Sunday, March 13, 2022

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 22

The Washington Capitals had a winning week, earning points in all three games on their western Canada swing.  The five-point week solidified their hold on a playoff spot and put some more distance between their current performance and the slump they suffered to start the new year.

Record (2-0-1)

It was a week of one-goal decisions for the Caps, two one-goal wins bracketing a one-goal overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers.  It was the first time that the Caps put together consecutive winning weeks since Weeks 9-10 and the most points earned in a week (five) since the went 2-1-1 for five points in Week 8.  With their 5-4 win over Calgary to start the week, the Caps reached the 30-win mark in regulation and overtime wins.  The two extra time games to close the week – a 4-3 loss in Edmonton and a 4-3 win in Vancouver – were the first consecutive extra time games the Caps played since Games 28 and 29 in mid-December, also with split decisions, a 3-2 win over Buffalo and a 5-4 loss to Chicago, also with both games on the road.

Offense: 4.00 / game (season: 3.25 / 9th)

The Caps scored three or more goals in all three games for the week, bringing their total to six consecutive games posting at least three goals in a game and 13 of their last 16 contests.  The Caps became the seventh team this season to score three or more goals in 40 or more games (Florida leads the league with 47 such games).

Eight of 18 skaters for the Caps in Week 22 recorded goals, led by Evgeny Kuznetsov with three.  Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie also had multi-goal weeks.  Twelve of the 18 skaters recorded points, eight of them with multi-point weeks, Kuznetsov leading the team with five points.  Ovechkin and Lars Eller has the game-winning goals for the week, Eller scoring in overtime to give the Caps a 4-3 overtime win over Vancouver to close the week.  Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom had goals to open the scoring in games for the week, Backstrom against Edmonton and Kuznetsov against Vancouver, against whom he scored the game’s first two goals.

Defense: 3.67 / game (season: 2.78 / 8th)

The Caps struggled a bit limiting shots for the week, allowing an average of 33.7 shots per game over the three games, tied with San Jose for 11th-most in the league.  They were generous in the two games in Alberta, allowing Calgary 35 shots on goal and Edmonton 40 shots.  The recovered to limit Vancouver to 26 shots to end the week.  They did allow all three opponents more than 50 shot attempts at 5-on-5, extending their streak of such games to four and tying their longest such streak of the season.

Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway, and Axel Jonsson-Fialby were the three Caps who finished the week without being on ice for any goals at even strength; Dmitry Orlov and Tom Wilson leading the Caps with plus-3 goal differentials at even strength.  Lars Eller was on ice for six even strength goals, most on the team, and he had the worst even strength goal differential, on-ice less off ice (minus-4).  

Goaltending: 3.63 / .891 (season: 2.64 / .909 / 7 shutouts)

It was not a great week, results-wise for either Vitek Vanecek or Ilya Samsonov.  Neither posted a save percentage over .900, although Samsonov hit that mark in the 4-3 overtime loss to Edmonton.  Samsonov has struggled, allowing three or more goals in five of his last seven appearances, including an abbreviated 20 minute performance against Toronto in which he allowed three goals on ten shots. 

Vanecek has, what for him of late, was an uncharacteristically leaky week, allowing seven goals on 61 shots (.885 save percentage).  The two games allowing three or more goals were the first time he did so in consecutive appearances since January 18 and 20, when he allowed three on 33 shots in a 4-3 win over Winnipeg and four goals on 33 shots in a 4-3 loss to Boston.

Power Play: 3-for-10 / 30.0 percent (season: 18.6 percent / 23rd).

The Caps hit the 30.0 percent mark for the second consecutive week, the first time they have done that this season, and for the third time overall this season.  They have eight power play goals over the last two weeks, their high this season for power play goals over consecutive weeks.  Since eight weeks since Week 15, Washington is 18-for-71 (25.4 percent) after going just 16-for-112 (14.3 percent) over the first 14 weeks.

Evgeny Kuznetsov led the Caps with two power play goals and tied John Carlson for the points lead with two apiece.  T.J. Oshie had the other goal for the Caps; and he, Alex Ovechkin, and Nicklas Backstrom posted one power play point apiece.

Penalty Killing: 6-for-8 / 75.0 percent (season: 80.6 percent / 12th)

After three consecutive weeks with the penalty kill topping 90 percent, including a pair of perfect weeks in Weeks 20 and 21, the Caps fell back in Week 22.  Not that the Caps had pushovers on power plays.  Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver all ranked in the top 14 in power play efficiency at week’s end.

The good news was that the Caps did not go short often, their 2.67 shorthanded situations faced per game tied for 11th fewest for the week. 

Trevor van Riemsdyk led the team in penalty killing ice time among the defensemen (7:54), and Tom Wilson led the forwards (6:31).

Faceoffs: 87-for-181 / 48.1 percent (47.2 percent / 29th)

It was another normal week for the Caps, who finished on the short side of 50 percent in the circle for the week.  And it was worse in the ends (43.9 percent in the offensive zone, 37.5 percent in the defensive end) than in the neutral zone (62.7 percent).  Lars Eller and Nicklas Backstrom each had good weeks in the offensive end (a combined 13-for-21 (61.9 percent), but the rest of the team was just 16-for-45 (35.6 percent).  Eller was the only Capital over 50 percent in the defensive end, and that was one faceoff win over 50 percent (8-for-14/57.1 percent).

Goals by Period

Third periods were wild for the Caps in Week 22, scoring and allowing six goals in the final 20 minutes of the three games.  The six third period goals scored propelled the Caps into a tie for ninth in third period goals scored for the season (71, tied with Columbus), but despite the six they allowed in the third periods of games, Washington remined with the fourth-fewest third period goals allowed for the season (52).

In the end…

The Caps are slowly digging themselves out of the prolonged slump that they were in since the start of the season, perhaps in no small part to T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha getting back in game shape, and Nicklas Backstrom continuing to find his normal after sitting out most of the first half of the schedule.  To earn points in all three games in the western provinces was no small achievement, given that Calgary is one of the league’s best teams, while Edmonton and Vancouver are fighting for playoff spots. 

It was a different challenge than the one the Caps will face in Week 23, in which they return to divisional action with three games against Metro opponents.  But that is what makes even the cold winter months of the schedule interesting – the variety of challenges a team must face as it heads into the season’s stretch run.

Three Stars

  • First Star: Evgeny Kuznsetsov (3-2-5, plus-2, seven shots on goal, two PPG, two takeaways (tied for team lead)
  • Second Star: T.J. Oshie (2-2-4, minus-2, eight shots on goal, one PPG, four credited hits, three blocked shots)
  • Third Star: Alex Ovechkin (2-1-3, plus-1, 17 shots on goal, tied Jaromir Jagr for third all-time in goals scored (766))