The break-even week snapped a three-week string of winning weeks, but it still meant that the Caps extended their non-losing streak to four weeks, going 9-3-1 over that span. The Caps continued to struggle at home, though, going 1-2-0 at Capital One Arena for the week. It left the Caps with a 16-13-5 record on home ice, 21st in the league in points (37) and in points percentage (.544). The points percentage was at week’s end the 33rd-ranked points percentage in 47 seasons to date and third-worst since the 2004-2005 lockout.
Offense: 2.75 / game (season: 3.27 / 9th)
It was not a particular productive week for the Caps on the offensive side of the puck, but again, it is how you finish, and the Caps had consecutive four-goal games to close the week. Eight different Caps shared in the 11 goals for the week, led by Alex Ovechkin with three, one of them a game-winner, bringing his career total to 772 and 13 in his last 17 games. Tom Wilson was the other multi-goal scorer for the week (two).
Wilson led the 11 Capitals with points for the week with five, followed by John Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov with four apiece. Carlson had an unusual week in that he tied for the team lead in shots on goal with 14 (with Ovechkin). In what might be one of those “signs of life” facts for the week, Connor McMichael had a goal, giving him two in his last six games after posting only two in his previous 23 games.
Defense: 3.50 / game (season: 2.82 / 11th)
The Caps allowed an average of 30.5 shots on goal per game for the week, 13th fewest in the league, a bit higher than their sixth-ranked 29.3 shots on goal allowed for the season. Washington also allowed 186 shot attempts at 5-on-5, eighth-most in the league and eighth-most among the 11 teams playing four games for the week. It was a bit deceptive in that the Caps finished minus-11 in 5-on-5 shot attempts, for and against, for the week, 19th in the league and fifth among the 11 teams playing four games for the week. Anthony Mantha was on ice for most goals against at even strength (six), while he and John Carlson were both a minus-3 for the week in even strength on-ice goal differential. Tom Wilson was tops on the other end of the goal differential spectrum, going plus-3.
Goaltending: 3.25 / .893 (season: 2.67 / .908 / 7 shutouts)
Vitek Vanecek got the larger share of work for the week, logging 174:49 in ice time for the week over three games to 65:00 for Ilya Samsonov in his only appearance. Vanecek struggled over his three games with a 3.43 goals against average and .989 save percentage, and it is part of a pattern. He finished the week having allowed three or more goals in six of seven appearances. His overall record over that span -- 5-2-0, 3.14, .905 – might be a source of his concern if one believes he is the goalie the Caps will lean on down the stretch and into the postseason.
Ilya Samsonov got one game for the week, and his performance did not inspire much confidence going forward, either. Allowing three goals on 23 shots to a struggling Buffalo team was not the sort of performance that pushed him ahead of Vanecek in the ongoing goalie competition. He finished the week with a 4-3-1 (one no-decision), 3.21, .882 record in his last nine games.
Power Play: 3-for-10 / 30.0 percent (season: 19.9 percent / 19th).
The Caps posted their fourth straight week with a power play of 30.0 percent or better in Week 24. Over that span they are 14-for-39 (35.9 percent), the third-best power play in the league over that span. Alex Ovechkin had a pair of power play goals for the week, and Evgeny Kuznetsov had the other. Kuznetsov’s power play goal gave him five goals with the man advantage in his last 12 contests since the beginning of March, tied for third-most in the league over that stretch. What the Caps did not get, though, was production from a second power play unit. All five players posting points on the man advantage for the week were on the top power play unit – Ovechkin (2-0-2), Kuznetsov (1-2-3), Carlson (0-2-2), Wilson (0-1-1, and Nicklas Backstrom (0-1-1).
Penalty Killing: 7-for-10 / 70.0 percent (season: 80.3 percent / 14th)
The Caps had their worst week on the penalty kill since Week 18 (5-for-8/62.5 percent). They were tied for 20th in the league for the week in penalty killing efficiency. It might have been worse but for averaging 2.50 shorthanded situations per game, tied for 18th-most for the week. That is an area the Caps have managed fairly well this season, averaging 2.73 shorthanded situations per game, 23rd-most in the league.
Faceoffs: 90-for-211 / 42.7 percent (47.2 percent / 29th)
Even by Caps standards, it was a poor week in the circle. The Caps were below 50 percent in all three zones (below 45 percent in the offensive and defensive ends), and no Capital taking at least ten draws finished the week at 50 percent or better. How bad was it? Marcus Johansson was the only Capital among eight taking at least one faceoff to finish over 50 percent. He was 1-for-1.
Goals by Period
Poor starts did in the Caps, who had a minus-2 goal differential in the first periods and a minus-3 differential in the second periods of games for the week. Second periods were the biggest problem for the Caps in Week 24; they allowed second period goals in each of the four games for the week, three times allowing a pair of goals. And, the goals for in third periods were deceptive for the inconsistency. Three of the four third period goals came in the Caps’ 4-3 win over New Jersey to end the week.
In the end…
Not every week will be perfect, and the Caps did manage to drag themselves up after a poor start for the week to finish 2-2-0. It did seem a bit like an opportunity lost, though, since the Caps are about to embark of a tough stretch of games that will see them facing Carolina, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, and Boston in their next five games. The Caps will have to have a more consistent level of effort than they displayed at times in Week 24 if they are to have success on that upcoming stretch.
- First Star: Tom Wilson (2-3-5, plus-3, 10 shots on goal, ten credited hits, four takeaways,
- Second Star: Alex Ovechkin (3-0-3, plus-1, one game-winning goal, 14 shots on goal, eight credited hits)
- Third Star: Evgeny Kuznetov (1-3-4, even, 12 shots on goal, 1-2-3 on power plays)