Sunday, October 30, 2022

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 3

The Washington Capitals ended Week 3 on the good side of .500 for the season with their second straight winning week.  And for a team that keep losing key pieces to injury – this week John Carlson and T.J.Oshie – that is not a bad thing.

Record (2-1-0)

The Caps finished their second straight 2-1-0 week on the road, a good sign for a team that had the best record in the league on the road last season (25-10-6/.683).  What made the week better was that the Caps ended a three-game winning streak for the New Jersey Devils in what was the first game of the Metropolitan Division schedule for the Caps, and they ended the week with a solid win in Nashville, a city in which they have found wins difficult to come by.  In between, the Caps were shutout by the Dallas Stars in another venue where the Caps have had difficulty getting wins.  But two wins out of three games for a second consecutive week are wins banked, an important consideration for a club that has several important pieces out of the lineup and that lost two more for an uncertain period in John Carlson and T.J. Oshie.

 Offense: 3.00/game (season: 3.11 / T-17th)

Although the Caps posted only nine goals for the week, they did have some balance to their attack.  Aliaksei Protas and Alex Ovechkin led the Caps in goal scoring with two apiece, and seven Caps shared in the nine goals scored.  Twelve Caps recorded at least one point, with Protas and Nick Jensen leading the team with three apiece.  Tell us you had that pair leading the Caps in points, and we would counsel you to buy a lottery ticket.  Of the 18 skaters to dress for the Caps, only three had minus ratings for the week, but that is a bit concerning.  The trio, all of whom were minus-1, were Anthony Mantha, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Alex Ovechkin, who are counted on to exert some level of dominance in the offensive end.  Ovechkin did have that pair of goals (one an empty netter), but Mantha was held to an assist, and Kuznetsov went without a point for the week.

Defense: 1.67/game (season: 2.89/12th)

The Caps have had issues allowing shots this season.  Through week’s end, the Capitals allowed 30 or more shots on goal in six of nine games and allowed more than 40 shots twice.  One of those over-40 shot instances occurred in Week 3, allowing New Jersey 41 shots on goal in a 6-3 win to start the week.  Oddly enough, the Caps had their best effort limiting shots in their lone loss, allowing 27 shots to Dallas in a 2-0 loss to the Stars in the middle game of the week.  The Caps did a better job, as the week wore on, in limiting shot attempts at 5-on-5, allowing the Devils 55 attempts in the first game of the week, followed by 48 attempts for Dallas, and finally just 40 5-on-5 shot attempts allowed (their fewest allowed so far this season) against Nashville to end the week.  The Caps allowed only four goals at 5-on-5 for the week, and of the 18 skaters to dress in Week 3, 15 skaters were on ice for at least one goal against at even strength, but no Capital was on ice for more than two goals against at even strength.

Goaltending: 1.70 / .950 / 1 shutout (season: 2.61 / .921 / 1 shutout)

It was a fine week for both goaltenders.  Charlie Lindgren opened the week with a solid 38-save effort (26 saves on 27 shots in the first 40 minutes) against the Devils in the Caps’ 6-3 win.  In his first two appearances as a Capital, he stopped 74 of 80 shots on goal, a .925 save percentage that would be excellent for any backup goaltender.  Darcy Kuemper got the other two appearances and showed why the Caps were interested in bringing him on-board to stabilize the goaltending situation.  He stopped 57 of 59 shots over the two games (.966 save percentage) and earned his first shutout with the Caps in Washington’s 3-0 win in Nashville to close the week.  The saves by period were impressive for the week.  Combined, Lindgren and Kuemper stopped 65 of 67 shots (.970 save percentage), including a perfect 30-for-30 in the second periods of the three games.

Power Play: 1-for-9 / 11.1 percent (season: 20.0 percent / T-19th)

If there was a blemish in Week 3 for the Caps, it was on the power play.  The 11.1 percent power play added to what has been a bit of a roller coaster start for the man advantage to start the season.  It was a bit disappointing as a follow up on the Caps’ 4-for-10 (40.0 percent) in Week 2.  The one power play goal for the week was scored by Alex Ovechkin assisted by Dylan Strom and John Carlson, pretty much the way one would script a power play result from the top unit these days.  But while Ovechkin was credited with six power play shots, the Caps managed only seven power play shots from five other players on the man advantage.

Penalty Killing 12-for-12 / 100.0 percent (season: 81.5 percent / 12th)

It was a very good week for the penalty killers, efficiency-wise, their first perfect week of the season, the three games they denied opponents a power play goal extending their streak to four games.  But 12 shorthanded situations faced were almost as many as the team faced over the first two weeks combined (15).  The most noteworthy number of the week might have been Dmitry Orlov’s shorthanded ice time.  His 12:28 in shorthanded ice time was almost four minutes more than that of the defenseman with the next highest amount (Nick Jensen: 8:31).  Among the forwards, Conor Sheary continues to cement his place on the penalty kill, his 9:46 in shorthanded ice time second most among forwards (Nic Dowd: 9:56).

