Week 19 was a rarity in the 2022 portion of the regular season schedule – a winning week. It was, in fact, the first winning week for the Caps since they went 2-0-0 in Week 12. The Caps are still under .500 since that last winning week that ended on New Year’s Day (8-9-2), 23rd in the league in points percentage (.474). At least Week 19 allowed the Caps to get over the .500 hump for February (4-3-0). In fact, Februarys have not been kind to the Caps in recent years. Even with a 9-4-1 record for February 2019, they have a cumulative record of 29-25-5 (including a 6-6-2 record in the Stanley Cup winning 2017-2018 season) over the last five seasons of February to date. This after five seasons of going 37-19-1 in the previous five seasons of Februarys.
Offense: 3.33 / game (season: 3.25 / 11th)
Three games, seven different goal scorers, led by the obvious (Alex Ovechkin) and the infrequent (Garnet Hathaway) with two apiece. Three defensemen also recorded goals, the obvious (John Carlson) and the infrequent (Michal Kempny and Nick Jensen). For Kempny, his goal against Philadelphia was his first since he potted a pair against Vancouver in a 6-5 Gimmick win on October 25, 2019, snapping a 60-game streak without goal. For Jensen, it was his fourth goal of the year, tying the career best he posted as a rookie with Detroit in 2016-2017.
Carlson and Hathaway led the team in points with four apiece. For Carlson, his two-point game against the Flyers was his first multi-point game of the new year, his last one being a four-point effort against Nashville in a 5-3 win back on December 29th. On his way to a four-point week, Hathaway recorded his first career three-point game and fifth career two-goal game (all on the road). Overall, the Caps had 12 skaters record points, eight of them having multi-point weeks. One of them was Joe Snively (2-0-2). He finished the week with a 4-3-7, plus-5, scoring line in nine games since he first entered the Caps lineup on December 19th. He is third among all rookies appearing in at least three games in points per game (0.78).
Defense: 2.67 / game (season: 2.75 / 7th)
It was a bit of a decent, if uneven, week for the Caps on the defensive side of the puck. They tied for ninth in scoring defense for the week and allowed six 5-on-5 goals, tied for 18th fewest in the league. They finished a minus-14 for the week in shot attempts for at 5-on-5, tied for 20th in the league for the week, allowing 142 shot attempts at fives, eighth-most in the league. Their minus-28 shot attempt differential at fives when ahead in games was worst in the league for the week. They probably spent too much time playing defense, given their hits numbers (23.67 per 60 minutes, seventh in the league for the week) and blocked shots numbers (15.33 per 60 minutes, seventh).
Goaltending: 2.70 / .914 (season: 2.60 / .910 / 6 shutouts)
Ilya Samsonov played all the minutes in Week 19 and had a good week. His .914 save percentage for the week ranked seventh among 53 goalies dressing for the week. That his 2.70 goals against average ranked 22nd among that group is a reflection of having faced 31.0 shots per game in Week 19. Only three goalies faced more, and one of them (Anton Forsberg, who faced 95 shots) appeared in four games and had 14 more minutes of playing time. One does not want to get to far ahead of one’s self, but in his last four games, Samsonov is 3-1-0, 2.52, .927. Consistency has been an issue with him, but this is an encouraging sign.
Power Play: 3-for-11 / 27.3 percent (season: 16.1 percent / 28th)
Well, the Caps are over 16 percent for the season. String a few more weeks like Week 19 together, and they might just flirt with 20 percent. That is what a 3-for-11 week does. Only two teams had more power play goals for the week (Minnesota with five, Anaheim with four). The blemish was that the Caps were one of eight teams allowing a shorthanded goal during the week. The three goals were scored by three different players – Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Snively – while seven players recorded power play points, Ovechkin and Carlson with two apiece to lead the team. What might be the best news, though, is that the Caps managed to get chances, the 11 power plays tied for most in a week for the season (Week 3, when they also went 3-for-11).
Penalty Killing: 10-for-11 / 90.9 percent (season: 79.0 percent / 17th)
There was the good and the bad in penalty killing in Week 19. The bad was facing 11 shorthanded situations, second most of any week this season (13 in Week 15, although the Caps had four games in that week). Only three teams faced more shorthanded situations, and two of them – Edmonton (18) and Ottawa (14) – played four games. The good was the 90.9 percent kill rate, the second time in the last six weeks that the Caps were over 75.0 percent and eighth-best in the league for the week. Nick Jensen and Trevor van Riemsdyk were the leaders in penalty killing ice time with 8:28 and 7:48, respectively. Jensen was on ice for more than half the total shorthanded ice time the Caps had for the week (50.9 percent).
Faceoffs: 86-for-180 / 47.8 percent (46.8 percent / 31st)
It was a typical week for the Caps in the circle. But the sub-50 percent week was not without its good points. Well, good point. The Caps went 28-for-51 in the defensive end of the ice (54.7 percent). Three of the four Caps taking at least ten draws overall were over 50 percent in the defensive end – Nic Dowd (9-for-16, 56.0 percent), Evgeny Kuznetsov (6-for-10/60.0 precent), and Lars Eller (5-for-6/83.3 percent). On the other hand, Kuznetsov was the only member of the foursome to finish over 50 percent in the offensive end (12-for-20/60.0 percent). Nicklas Backstrom had a brutal week in this category, going 36.2 percent overall (17-for-47) and under 40 percent in both the offensive (35.7 percent) and defensive (20.0 percent) zones.
Goals by Period
The Caps fought teams to nearly a draw over the first 40 minutes of games for the week (minus-1), but they dominated in the third period with six goals and a plus-three differential. The Caps’ six third period goals tied for third-most in the league and tied for most overall among teams playing three games. The Caps ended the week with a sandwich cookie profile in this area, a plus-17 in first periods of games and a plus-18 in third periods, with a minus-5 in the middle period.
The Caps are still in a position of largely substituting overtime losses for wins to account for the five-standings point deficit this year compared to last year through 52 games. Scoring offense is down and scoring defense is improved compared to last season, although shots for and against are above last season’s totals at this point. The Caps continue to confound as to the deterioration of the power play, in spite of this week’s good numbers, but what does look good on both sides of special teams is opportunities, the Caps ahead of last year in terms of more power play chances and fewer shorthanded situations faced.
In the end…
The Caps stopped the bleeding in Week 19, but it will take more than one decent week to start thinking this team has turned the corner from a horrid start to the 2022 portion of the season. The key to this week was depth and secondary scoring, the fourth line of Nic Dowd, Carl Hagelin, and Garnet Hathaway combining to go 2-7-9 with a cumulative plus-11. On the other hand, those expected to be top scorers – Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Tom Wilson – went 3-2-5 with a cumulative minus-9. Getting all the singers on the same page of the songbook is something to look for in the weeks ahead.
- First Star: Garnet Hathaway (2-2-4, plus-4, one game-winning goal, six shots on goal, six credited hits)
- Second Star: John Carlson (1-3-4, plus-1, two power play points (assists), 12 shots on goal (led team), 24:58 in average ice time)
- Third Star: Joe Snively (2-0-2, minus-1, one power play goal, eight shots on goal)