While it may be the preseason, a time when stats may not matter as much as they do during the regular season everyone has to shake off offseason rust. NoVa Caps will be tracking statistics throughout the preseason, while keeping an eye on how some of the Capitals’ players and prospects are doing heading into the 2017-18 season.
On Wednesday night, it was the Capitals who walked away with their first win of the 2017-18 preseason by a final score of 4-2 over the Canadiens in Montreal. Wins and losses are mostly irrelevant in the preseason, as it’s mostly how well (or not) the team played. Some people tend to be a glass half-empty kind of person, as there is always room for improvement. The reason being that I didn’t really see that much from the Capitals in their 4-2 win over the Habs.
There were stretches during which some players looked good. Evgeny Kuznetsov looked very good early in the game, earning a goal or two (one goal for certain, another that is debatable, as it was given to Jakub Vrana). 22-year old defenseman Madison Bowey was very noticeable early in the game as well, but didn’t really stand out for the rest of the night.
The overall statistics back up that the Capitals did not play as well as the score might indicate. The Caps not only lost when it comes to key stats, but lost by almost a 2:1 margin. They were outshot 43-22 and came well short in total shot attempts, 77-40. Montreal did have nine power plays to the Caps’ four, but at even-strength Washington was still out-attempted 47-27. The Habs also led in five-on-five scoring chances, 27-14. When a team is out-attempted by that much, players’ individual numbers obviously are not going to look good.
Right wing Brett Connolly led the Capitals in shot attempts plus/minus, with a less-than spectacular plus-2. There was no other player on the team with a positive rating. Bowey was the worst on the team with just eight attempts for and 25 against or minus-17. Jyrki Jokipakka was a minus-16, Kuznetsov a minus-14, and Vrana and Alex Ovechkin both minus-11. Faceoffs tended to favor the Caps most of the night, as they won 55% of the draws for the game; they won 53% in the first period, 61% in the second period, while going 5-11, or 45% in the final frame.
Kuznetsov had a bit of a rough night on the dot. After going 6-16 in the first two periods combined, he helped his win percentage by going 4-4 in the final period, finishing the game 10-20, or 50%. One area that might be of some concern was his faceoffs in the defensive zone, where he was just 2-7. The Caps as a team, also struggled at faceoffs in the defensive zone. They finished the game winning 69% of the draws in the offensive zone, 67% in the neutral zone, but just 43% in the defensive zone. Other Capitals’ faceoff totals: John Albert was 5-8, Chandler Stephenson was 6-9, Zach Sill was 3-4, Devante Smith-Pelly was 2-5, and Garrett Pilon was 4-7.
Some final thoughts on the Capitals’ second preseason game. Goalies have shown that they are a strength of this team. Starter Braden Holtby looked good in the first game versus New Jersey, and both Philipp Grubauer and Pheonix Copley looked sharp versus Montreal; Copley was arguably, the reason why Washington won this game at all.
Other than that I think a lot of players need to play better as the preseason goes along. With that being said, it is only game two of the preseason. There is plenty of time to get things going. The next test comes on Friday, versus the St. Louis Blues.
By CJ Witt