Sunday, January 08, 2023

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 13

The margin between a really good week and a mediocre one in eh NHL can be measured in a few minutes.  It was true for the Washington Capitals in Week 13. They allowed a game-tying goal in the second half of the third period of one game before losing in overtime, and they were less than five minutes from forcing overtime when they surrendered the game-winning goal in another context to leave them with a 1-1-1 record that could have ended much better with better late-game management.

Record (1-1-1)

The Caps went into Week 13 on an 11-1-1 run and opened the week hosting a club on the rise in the Buffalo Sabres, who were on a 6-1-0 run of their own.  Washington went into the third period trailing but pulled ahead on goals by Nic Dowd and Alex Ovechkin.  The Caps could not hold on to their good fortune, though, and gave up the game-tying goal to Tyson Jost with less than nine minutes left in regulation to force overtime.  Three minutes in, Tage Thompson scored to give the visitors the extra standings point.  The Caps then spotted the Columbus Blue Jackets the opening goal in the middle contest of the week, then took over in the second period, outscoring the jackets, 6-1, over the final 40 minutes for a 6-2 win. 

The Caps had a chance for a winning week when Nashville come to town on Friday, but the Predators sandwiched a pair of goals around a Sonny Milano strike to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.  Washington tied it in the second period on a Nicolas Aube-Kubel goal, but the Caps could not find the tie-breaking goal before Ryan McDonagh scored with just 3:16 left in regulation to leave the Caps with a 1-1-1 record for the week.

Offense: 4.00 /game (season: 3.31 / 10th)

Three games, 12 goals, seven goal-scorers.  Alex Ovechkin led the team with three goals for the week, but the Caps continue to get important contributions from role players.  In Week 13, it was Aube-Kubel, who potted his first two goals of the season, and Sonny Milano, who has been a real spark for this team and had a pair of goals of his own.  T.J. Oshie continued working himself into playing form after an injury to be the third Capital with two goals.  Martin Fehervary chipped in with his third goal (the game-winner against Columbus) in six games after going his first 23 games of the season without one.  Nic Dowd scored his fifth goal in eight games.

What was remarkable about the offense, though, was that 18 of 20 skaters to dress for the week had at least one point, four Caps had three points, and another six had two or more.  Dylan Strom (0-3-3), Milano (2-1-3), Ovechkin (3-0-3), and Evgeny Kuznetsov (0-3-3) were the four Caps with three points apiece.

Ovechkin led the Caps with 13 shots on goal, but once more there were those role players close by.  Milano was second for the week with nine shots on goal, while Trevor van Riemsdyk tied T.J. Oshie with eight shots on goal.  There were also six Caps averaging a shot on goal per game played and a shooting percentage of 20 percent or better, led by Aube-Kubel, who had hs two goals for the week on four shots (50.0 percent).

Defense: 3.33 / game (season: 2.76 / 9th)

That the Caps would allow 3.33 goals per game looks a bit odd, given that in none of the three games for the week did the Caps allow as many as 30 shots on goal.  They did not allow more than 11 in any single period and allowed an average of 25.7 shots per game for the week.  They had a huge edge in shots of goal-for on ice at 5-on-5 – 155-134 (plus 21, tied for seventh best in the league for the week), yet they did allow eight 5-on-5 goals, tied for seventh-most in the league for the week.

The fourth line of Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway, and Aliaksei Protas took it on the chin in terms of individual on-ice goal differential at 5-on-5.  Hathaway was a team-worst minus-3, while Dowd and Protas each were minus-2.  Nick Jensen was the only other Capital, and the only defenseman, to post a negative goal differential at fives (minus-2).  All 20 of the Capitals skaters playing in Week 13 were on ice for at least one 5-on-5 goal against.