Faceoffs: 75-for-186 / 40.3 percent (41.0 percent / 32nd)

It was almost certain to happen, and in Week 3 it did.  The Caps finished the week with the worst faceoff winning percentage in the league.  The Caps were once more under 50 percent in all three zones, which is happening with disturbing regularity, although they did go 38-for-77 in the defensive zone (49.4 percent).  That was more than offset by a woeful performance in the offensive and neutral zones, where the Caps could not rise to the 40.0 percent mark.  Among the four players taking at least ten draws, only Nic Dowd reached the 50.0 percent level for the week (21-for-42).

Goals by Period:

The highlight in goals by period was in blanking opponents in the middle frame over the three games.  The second period had been an issue with ten goals allowed in six games coming into the week.  The Caps’ dominance in the second periods of games allowed them to finish the week with a consistency in goal differential by period for the season, going even in the first periods of games and plus-1 in each of the second and third periods of games.


The Caps lag a bit in performance this year compared to last season, but this is not an unexpected result, given the injuries across their roster.  What is a bit surprising is that the power play has not deteriorate further from where it was at a similar point last season, and the penalty kill has improved by almost five percentage points.  That faceoffs are worse, and significantly so, compared to the same nine-game mark last season borders on the incredible.  Shot attempts allowed at 5-on-5 are up substantially this year over last, the result being that the shot attempts-for on ice percentage at fives has dipped below 50 percent compared to being over that threshold last season.  One other number to watch is the giveaways, up almost 27 percent from the same point last season.

In the end…

Week 3 was a good week for the Caps, something on which to build.  Even in the loss to Dallas they played a simple, structured game of the sort they will likely have to replicate on a nightly basis until their health improves and players start returning to the lineup.  It would be nice to get Evgeny Kuznetsov going (he is looking for his first goal) and get Alex Ovechkin lighting the lamp more frequently, especially at even strength (he has one goal at evens against a goaltender through nine games).  But for now, two straight 2-1-0 weeks is not a bad place to be.

Three Stars

  • First Star: Aliaksei Protas (2-1-3, plus-1, five shots on goal, eight shot attempts, no giveaways, in 11:05 in average ice time)
  • Second Star: Nick Jensen (1-2-3, plus-3, four shots on goal, nine shot attempts, team-best plus-3 goal differential at even strength, 21:18 in average ice time)
  • Third Star: Darcy Kuemper (1-1-0, 1.03, .967, one shutout)

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 10: Capitals at Hurricanes, October 31

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals open the new week by wrapping up their four game road trip against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh.  The Caps arrive in Carolina fresh off a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night, while the Hurricanes return home after beating the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-3, in overtime in Philadelphia.

The Hurricanes, currently tied with Philadelphia for the Metropolitan Division lead with 11 points apiece, will welcome the chance to play in front of the home crowd.  Through eight games they have served up home cooking only twice, splitting the two decisions, a 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Opening Night and a 6-2 thrashing at the hands of the New York Islanders last Friday.

It might say something about the nature of turnover in the NHL that Carolina’s active scoring leader against the Caps is forward Sebastian Aho, who has only 20 career games against the Caps.  Now in his seventh NHL season, Aho is moving smartly up the all-time Hurricane rankings in a number of categories.  With 453 career games with the ‘Canes, he will soon pass Joel Quenneville (457 games) for 22nd place in team history, and if he maintains his health, he could find himself in the top-15 in all-time games played for the franchise.  He is already a top-ten player in goals (186/ninth), assists (225/eighth), points (411/sixth), and plus-minus (plus-71/fourth).  He would seem a lock to climb into the top-ten in power play goals 46/11th) and power play points (124/tied for 13th) by season’s end.  Aho opened his season productively, posting four goals and ten points in his first eight games.  But it has not been all unicorns and accordions for Aho.  He has been on ice for more even strength goals against than any other Carolina forward (seven).  Here is your odd Aho fact.  He is looking for his first point on home ice, going 0-0-0, minu-s2, in two home games to date.  Aho is 9-10-19, plus-1, in 20 career games against Washington.

When Brent Burns was traded by the San Jose Sharks with Lane Pederson to the Carolina Hurricanes for a third-round draft pick in 2023, Steven Lorentz and Eetu Makiniemi, the Hurricanes took on the league’s leading minute-eater from last season.  His 2,144 minutes not only led the league but were a career high in minutes played, the sixth time in 18 seasons he topped 2,000 minutes played for a season.  Since he came into the league in 2003-2004, only four players have logged more minutes than the 28,103 he has on his record.  But chewing up minutes is not is only noteworthy accomplishment.  He also happens to have more goals (227) and more points (777) than any defensemen in the league since he entered it. 

In his first year in Carolina, Burns is off to a good start with two goals and six points in eight games.  On the other hand, he has been on ice for more even strength goals against than any other skater (eight).  Your odd Burns fact.  He is one of two defensemen in league history to post 225 or more goals, 750 or more points, and have a plus-minus rating worse than minus-35 (Phil Housley is the other).  Burns has been a very durable player, especially given the position he plays and the minutes he logs.  He has played in every game over the past eight-plus seasons.  He is, however, the third oldest defenseman in the league, so the Father Time watch might apply to him and to whether he can continue his own ironman run.  Burns is 6-13-19, even, in 22 career games against the Capitals.

