Sunday, April 24, 2022

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 28

The Washington Capitals took their last western trip of the season in Week 28 and won two of the three games on the trip.  It left the Caps within striking distance of third place in the Metropolitan Division – two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins with a game in hand and two points behind the first wild card Boston Bruins, both teams having four games left on their respective schedules. 

Record (2-0-1 / 44-23-11 (4th Metropolitan Division/Second Wild-Card))

Week 28 was another winning week for the Caps who put together their 17th winning week of the season and seventh in their last ten weeks.  When the Caps defeated the Colorado Avalanche, 3-2, to open the week, they swept the two-game seasons series (they beat the Avs, 6-3, back on October 19th).  The Caps will end the season as the only team in the league to sweep a season series against Colorado in regulation time.  When the Caps lost in overtime to the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday, the Knights swept the season series, but the Caps did manage to earn what could be an important standings point in the second of the two-game season series (Vegas won, 1-0, on January 24th).  The 2-0 shutout the Caps put on the Arizona Coyotes to end the week was the second 2-0 decision against the Coyotes this season.

Offense: 2.67 / game (season: 3.37 / 9th)

It was not the blistering hot offense that the Caps put up in Week 27, but it was good enough for the winning week.  Putting up three goals on Colorado and Vegas was not especially disappointing, since both teams finished the week in the top half of the scoring defense rankings (Colorado is ninth, and Vegas is 15th).  The two goals the Caps scored against the Coyotes might have been fewer than expected, especially given that Arizona allowed 25 goals in their previous five home games and allowed another five against St. Louis the night after falling to the Caps.

Six Capitals potted goals in Week 28, Alex Ovechkin posting three for the only multi-goal week.  The last of those three goals, tying the game against Vegas and forcing overtime, was his 50th of the season, giving him nine 50-goal seasons, tying Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for most in league history.  Five other Caps had single-goal weeks: Marcus Johansson and Conor Sheary had game-winning goals; John Carlson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Garnet Hathaway had the others.

A dozen Caps finished the week with at least one point, led by Ovechkin )1-3-4).  Kuznetsov and Sheary had three-point weeks (both going 1-2-3), and four other Caps had two-point weeks: Carlson (1-1-2), Johansson (1-1-2, Nicklas Backstrom (0-2-2), and Justin Schultz (0-2-2).

Weird Caps Stat… the Caps had 46 shot attempts at 5-on-5 in each of the three games in Week 28.

Defense: 2.00 / game (season: 2.91 / 13th)

It was a solid week of defense for the Caps, who did not allow any of the three teams as many as 30 shots in regulation time (Vegas’ 30th shot of the game came on their overtime winning goal).  The 19 shots they allowed to Arizona was the fourth time this season that the Caps held an opponent to fewer than 20 shots on goal and first time on the road.

The shot attempts at 5-on-5 were a different matter and rather odd.  The Caps opened the week by allowing the explosive Avalanche only 45 attempts at fives, only the 13th time in 39 home games that Colorado finished with fewer than 50 shot attempts at 5-on-5.  In the next game, though, the Caps allowed Vegas 56 shot attempts at fives.  Only five times in 39 road games did the Caps allow more.  They clamped down against Arizona, allowing the Coyotes only 33 shot attempts at 5-on-5. 

Of the 18 skaters to dress for the Caps in Week 28, 17 were on ice for at least one even strength goal against (Anthony Mantha escaped unmarked), but only Trevor van Riemsdyk (minus-1) and T.J. Oshie (minus-2) had negative goal differentials at evens. Sheary and Dmitry Orlov each were plus-3 to lead the team.

Goaltending: 1.98 / .920 / 1 shutout (season: 2.77 / .904 / 8 shutouts)

Week 28…still not clear who has the inside track on the number one goaltender spot heading into the postseason.  Ilya Samsonov had the first two games of the week and struggled with consistency.  In the overtime loss to Vegas, he could be absolved for the game-winner he allowed, Shea Theodore stepping between a pair of flat-footed defenders to break in alone for the game-winner.  But the goal he allowed to Evgeni Dadonov that tied the game early in the third period is one he might have wanted back.  He appeared to have a good look at a wrist shot from the top of the right wing circle, but the puck squirted under his left arm and in.  It was a disappointing effort given his fine performance against Colorado to start the week when he stopped 24 of 26 shots against perhaps the best offense in the league in the Caps’ 3-2 win.

