Washington Capitals Early Season Recap – First Five Games 2016-17 Season

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The Caps have played five games this season so far and have won three, lost one regulation game, and lost one shootout; hence, they have a 3-1-1 record, for 7 points overall.  NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle recaps and assesses the first five games. 

So far, they have played just under 1/16 of their 82-game schedule.  This would project to 48 wins, 16 losses, and 16 overtime/shootout losses for a total of 112 points for 80 games, which would be more than enough to qualify for the playoffs.   In fact, 112 points is generally enough to win a division and, in some years, has even been good enough for a Presidents’ Trophy.  Granted, it’s way too early to project final point totals based on a small five-game sample, but that can be a way to put things in perspective.  They played three games at home and were 2-1 in them.  They played two games on the road, winning one and losing the other in a shoot-out.

Game    Date                                      Score
1              10/13/2016                         Pittsburgh 3 – Washington 2 (Shoot out)
2              10/15/2016                         Washington 2 – New York Islanders 1
3              10/18/2016                         Washington 3 – Colorado Avalanche 0
4              10/20/2016                         Washington 4 – Florida Panthers 2
5              10/22/2016                         New York Rangers 4 – Washington 2

Team Offensive Leaders
Alex Ovechkin – 3
T.J. Oshie — 2
Daniel Winnik — 2
Andre Burakovsky — 2
Marcus Johansson – 3
Matt Niskanen – 3
Nicklas Backstrom – 3
4 tied with 2

Alex Ovechkin – 4 (3 goals, 1 assist)
Marcus Johansson – 4 (1 goal, 3 assists)
Evgeny Kuznetsov – 3 (1 goal, 2 assists)
Matt Niskanen – 3 (3 assists)
Nicklas Backstrom – 3 (3 assists)

To the surprise of nobody, Alex Ovechkin is the team leader in goals scored, with three.  He is currently three goals behind the current league leader, Richard Panik.  Panik is unlikely to sustain his current goal scoring pace, as he is shooting at 66%.  Ovi is scoring at a much more sustainable rate of 14.1%.  The team has three other players tied at two goals apiece.  Four other Caps have scored one goal.  In aggregate, the team scored thirteen goals over the recent five-game stretch and surrendered nine goals, which gave the team a scoring differential of +4.  Their average number of goals scored per game was 2.6.

The leaders in assists during this time frame followed the theme of “Centers and Defense”.  They were Nicklas Backstrom (center), Matt Niskanen (defense), and Marcus Johansson (center/wing being used at wing), each with three.  Close behind them, with two assists apiece, were Evgeny Kuznetsov (center), Brooks Orpik (defense), Dmitry Orlov (defense), and Karl Alzner (defense).  The two remaining defensemen, who played this week, John Carlson and Nate Schmidt, each contributed one assist.  Overall, it was a good “spread the wealth” week on the assist front, with all six defensemen earning assists and the centers also being productive in that department.

The first line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and TJ Oshie had a good week, with the trio scoring six goals, four at even strength and two on the power play.  They also had three assists.  The second line, AKA the Tre Kroner line of Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson, and Andre Burakovsky also had a productive week.  They had three goals and six assists, with three of the assists coming on power plays.  For the third line, Justin Williams and Lars Eller each scored one goal.  The rotating forwards for the remaining slot on the third line, Brett Connolly and Zachary Sanford, have yet to contribute a point.  For the fourth line, Daniel Winnick scored 2 goals, while Jay Beagle contributed an assist.  Tom Wilson has yet to contribute a point.

The power play scored in only one game, the game against Colorado, scoring two that day.  All power play attempts for the other four games were futile, with regards to scoring.  During the recent five-game stretch, they scored two power play goals in sixteen opportunities for a 12.5% conversion rate.  Their penalty kill gave up four power play goals, one in each of the games, except for Colorado.   The opponents scored four power play goals in fourteen opportunities, giving the Caps a penalty killing percent of 71.4%.

The Caps primary goaltender, Braden Holtby, played in four games and had 97 saves in 105 shots for a save percentage of .924, which is slightly higher than his career save percentage of .920.  The backup goalie, Philipp Grubauer, played in one game and shut out Colorado.


    • Alex Ovechkin got his 90th career game winning goal in the Oct 20th game against the Florida Panthers, tying Mike Gartner for 18th on the All-Time List and is only one goal behind Wayne Gretzky and Mark Recchi.
    • Alex Ovechkin got his 280th multi-point game in the Oct 20th game against the Florida Panthers, putting him fifth on the All-Time List.
    • Justin Williams scored his 250th goal game in the Oct 20th game against the Florida Panthers.

In all five games this season, the Caps scored the first goal, which generally bodes well for a team’s chances of winning, correcting a tendency last year of yielding the first goal.  However, the Capitals developed a tendency of playing poorly during the second period.  In their opener against Pittsburgh, they scored first early but gave up two goals during the second period, including a power play goal, to fall behind.  During the last two games, the Caps got off to a two-goal lead during the first period, but could not hold it.  They were particularly dreadful during the second period of those games.  In their game against the Panthers, they yielded the game tying goal, but were outshot ten shots to just one for the Caps.  Fortunately, they regained the lead, and got an insurance goal during the third period.  In their game against the Rangers, they gave up three goals during the second period, which was enough to defeat them, as they scored no more for the remainder of the game.  Until their game against the Rangers, where they gave up an empty net goal at the end, they had not given up any goals during the third period.  The overall tendency was to play well early, score a goal during first period, let up either late first period or second period and give up one or more goals, but play well in third and rarely allow goals.

The Capitals go on the road to the “Great Northwest” and play games against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday, October 26th, the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, October 29th, the Calgary Flames on Sunday, October 30th, and the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, November 1st.  They return and start a three-game home stand, with the first game to be against Winnipeg on Thursday, November 3rd.

Links to Detailed Analyses
Review of Washington Capitals Faceoff Stats After Five Games
Examining the Capitals Special Teams

Links to Detailed Game Recaps
Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Washington Capitals 2
Washington Capitals 2, New York Islanders 1
Washington Capitals 3, Colorado Avalanche 0
Washington Capitals 4, Florida Panthers 2
New York Rangers 4, Washington Capitals 2

By Diane Doyle

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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