (season: 78.0 percent / 19th)
It might not get enough attention among the myriad problems the Caps have had over the past couple of months, but the penalty kill has been awful. This was the second week in a row the Caps allowed three or more power play goals (7-for-14/50.0 percent combined) and extends a brutal trend. Since January 1st through Week 18, the Caps’ 69.6 percent penalty kill ranks 28th in the league.
Faceoffs: 68-for-120 / 56.7 percent (46.7 percent / 30th)
Sure, in a mediocre week, it is in the circle where the Caps had one of their best weeks of the season. But even here, the results were uneven. Nic Dowd was almost unbeatable in faceoffs, winning 33 of 40 draws overall (82.5 percent), winning 17 of 18 draws against Columbus and 16 of 22 against Montreal. Of 66 instances this season in which a player took ten or more draws, his 94.4 percent win percentage against Columbus was second best of the season. But take away Dowd’s performance, and the rest of the team was just 35-for-80 (41.8 percent), and all too typical result for the Caps this season.
Goals by Period
The best that can be said of the week in this category is that the Caps did not allow a first period goal, the only team in the league to do so. But then there were the second periods, an issue for the Caps for most of the season, and the five goals they allowed, tied for second-most for the week. The difference here left the Caps with a 25-goal differential in goals allowed to the bad from the first periods of games (32 goals allowed) to the second (57) for the season overall.
This year’s Caps team is slowly slipping behind last year’s squad across categories. They are not six wins and seven standings points behind last year’s pace though 49 games. Total scoring is down, but so are total goals allowed. The power play continues to be a major disappointment, and the penalty kill is now moving into that sort of description.
In the end…
The Caps are not a very good team at the moment. In fact, you could describe them as “bad” and get little argument. The 2022 portion of the season has been ugly, and in some respects that was true of Week 18. There is little these days to suggest the problems are episodic, but appear to be more systemic in their nature. Poor special teams, inconsistent goaltending, sluggishness and lackadaisical play on too many nights. It might be that the Caps have reached a point where the solution won’t come from inside the roster, even if they return to full health. There are just too many holes, and that does not bode well for a deep playoff run. They have 33 games to sort this out.
- First Star: Ilya Samsonov (1-0-0, 2.00, .955)
- Second Star: Evgeny Kuznetsov (2-1-3, plus-4, one power play goal, five shots on goal, nine shot attempts)
- Third Star: Carl Hagelin (1-2-3, plus-2, three shots on goal, five shot attempts)