There are 2-1-0 weeks, and then there are 2-1-0 weeks. Not all of them are alike. This one had a whiff of disappointment as the Caps sandwiched a pair of wins around a loss on home ice their archrivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins in their first of three meetings this season. The Caps allowed the Penguins to end a seven-game losing streak and missed an opportunity to make any Penguin comeback into playoff relevance that much harder. The loss to the Penguins was the 1,500th loss in regulation in franchise history. The Caps did defeat the Edmonton Oilers in a high-scoring, 5-4 affair, to start the week and ended it by pasting the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-1, in the front half of a home-and-home set of games that would wrap up on Sunday evening in Tampa.
Offense: 3.67/game (season: 2.88 / 22nd)
All things considered, it was a good week on the offensive side of the puck. The 3.67 goals per game tied Ottawa for the seventh-best goals scored per game average in the league for the week and almost a full goal per game better than their season average going into the week (2.69 goals per game).
There was good balance among the Caps, eight different skaters sharing in the 11 total goals scored. Dylan Strome, Sonny Milano, and Evgeny Kuznetsov led the team with a pair of goals apiece, Milano and Kuznetsov getting the game-winners for the week. All three of the two-goal scorers posted their totals in two-goal games, Kuznetsov and Strome each with a pair against Edmonton and Milano with a pair against Tampa Bay.
Kuznetsov led the team in points (2-3-5) for the week with Milano finishing with four (2-2-4). Thirteen of the 20 skaters to dress for the week posted at least one point. Kuznetsov led the team with ten shots on goal; Garnet Hathaway and Nic Dowd were the only Caps who did not record a shot on goal for the week. If there was a down side for the week, no Caps defenseman was credited with a goal, although four defensemen had assists, led by Erik Gustafsson’s three assists in three games for the week.
Defense: 3.00/game (season: 2.88 / T-12th)
Considering that the Caps faced three high-powered offenses when they are on their game, the 28.7 shots allowed per game, even though that average ranked 13th in the league for the week, was a reasonable effort. The Caps held all three opponents under 30 shots and ran their streak of such games to five by week’s end. It is quite an improvement over allowing fewer than 30 shots on goal only three times in their first 11 games.
After allowing a season-high tying three 5-on-5 goal to Arizona to end the previous week, the Caps did better in Week 5, holding Edmonton and Pittsburgh to two goal apiece at fives and holding Tampa Bay to a single 5-on-5 goal. They do have a way to go to get back to the defensive efficiency they displayed from October 27th through November 3rd, a five game stretch over which they did not allow more than one 5-on-5 goal in any game.
Conor Sheary and Anthony Mantha had the worst weeks for the Caps in terms of on-ice goals against, each player being on ice for four even strength goals against. Nicolas Aube-Kubel was the only Capital appearing in all three games to have been on ice for no even strength goals against.
Goaltending: 2.67 / .906 (season: 2.58 / .917 / 1 shutout)
Charlie Lindgren got the unenviable task of manning the nets against the explosive Edmonton Oilers to start the week. And while it would not be accurate to say he had a great game, he kept the Caps in it enough to allow the Caps to squeeze out a win, Lindgren stopping 25 of 29 shots in the 5-4 victory.
Otherwise, it was Darcy Kuemper’s week. His first appearance of the week might have been his shakiest in his short stay in Washington to date. I was a “sandwich sort of game, a 10-for-10 saves to shots result in the first period and 7-for-7 in the third period. But he allowed three goals on ten shots in the middle frame, including a shorthanded goal by Brock McGinn, that allowed the Penguins to take a 3-0 lead into the second intermission and all but end the competitive portion of the contest that ended in a 4-1 Penguins win.
Kuemper ended the week on a high note, though. He was 20-for-20 through two periods against Tampa Bay, and the Caps had a 4-0 lead when Kuemper allowed a window dressing goal with less than eight minutes left to ruin the shutout.
Power Play: 4-for-15 / 26.7 percent (season: 22.4 percent / 15th)
The Caps tied their season high in power play goals for a single week with four and had their second-best week, efficiency-wise. Only Ottawa had more power play goals for the week (five), and only New Jersey had more power play chances per game (5.33) than Washington (5.00). That shorthanded goal allowed against Pittsburgh, which give the Pens a 2-0 lead mid-way through the second period of that contest, was probably the low point of the week, perhaps the only one for the man advantage.