Last season was one of, if not the best season in goalie Frederik Andersen’s career.  He won 35 of his 52 appearances (35-14-3 overall), while posting a career best 2.14 goals against average, a .922 save percentage (second-best in his career), and four shutouts, one off his career best.  It was enough for him to finish fourth in Vezina Trophy voting for the league’s top goaltender and for him to make the major contribution to winning the Jennings Trophy as the goalies (with Antti Raanta) for the team with the fewest goals scored against it during the regular season.  It was quite a comeback from what was a disappointing last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs in which he was 13-8-3, 2.96, .898, and without a shutout on his record for the first time since his rookie season with Anaheim in 2013-2014. 

Andersen is off to a bit of a slow start this season, going 3-2-0, 2.81, .896 in five appearances so far. His .923 save percentage at even strength is not at all bad (13th of 33 goalies appearing in five of more games to date), but Andersen is last in that group in save percentage when his team is shorthanded (.667/eight saves on 12 shots), and he is tied for 27th in save percentage when the Hurricanes were on power plays (.800/four saves on five shots).  Andersen is 6-4-2, 2.87, .908, with two shutouts in 12 career games against Washington.

1.  Carolina is averaging 36.4 shots on goal per game while allowing 27.0 shots.  Their plus-9.4 shot differential per game ranks fourth in the league.

2.  The Hurricanes rank sixth in the league in faceoff winning percentage (53.7).

3.  Carolina has only six first period goals.  Only six teams have fewer.  On the other hand, they allowed only five first period goals.  Only five teams have allowed fewer.

4.  Only four teams have allowed fewer goals at 5-on-5 than Carolina (13) – Vegas (11), Calgary, Colorado, and Dallas (12 apiece).

5.  The Hurricanes lead the league in shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 (63.6).

1.  The Caps rank second in the league in shooting percentage plus save percentage at 5-on-5 (103.0).  Only Vegas (103.8) is better.

2.  Only three teams have lost more even strength faceoffs than the Caps (248).  Only four teams have fewer faceoff wins on power plays than Washington (23).

3.  Washington’s goal differentials by period are very consistent – even in the first period (six scored, six allowed), plus-1 in each of the second and third periods (11 goals scored in each, 10 goals allowed in each).

4.  The Caps have scored first in games only three times in nine game and are 2-1-0 in those games.

5.  Only four teams have been shorthanded more times per game than the Caps (3.00).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Carolina: Martin Necas

If one was to be asked, who leads the Carolina Hurricanes in points so far this season, the person answering the question might go through quite a few names before settling on Martin Necas.  But there sits Necas atop the Carolina point rankings with 11 points in eight games (5-6-11).  He is already almost a third of the way to his career high in goals (16 in 2019-2020) and seems a good bet at this point to at least challenge his career high in points (41 in 2020-2021).  He has shown himself to be a reliable secondary scorer in his three full seasons in the league, scoring at least 14 goals in each and topping 35 points in each (twice with 40 or more points).  What might not be sustainable, though, is his shooting efficiency.  Having five goals on 22 shots (22.7 percent) is not a shooting efficiency one would normally bank on over the course of a full season.  He has not displayed any clear indication that he is slowing down just yet.  Necas posted goals in his first two games this season, and after he had one in a four-game stretch on the road, he has goals in each of his last two games heading into this contest.  Necas is 3-3-6, even, in eight career games against the Capitals.

Washington: Aliaksei Protas

It was not supposed to be this way for second-year forward Aliaksei Protas. In last year’s rookie season, he posted three goals and nine points with a plus-4 rating in 33 games, but even with Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson out to start the year, we felt it would be a bit more difficult to get consistent playing time this season.  Protas put that concern to rest with a solid training camp, making the Opening Night roster, and he has appeared in all nine games for the Caps to date, going 2-1-3, even, in 11:21 of ice time per game.  His shooting percentage (13.3 percent) is a bit higher than he posted over the full season a year ago (8.8 percent) and might regress toward a more consistent level of productivity.  In what has been limited action to date (42 career games), he continues to outperform his draft slot (third round/91st overall in the 2017 Entry Draft).  No skater drafted after him has played in as many NHL games to date, and he has appeared in more games in his career so far than 15 skater taken in the first round of that draft.  So far this season he has shown that he belongs in the lineup, and with the injuries to Connor Brown and, for the moment, T.J. Oshie, he is not going to be dislodged from what might be a top-six role in the near future.  Protas is 1-0-1, even, in his only career appearance against Carolina.

In the end…

This game will present a chance to climb into a tie with the New Jersey Devils for the top spot in the Metro with a win.  They will have to do it with a depleted roster, the status of John Carlson and T.J. Oshie, both of whom suffering lower-body injuries against Nashville on Saturday, not certain for this game.  It presents a challenge to play a focused, disciplined game that one expects a team to play on the road to be successful, as the Caps were last season.  We will go with that.

Capitals 3 – Hurricanes 2