Vitek Vanecek got the call in the game in Arizona to end the week, and he posted his fourth shutout of the season, although it was a light workload (19 shots).  It was perhaps his best performance since St. Patrick’s Day, when he stopped 39 of 41 shots in a 7-2 win at Columbus.  In the interim, he had allowed three or more goals seven times in eight games before blanking Arizona.  Three of his four shutouts this season have been on the road, adding Arizona to Dallas and the New York Islanders on his road shutout list.

Power Play: 1-for-7 / 14.3 percent (season: 19.8 percent / 21st).

In a low-event week, the difference between a fair week and a fine week might be one power play goal.  In that context, the Caps going 1-for-7 is nothing to get terribly bent out of shape over.  One more goal, and it would have been a 28.6 percent week.  The opportunities being scarce was disappointing, though.  It was not surprising that the Caps had only one opportunity against Vegas; they ranked third in the league at week’s end for fewest shorthanded situations faced per game (2.58).  Colorado and Arizona, however, ranked lower in that category (Colorado ranked 18th (2.86 per game) and Arizona ranked 25th (3.09).  The Caps also had only eight shots on goal in seven power plays, Ovechkin the only Capital with more than one (he had one goal on two shots).  Oshie and Backstrom each had a pair of power play shot attempts.

Penalty Killing: 4-for-5 / 80.0 percent (season: 81.8 percent / 10th)

Here we have the reverse of the power play in that holding three opponents to a total of five power play chances has to be considered an excellent week in that regard.  Three of those shorthanded situations were faced against Colorado, which could have been troublesome, but the Caps killed all of them off against a team that finished the week ranked fifth in the league in power play efficiency (25.0 percent). 

The Caps split their chances against Vegas, allowing a power play goal on two power plays, that one scored by former Capital Chandler Stephenson that gave Vegas a third period lead.  The Caps did not face a power play in their game against Arizona, the first time this season that the Caps did not go shorthanded in a game.

Faceoffs: 86-for-168 / 51.2 percent (season: 47.4 percent / 27th)

By Capitals standards, it was a good week in the circle.  Overall, that is.  They were over 50 percent in two of the three games and were within a faceoff of 50 percent in the other.  But problems lurked in the detail.  The Caps finished the week at 58.7 percent in neutral zone draws, but they were under 50 percent in the ends. They were weak in the defensive end, winning only 22 of 50 draws, which makes the good defensive week look just a bit better.

They did get solid weeks from the skaters taking ten or more draws, three of them finishing over 50 percent for the week, but it was also an odd week at the individual level.  Lars Eller, Nic Dowd, and Nicklas Backstrom were solid in the offensive end (all at 55 percent or better) but poor in the other end (all of them under 42 percent).  Backstrom had an overall poor week, finishing under 40 percent in the defensive and neutral zones to go with his 55.6 finish in the offensive zone.  The support players (those with fewer than ten draws) had a good week overall, going 9-for-16 (56.3 percent).

Goals by Period

What sticks out here is the second periods of games.  A problem all season in terms of goals allowed, the Caps allowed nary a one in the three games for the week.  This from a team that has allowed 89 second period goals this season, more than 40 percent of the goals they have allowed in regulation periods this season.  That the Caps held their own in the first and third periods helped ensure a winning week, although those two goals in a span of 49 seconds early in the third period against Vegas would end up being the blemish on the week in this category.

In the end…

The 8-12-2 record that the Caps posted in January and February is a bad memory at this point.  Since that poor start to the new year, they are 16-5-2, the fourth best record in the league by points percentage (.739).  And, they have done largely by grinding out weeks like Week 28.  It might be the style they have to adopt as they head into the final week of the season and the playoffs to follow.

Three Stars

  • First Star: Alex Ovechkin (3-1-4, plus-2, 13 shots on goal, 19 shot attempts, 23.1 shooting percentage, eight credited hits, recorded 50th goal of the season, his ninth season with 50-plus goals, tying Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for most 50-plus goal seasons all-time)
  • Second Star: Vitek Vanecek (1-0-0, 19-save shutout, fourth shutout of the season)
  • Third Star: Conor Sheary (1-2-3, plus-3 (tied for team lead), 1 game-winning goal)