The Washington Capitals are off to the best start in franchise history. They are 19-5-2 and have 40 points. They have won 11 out of 15 home games, and 8 out of 11 road games.
But the Capitals look far from perfect on some nights. They have won a few games this year that they probably should have lost. It is a sure thing to place Braden Holtby as the Capitals team MVP so far, as he as covered up some flaws in the lineup with his stellar performances.
While the Capitals hot streak continues, what is the best Capitals team in franchise history missing? What can the Capitals improve on? How can the Capitals prepare their lineup better in their quest for the Stanley Cup?
IMPROVED PHYSICAL PRESENCE
With Brooks Orpik’s absence from the lineup due to injury, and Tom Wilson playing more of a top 9 role for the Capitals, the Capitals could use a little bit more ruggedness in their lineup. The Capitals rank 18th best in the NHL’s hit department, which is okay, but it could be better.
The Capitals outhit the Red Wings 28-20 on Tuesday night at Verizon Center. While this is solid, the Capitals probably could have outhit them by double with the way they controlled the puck most of the game. Brooks Orpik’s physical presence in front of the net was terribly missed, as the Taylor Chorney and Dmitry Orlov did not do a good job on either Detroit goal of clearing out the front of the net. The Red Wings are not a physical team, but they took advantage of the Capitals not being physical in front of their own net.
There is no doubt that Tom Wilson has been instructed to not lay the boom quite as often in games, as he has become a target around the NHL among the referees. With Wilson being instructed to soften up his game a little, it has had a little bit of a ripple effect on the rest of the club. Wilson was a more effective player in his 4th line crash roll last year, and he is at his best when he is playing a physical game. The Capitals coaches and management need to let Tom Wilson be himself, and they need to let him do what he is good at. Hitting, fighting, and agitating are things that Tom Wilson is good at.
CONSISTENT SECONDARY SCORING
The Capitals have plenty of star power on their team. With players like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Nicklas Backstrom who can score regularly, the Capitals are good to go for primary scoring.
But the primary scorers need more push from the secondary guys. In 20+ games played, Caps forwards Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky, Jay Beagle, Tom Wilson, and Brooks Laich all have 5 goals or fewer.
With the secondary scorers not pushing enough, it puts more pressure on the Capitals stars to perform better every night. Looking back at Tuesday’s game against Detroit, the Capitals registered 40 shots on net. It seems something is missing when the team can get that many shots on net, yet they only get 2 goals up on the scoreboard.
The Capitals are lacking some consistent finish from the secondary guys. There needs to be more scoring coming from the guys the Capitals do not depend on as much.
The Capitals have this bad habit of scoring a goal, and then zoning out of the game too quickly.
Looking back at the Detroit game, it was more of the same. The Capitals got a quick early goal from Justin Williams, and then they let Detroit kind of take over the 1st period after that. The Capitals really did not keep their foot on the gas after they got the quick early goal. Detroit ended up tying the game late in the 1st period, and then took the lead early in the 2nd period. It took a few powerplay chances in the final 2 frames for the Capitals to finally get going again in the game.
It is baffling to see the Capitals lose focus in a game they can totally dominate in. While Jimmy Howard was fantastic for the Red Wings in goal on Tuesday night, the Capitals loss of focus for a few minutes in the game probably helped make the score closer than it should have been.
With improved focus, the Capitals could really put a stranglehold on opponents in games. The Capitals could probably record a few more “landslide” victories if they stay focused for the entire 60 minutes.
By George Foussekis