Evgeny Kuznetsov led the team with two power play goals, Dylan Strome and Alex Ovechkin chipping in a power play goal apiece. With two assists to add to his power play point total, Kuznetsov finished the week with a hand in all four Caps power play goals for Week 5, and he led the team with three power play shots on goal for the week. If there was a welcome development coming out of the week, there is was. Erik Gustafsson chipped in three power play assists, while Strom and Ovechkin each had one power play helper.
John Carlson played in only one game in Week 5, but he logged a whopping 9:44 in power play ice time in the 5-1 win over Tampa Bay to end the week. It was the second highest amount of power play ice time for a defenseman in a game this season (Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev skated 10:05 against Ottawa on November 1st).
Penalty Killing 7-for-7 / 100.0 percent (season: 83.3 percent / 6th)
If the power play was good, the penalty kill was better. First, and perhaps foremost, the Caps kept
the shorthanded situation volume manageable at 2.33 situations faced per
game. Of teams playing three or more
games for the week, only St. Louis faced fewer total shorthanded situations
(three) than the Caps (seven). It kept
the Caps to just 5:37 in shorthanded ice time per game for the week. And the cherry on the sundae was skating off a full five-minute major penalty to Nicolas Aube-Kubel against Tampa Bay, and having Sonny Milano leave the penalty box (serving the major penalty) and scoring on a breakaway.
The Caps spread their shorthanded ice time around. Thirteen skaters saw shorthanded ice time, led by Nick Jensen, who logged a total of 9:16 for the week.
Faceoffs: 79-for-167 / 47.3 percent (45.8 percent / 27th)
The Caps finished under 50 percent overall for the week, which is not unusual. It is also a bit misleading. The overall number was weighted down by the 40.4 percent in the neutral zone that the Caps recorded for the week. They finished at least 50 percent in both the offensive (50.8 percent) and defensive (50.0 percent) zones.
Of the four Capitals taking at least ten draws, three finished under 50 percent – Nic Dowd, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dylan Strome all finishing at 43.2 percent. Lars Eller, on the other hand, had a very good week in the circle, going 63.6 percent overall and finishing above 70 percent in both the offensive (75.0 percent) and defensive (78.6 percent) zones.
Goals by Period
It was the first period that was the difference for the Caps in Week 5. Not that first periods have been fire wagon hockey in Caps games generally this season, but no Caps fan will be complaining about a week when the Caps did not allow a first period goal. They were one of only four teams to pull off that feat. The Caps managed a pair of goals in first periods. As for the second and third periods, the Caps were even in goal differential in both of them, scoring and allowing five second period goals while scoring and allowing four third period goals for the week.
The Caps are well behind the points pace they set through 16 games last season, trailing last year’s club by seven points out of a total possible 32 points. It is not surprising given the health status of the club, and last year’s was a bit unusual in how hot the start was. Being down more than 15 percent in goals scored, up more that 15 percent in goals allowed will have that effect. The bad news continues with shots per game down and shots allowed per game up. Special teams are holding their own with the power play improved over last season and the penalty kill holding steady at last year’s pace. One other notable difference is in the more physical nature of this year’s Caps squad, with credited hits and penalties both up over last year after an equivalent number of games.
In the end…
The Caps have been unable to generate much in positive momentum through five weeks, two wins being their longest winning streak (twice). What they have avoided, for the most part, is the long losing streak, although they do have a four-game winless streak on their schedule to date. In Week 5, the Caps demonstrated that they can skate with, or at least neutralize, a deep offensive team such as Edmonton. They showed they have the ability to dominate a talented team such as Tampa Bay. It would have been even nicer if they could have found a way to extend the Penguins’ losing streak by one more game.
- First Star: Evgeny Kuznetsov (2-3-5, even, one game-winning goal, ten shots on goal, 14 shot attempts,
- Second Star: Sonny Milano (2-2-4, plus-2, one game-winning goal, six shots on goal, ten shot attempts, one giveaway)
- Third Star: Erik Gustafsson (0-3-3, minus-2, four shots on goal, 16 shot attempts, 3:29 per game in power play ice time)