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.
- 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)