Photos: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
So far it almost seems you can break this Capitals season into three segments:
- The start of the season through the beginning of December, where the Caps went 13-7-3. Not the best, but certainly not the worst and showed room for improvement.
- The middle of the season (December through the mid-February) where the Capitals were one of two teams (the other being Minnesota) that were trying to run away with the league. During that stretch, Washington went 26-4-3 and accumulated a league-best 55 points.
- Finally, the stretch run – the most important part of the season. The Capitals have put themselves in a good position through the first 61 games. They’re first in the division and first in the entire league, in line to win their second straight Presidents’ Trophy.
Since the Capitals bye week however, Washington’s results haven’t been great. The Caps are 3-2-1 since they returned to the ice.
The overall record isn’t the only thing that hasn’t been great since the bye week. The Caps level of play has seemingly gone down a bit in recent games. A lot of the play in the offensive zone has been to the outside, and the offense has struggled a little bit because of that. For example, from December 5 through February 11, Washington averaged over four goals a game. Their shooting percentage was very high, 12.2%. Last month I pointed out the best shooting percentages at seasons end and the highest was 10.35% for a full 82 game season. To think the 12% shooting percentage was going to last was probably foolish.
Coming out of their bye week, the shooting percentage has fallen, as have the goals. Since the 18th, Washington is averaging 2.5 goals for and their shooting percentage is at 7.7%. We can look at individuals too. During the hot streak the Caps had 18 players shooting over 10% and two players were right on 10%. Today there are just 6 players (Chorney, Winnik, Beagle, Alzner, Oshie, and Wilson) shooting over 10% and two of those guys are right on 10%.
The Capitals now sit at 10.2% for the season which is still best in the league, and a much more realistic finishing number.
Goals and shooting % aren’t the only things that are down, though. Corsi and shot attempts % are down as well. The Capitals Corsi % for the season is at 50.93, and the same stat during their hot streak was, believe it or not, down from that at 50.41. Since the bye week Washington is now at 46.90. That puts them 26th in the league in that time frame.
We can again look at individuals for Corsi as well. There are 14 players that have a positive Corsi number for the season (meaning a player has over 50%). Since the break there are just 4 Caps with a positive Corsi, Oshie, Carlson, Williams and Ovechkin.
The numbers reinforce the point that the Capitals are playing a lot on the perimeter and not attempting as many shots. Still, with that being said the Caps average 29.7 shots per game for the season, and since the bye week are averaging 31.0. They’re actually getting more shots on goal but attempting fewer shots.
Special teams haven’t been as special since the bye week either. During the hot stretch the Caps power play was operating at 28.6%. Since the bye week it’s down to 21.4% or 3/14. Still good, but down.
The penalty kill, which was 85.8%, allowing just 17 PPG’s against on 120 chances, is now just 78.6% and has allowed three PPG’s in just 14 chances.
Is any of this something that should concern you? Probably not. Nothing can probably concern Capitals fans right now, since most are most likely in a euphoria thanks to the trade deadline and the Capitals involvement in that.
While I don’t believe in peaking too soon, I do think the Capitals have probably played their best hockey. The numbers they put up in the middle of the season were impossible to keep up. To me, that’s nothing to worry about. Washington is still the best team in the NHL and they have the best lineup the league has to offer.
The Capitals have hit a mini-slump coming out of their break in mid-February that has brought them back to the pack and need to play better, specifically in the offensive zone.
This is when I like to turn it over to the fans. I’ve given you some stats and the differences between when Washington was hot and now. Does anything concern you?