Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports
The National Hockey League’s halfway mark has technically come and gone. Most teams around the league have played around 47-50 games of their 82-game schedule. Some fans believe that the All-Star break marks the halfway mark of the regular season. Teams have played just over half the season, and are now coming off a small break with under half of the season remaining.
With just 33 games left in the Capitals’ season, let’s look at how the Caps have done in the first half of the season.
It seems as though it has been more of an up and down season this year for the Caps. That may be odd to hear for fans of other teams. Washington, the best team in the league with a three-point lead over second place, has seemingly had a more difficult year than their record might suggest.
Perhaps this season looks the way it does because the Capitals breezed through last season, almost from start to finish. Even when they were struggling last season, they still managed to win. From mid-November on, the Capitals exploded and ran away with the league standings, had an eleven-point lead over second place, and won the Presidents’ Trophy.
This season, the explosion has happened a little bit later and Washington has also had more competition from teams within their division. The New York Rangers started the season strong, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers have each had long winning streaks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins have carried last year’s late regular season and playoff success into this season. Those are just a couple of many reasons why this season has been a bit more tougher than last season.
When you look at the point totals though, it’s very similar. Last season ended up being the best regular season in Washington Capitals history in terms of wins (56) and second best in points (120). Last season, they had 74 standings points at the All-Star break. This season they sit at 72. At this time last year, the Caps had a record of 35-8-4. This year, they’re 33-10-6. As different as this season has seemed, it is very similar.
But let’s look more closely at this season. Here are the team stats and where they rank in the NHL so far.
- 3.24 Goals For Per Game (5th), 2.08 Goals Against Per Game (1st)
- 20.7% Power Play (13th), 85.1% Penalty Kill (4th)
- 29.8 Shots Per Game (16th), 28.2 Shots Against Per Game (7th)
- 50.6% Faceoff (12th)
- 51.25 Corsi/Shot Attempts (7th), 50.78 Scoring Chances % (14th)
Here are some key stats since December 5th, when the Capitals started their surge. Washington is 20-3-3 since then.
- 3.88 Goals For Per Game, 101 goals scored (1st), 1.96 Goals Against per game, 51 goals against (1st)
- 27% Power Play (3rd), 87.1% Penalty Kill (1st)
- 50% Faceoff (14th)
- 50.02% Corsi/Shot Attempts (15th)
Here are the Caps’ top five scorers for the season so far:
Nicklas Backstrom (C) – 13 goals, 34 assists, 47 points
Alex Ovechkin (LW) – 23 goals, 22 assists, 45 points
Evgeny Kuznetsov (C) – 9 goals, 28 assist, 37 points
T.J. Oshie (RW)- 18 goals, 14 assists, 32 points
Marcus Johansson (LW/RW) – 15 goals, 17 assists, 32 points
We’ll do the same thing we did with the team and now look at players since December 5. For this I’ll, mention every lineup regular (Keep in mind there have been 26 games played since 12/5).
Evgeny Kuznetsov- 6 goals, 22 assists, 28 points
Alex Ovechkin- 11 goals, 16 assists, 27 points
Nicklas Backstrom- 6 goals, 20 assists, 26 points
Justin Williams- 15 goals, 9 assists 24 points
T.J. Oshie- 10 goals, 10 assists, 20 points (23 games played)
Andre Burakovsky- 8 goals, 9 assists, 17 points (23 games played)
Marcus Johansson- 6 goals, 10 assists, 16 points
Jay Beagle-6 goals, 6 assists, 12 points
Lars Eller-6 Goals, 6 assists, 12 points
Daniel Winnik-3 goals, 7 assists, 10 points (24 games played)
Tom Wilson-2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points
Brett Connolly-6 goals, 1 assist 7 points (20 games played)
Dmitry Orlov- 3 goals, 15 assists, 18 points
Matt Niskanen- 4 goals, 13 assists, 17 points (25 games played)
John Carlson- 5 goals, 11 assists, 16 points (20 games played)
Nate Schmidt- 1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points (22 games played)
Brooks Orpik-5 assists, 5 points
Karl Alzner- 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points.
There are two reasons I thought splitting the season in half was a good idea. Their names are Kuznetsov and Williams. Kuznetsov had just nine points in the first 23 games of the season, and as you can see, is now a point per game player in the last 26 games.Williams was even worse: he had just four points in the team’s first 23 games and he too, is nearly a point per game player.
One final interesting stat. What you’re about to read below is the line combinations that have been frequently used by the Capitals and Barry Trotz. The numbers you will see next to them are Corsi % of that line and the Scoring Chances For % of that same line.
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Oshie-46.67% Corsi, 50.91 Scoring Chances %
Johansson-Kuznetsov-Williams-50.90% Corsi, 62.75 Scoring Chances%
Connolly-Eller-Burakovsky-59.75% Corsi, 72.73 Scoring Chances %
Winnik-Beagle-Wilson-47.74% Corsi, 50.98 Scoring Chances %
Games to look forward to:
@Montreal Canadiens, February 4th. Top two teams in the east.
vs Edmonton Oilers, February 24th. EDM looks like a playoff team, could be an interesting game.
@San Jose Sharks, March 9th. Western Conference contender, lost 3-0 on home ice vs SJ in November.
vs Minnesota Wild, March 14 & 28th. At home on the 14th, possibly the favorites in the Western Conference, POTENTIALLY a Stanley Cup preview.
Division games are always something to keep an eye on as well. The Capitals have 10 games left vs their division rivals. With that being said, 15 of the Capitals’ remaining 33 games are against Western Conference teams. That’s why most of the games I will personally be looking forward to are against the West. We’ve seen what Washington can do vs the East, now what can you do against potential opponents in the Stanley Cup Final.
It’s been another pretty successful regular season so far for the Capitals. Now it’s time for the stretch drive and the playoffs.
By CJ Witt