So for the Capitals, the early schedule of April honestly means nothing, as the President’s Trophy (and home ice throughout the playoffs) was locked up a week ago. They know they are in, they know they played dominant hockey for great stretches of the season; so don’t get down on a couple bad periods of play this week. (Note: Next week, you cannot play bad; and same goes for the next two and a half months…but I digress).
There was a pretty solid win over Colorado that was fun to watch. A stinker final two periods and getting shut out by Arizona, that was meh. Then there’s an OT head-scratcher loss to the New York Islanders, when Holtby gave away a record-tying chance at history; also meh. Whatever really. If Holtby ties or breaks Marty Brodeur’s record, so be it. He needs to pick his head up, get the focus right, and think about the bigger team goal. Simple, simple, simple. Focus Grasshopper.
Wednesday Watch for the week gives a few shout-outs, spits a few stats, and says “Heads Up Caps,” then we drop the mic and walk off stage.
Shout-Out #1: The Consistent Seven
What do Kuznetsov, Williams, Niskanen, Chimera, Orlov, Wilson, and Alzner all have in common? They’ve each played in every game so far this season. Consistency, leadership, being healthy, and having a positive impact on executing the script for Barry Trotz…all are paramount as the playoffs begin next week.
Shout-Out #2: The Bad Goals, Love’em now, Hate’em in the Postseason
For Holts and Grubi; gentlemen get those putrid, floater, bad bounce, crap effort, and all-around ugly goals out of your systems now. Okay, are we good? Awesome. Lately the Capitals goaltenders have a sorry habit of losing focus, making a poor play on a routine shot, and it has cost the Caps momentum mid-game, and some crucial 3rd period leads. This can happen this week, and this week only. That trend needs to stop come playoff time. A hot goalie, one that makes all the routine saves, and most of the unbelievable dazzling ones, can be the difference in a playoffs series. On the other side of the coin, a bad goalie can spell a quick exit. Heads up netminders…!
Shout-Out #3: Rocket…Ye-eahhhh!
Even a Def Leppard can hear the sound of an Alex Ovechkin one-timer clapping into the back of the net behind a hapless opposing goalie. While on his way to (what should be) another Rocket Richard trophy, Alex Ovechkin has potted 47 goals this season and has eclipsed the 40-goal mark for the 8th time in his career. The man is a machine and he’s heating up again at the right time for the playoffs. God willing he stays healthy and hot. Russian Machine, we need you now more than ever.
Stat to Watch #1: Goals Against
Even though the Capitals yielded four goals to a lesser NY Islanders team last night, they still managed to edge ahead of the Anaheim Ducks for the NHL lead in overall goals-against per game (average). The Capitals, over 79 games, are giving up just 2.35 GPG, with the Ducks at 2.36 GPG. This matters because over the past 10 seasons (since the lost lockout year of 2004-2005) the team with the lowest GPG over the regular season has won the Stanley Cup FIVE times (I’ll take 50% odds to win the Cup any ol’ day of the week). Of further importance, three more teams atop their conference in lowest GPG allowed went on to at least make the Stanley Cup finals. This…this is good Caps, keep it up (and by Up, I mean keep the goals down).
Stat to Watch #2: Just Win Baby
With a winning percentage over 75% through the first four months of the season the Caps looked to be on cruise-control (and were the outright favorite to claim the Cup). Lately, that win percentage has eroded to a (still effectively decent) 69.6% rate. The March and April trend of 55.5% has contributed to the recent cool-off, but it still indicates that the Capitals can win; and win often enough to grind out a few playoff series’. Here’s hoping they revert to the October through January ways of the winning machine. WINNING!
Stat to (Maybe) Care About: Not Losing Consecutive Regulation Games All-Season
Does this matter? Maybe, sure, okay…Yes…it does. If the Capitals continue the trend into the playoffs there is a MUCH better chance of advancing through each round. You still have to win, and win consistently as the team has done all season. Sure, this is a “nice to have” badge as you recap a pretty remarkable regular season. Franchise record for wins, nice. Second franchise President’s Trophy, also nice. Lowest league goals allowed, see above at how nice this is. Stats, records, streaks and trends are only as good as the final product; if they relate to wins and championships then great, and if they don’t they’re just numbers.
Final Thoughts: Here We Go…
- War face. Put it on, keep it on.
- Scoring goals, GOOD. Giving up goals, BAD.
- Heads in the right place goalies. Forget the recent softies. Regain focus.
- Veteran leadership, youthful energy; the Capitals need both to succeed.
See you in the First Round of the Stanley Cup playoffs (Note: It doesn’t matter who we play, you have to beat everyone to get the prize).
By Scott Zweibel