Sunday, December 11, 2022

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 9

For the Washington Capitals, Week 9 was about as good as it gets.  A perfect 3-0-0 record, a more than two goal positive differential per game, a sparkling performance by their backup goalie filling in for the injured number one, and they closed to within three points of a playoff-eligible spot in the Eastern Conference.

Record (3-0-0)

It might surprise you to know that Week 9 is the first week this season in which the Caps did not lose a game in regulation.  It was also their first three-win week of the season.  The three wins also represented the Caps’ first three-game winning streak of the season, finally getting that third consecutive win after posting three two-game streak before this three-game run.  And although you might think it too early to think of such things, the Caps now have 12 wins in regulation, which is the first standings tie-breaker if teams are even in games played and points.  That ties them with the New York Rangers (currently the second wild-card team) and Tampa Bay Lightning.  And of the two teams the Caps would have to jump over to get to the Rangers – Florida and Detroit – the Caps have as many regulation wins as Florida and one more than Detroit (11), although both teams currently have games in hand on the Caps.

Offense: 3.67/game (season: 2.83 / 27th)

The keyword for the Caps’ offense in Week 9 was “balance.”  Of the 18 skaters to dress over the three games, seven shared in the 11 goals, and 16 of them had at least one point.  Alex Ovechkin led the way with three goals, all of them empty netters.  The two empty net goals he recorded in the 4-1 win over Philadelphia in the middle game of the week was the second time in his career that he posted two empty net goals in a game, both times on the road (the other was November 20, 2019, in a 5-2 win in Detroit over the Red Wings).  He is the only Capital in team history to have at least one two-empty net goal game.  Lars Eller and T.J. Oshie were the other Caps with multi-goal weeks, each recording a pair.

The Caps were led in points by Ovechkin (3-1-4) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (0-4-4).  Six other Caps had multi-point weeks, Dylan Strome and Anthony Mantha (each going 1-2-3) posting three-point weeks.

Defense: 1.33 / game (season: 2.93 / 11th)

The Caps tied the Toronto Maple Leafs in allowing the fewest goals in Week nine, both teams giving up four in three games.  The Caps had the added benefit of allowing only 28.7 shots per game, 4.3 fewer shots per game than the Maple Leafs (33.0) and eighth-fewest per game in the league for the week.  There was balance in terms of results among the individual players here.  Of the 18 skaters, 16 had positive goal differentials at 5-on-5, and only T.J. Oshie had a negative differential (minus-1).  He also had the only minus rating for the week (minus-2).  Week 9 continued another welcome trend.  By week’s end the Caps had not allowed more than 30 shots on goal in consecutive games over their last 12 contests.

Goaltending: 1.34 / .953 (season: 2.67 / .913 / 2 shutouts)

Week 9 was “The Charlie Lindgren Show.”  He was 3-0-0, 1.34, .953 in the three games in relief of the injured Darcy Kuemper).  He led the league in goals against average (minimum: 75 minutes) and led the league in save percentage.  And, he did it against one of the more explosive offenses in the league, allowing only two goals to the Edmonton Oilers, and held an underrated scoring offense in the Seattle Kraken (eighth in the league in scoring offense at week’s end at 3.50 goals per game) to a single goal.  The best part of Lindgren’s week, though, might have been his third period performances.  He was perfect in three games, stopping 40 of 40 shots, the shot total being almost as many as that of the combined totals of the first two periods of games (46).

Power Play: 3-for-11 / 27.3 percent (season: 21.4 percent / 21st)

For the third straight week, the Caps’ power play topped 20 percent, another season best streak.  Oshie made his important presence on the Caps power play felt with two power play goals to lead the team.  Oshie also led the team with eight power play shots on goal, an indicator of his skill in finding open spaces in the bumper spot in the 1-3-1 power play structure.  Marcus Johansson had the other goal.  Which brings to mind an interesting fact.  Alex Ovechkin finished the week without a power play goal in his last seven games and has only one in his last 15 contests.  Six Caps recorded power play points for the week Oshie (2-0-2), Dylan Strome (0-2-2), and Evgeny Kuznetsov (0-2-2) each getting a pair.  Sonny Milano, Marcus Johansson, and Alex Ovechkin had the others.

Penalty Killing 5-for-6 / 83.3 percent (season: 80.7 percent / 8th)

Although the penalty kill has slipped a bit over the last three weeks, it still posted its third consecutive week with an 80-plus percent penalty kill rate.  But the best thing about the Week 9 effort was not having to use the penalty kill that much.  The six shorthanded situations faced tied the fewest for the Caps in a week this season (they were 3-for-6 in Week 2).  And, it was the third consecutive week allowing a single power play goal, a welcome development after their ghastly 7-for-12 penalty kill in Week 6. 

Faceoffs: 84-for-156 / 53.9 percent (season: 48.6 percent / 22nd)

The Caps are getting better at this thing called “faceoffs.”  What made it an odd week was that of the four Caps to take at least ten draws, it was the usually reliable Nic Dowd who was the only Capital under 50 percent (45.9 percent), and he was a very un-Dowd like 41.4 percent in the defensive end.  On the good side, the Caps were over 50 percent as a team in all three zones for the week.  To this, add that Evgeny Kuznetsov took more defensive zone draws (12) than offensive zone draws (ten) and won 75.0 percent of them.

Goals by Period

Week 9 was a case of what do you value more, scoring early or holding teams scoreless late?  The Caps did not score a first period goal in any of the three games and allowed the game’s first goal in all of them.  But on the other hand, they did not allow a third period goal in any of the three games, scored six of their own (four of them empty netters).  It was the second periods of games that really set up the Caps for adding easier goals late, holding a 5-2 edge in the middle periods of games.  Nevertheless, the lack of first period scoring is disturbing, the 17 goals scored in first periods by the Caps ranking 28th in the league. 


The 3-0-0 week, with all the positive statistical outcomes, pushed the Caps a bit closer to last year’s club over an equivalent number of games, but they still lag in most categories.  It is worth noting that this year’s power play is significantly better than last year’s at the same point, and that is without Nicklas Backstrom or Tom Wilson in the lineup to get power play minutes.  Then there is the takeaway-to-giveaway differential that, while subject to a measure of interpretation is a plus-20 through 29 games compared to a plus-4 through 29 games last season.  One would like to see a bit more discipline with this year’s club, which has been penalized much more than last year’s squad, leading to nine more shorthanded situations faced this season compared to last year.

In the end…

Not a perfect week, except where it counts most, in the win-loss record.  The Caps are on a nice run at the moment, a good thing because over the next month, the Caps will face Chicago, Ottawa (twice), Montreal, Buffalo, Columbus (twice), and Philadelphia (twice) over a span of 16 games.  That makes nine games in which the Caps should be favored and presents the best opportunity to make up ground in the playoff race.  Week 9 set up the Caps nicely as they embark on the next part of their schedule.

Three Stars

  • First Star: Charlie Lindgren (1.34, .953, perfect in third period save percentage (40-for-40/1.000))
  • Second Star: Alex Ovechkin (3-1-4, plus-3, 22 shots on goal, 35 shot attempts, 12 credited hits (led team), three empty net goals (only player in Caps history to record at least one two-empty net goal game; he has now done it twice))
  • Third Star: Evgeny Kuznetsov (0-4-4, plus-1, two power play points, 69.2 faceoff winning percentage, one even strength goal against-on ice)