Goaltending: 3.31 / .870 (season: 2.57 / .914 / 3 shutouts)

It was not an especially good week for the goaltenders.  Both Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren finished the week north of 3.00 in goals against average and south of .900 in save percentage.  Only twice in nine regulation periods of hockey were they able to keep opponents off he scoreboard, and first periods were most difficult, Kuemper and Lindgren combining to stop 23 of 28 shots (.821 save percentage).  The save percentages improved over the periods (.909/20-for-22 in the second periods, .920/23-for-25 in the third periods), but early slow stats hampered the Caps generally.  And, the two third period goals allowed happened to be a game-tying goal in a game the Caps would lose in overtime and a late goal to give Nashville their winning margin in regulation.

Power Play: 2-for-6 / 33.3 percent (season: 22.4 percent / 16th)

The efficiency was good, but the Caps lacked opportunities to capitalize further on what was an efficient week for the power play.  Only three teams for the week had fewer man advantages per game than did the Caps (2.00).  As usual, Ovechkin led the team in power play shots with four.  But no other Capital had more than one, and only three Caps were in that group – Dylan Strome, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie.  Strome had the primary assists on both Caps power play goals for the week (Ovechkin and Oshie).  It was anemic production, and not only because the Caps had only six power play chances.  There were nine Caps who logged at least 1:30 in power play ice time for the week.

Penalty Killing 5-for-6 / 83.3 percent (season: 81.4 percent / 9th)

If the lack of power play chances was a minus on special teams, the lack of shorthanded situations faced was a plus.  No team faced fewer shorthanded situations per game than did the Caps in Week 13 (2.00).  Washington spread the penalty killing responsibilities around, even with few penalty kills to face.  Nine Caps – four defensemen and five forwards – averaged at least 1:30 in penalty killing ice time for the week.  Week 13 extended a run of consistency on the penalty kill.  It was the seventh straight week in which the Caps were 80.0 percent or better killing penalties and are 84.5 percent overall during that stretch, the third best penalty kill in the league.

Faceoffs: 97-for-166 / 58.4 percent (season: 49.5 percent / 19th)

It was a very good week in the circle for the Caps, who have climbed from near the bottom of the league rankings in this category to 19th overall.  The overall numbers for Week 14 were inflated a bit by a 64.4 percent winning percentage in the neutral zone, but the Caps were still over 50 percent in all three zones for the week.

The overall performance was fueled by Lars Eller, Dylan Strome, and Nic Dowd, each of whom finished the week over 60 percent overall. Only Evgeny Kuznetsov had a sub-50 percent week among those Caps taking at least ten draws, but he has improved in this area over recent weeks, bringing his overall season winning percentage to 47.4 percent, which at the moment stands as the second best faceoff winning percentage of his career.

Goals by Period

Although the Caps let games get away from them late, they might have been in that position had they performed better in first periods of games.  They were minus-3 for the week in goal differential, and again it was their lack of first period scoring that hurt.  The Caps have scored only 28 first period goals in 42 games through 13 weeks, tied for 25th in first period goals scored and the reason they are a minus-5 in first periods of games this season. 


This year’s Caps have almost caught last year’s club in many categories.  They are now down by just one win from last year’s team, although they do have four more losses in regulation, accounting for the five point difference that remains between the two editions.  Scoring offense and defense are now almost indistinguishable from last year, as are shots on goal.  This year’s special teams are better, and significantly so, as is the faceoff winning percentage.  The real difference, year to year, is that the Caps are 12-3-3 since December 1st this season.  Last season, over the December 1 – January 7 period, the Caps had a bye week but were still just 6-3-3 in the games they did play.

In the end…

The Caps did their job in the 2022 portion of the season, keeping close to the leaders to buy time until some of the injured (Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson most notably) back.  Even with a sluggish Week13, the Caps seem far ahead of where many thought they would be, and now they get a pair of games against an old rival –the Philadelphia Flyers – in Week 14.

Three Stars

  • First Star: Alex Ovechkin (3-0-3, plus-2, 13 shots on goal, 13 credited hits, only one goal against on ice at even strength)
  • Second Star: Sonny Milano (2-1-3, plus-4), nine shots on goal)
  • Third Star: Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2-0-2, plus-1, four shots on goal, only two games played)