Photo: NHL/Getty Images
It hasn’t been the greatest start to a season by the Washington Capitals. In the nine games played the Caps sit at a 4-4-1 record, good for 9 points. That’s a pace for 82 points this season.
Nine games in and of course it is time to start worrying about the playoffs right? Probably not. A good thing too, because the Capitals currently sit outside of the playoff picture – they’re sixth in their own division.
It hasn’t been a great start but it’s not awful like the Montreal Canadiens (1-6-1 with a -20 goal differential) or the New York Rangers (2-6-2). If you ask me, you don’t need a great start to the season, you just can’t afford to bury yourself early.
The Capitals are in a fine position. In the mix early, get the early season kinks out of the way and hopefully set yourself up for a run later in the season.
The Capitals do in fact have some kinks, both with players and the team. We’ll point out some individual numbers, as well as a team stat or two just to fill you in on how the team is doing nine games in.
Possession (Corsi/Expected Goals)
The Capitals currently sport a 49.49 Corsi rating, which ranks dead-center of the league at 15th. Maybe more concerning is the Capitals expected goals for% which is 45.21. Out of the now 31 team NHL, the Capitals rank 29th in expected goals for%. Something we will talk about a little bit more later.
Now well look at some of the best and worst Corsi% on the team so far this season.
If you’re looking for positives, mostly on the development side, two of the top five Corsi% are rookie defensemen. Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey have been pretty good for the most part. Bowey had a rough debut against the Flyers but nothing terrible from the young blue liners. Djoos has also scored two goals. He’s the only defenseman to score a goal for the Capitals this season.
Not a lot of great expected goals% numbers. Out of the entire team, only four Capitals are over 50% (Backstrom and Oshie) The other two are Jakub Vrana (51.86) and Devante Smith-Pelly (51.3).
Other notable names and Corsi%:
John Carlson – 52.41
Jakub Vrana – 50%
Dmitri Orlov – 48.72
Alex Ovechkin – 47.18
Evgeny Kuznetsov – 46.69
Faceoffs are not just a formality. It’s not just a way to restart play. It is a key part of the game and luckily the Capitals, they have been pretty good at them so far this season. The Caps are currently ranked 14th in the league, but they have a pretty respectable 51.2 faceoff%.
Looking at the individuals, you do have some great numbers. Among centers who have taken at least 100 faceoffs, Jay Beagle (no surprise) ranks fourth in faceoff percentage at 59.8%. Eller ranks ninth in the same category.
The Capitals top two centers are farther behind. Backstrom still doing good, Kuznetsov is doing awful. As I’m writing this, there have been 58 centers to take 100 or more faceoffs. Kuznetsov ranks last in faceoff% among those centers.
It’s never going to be something to freak out about, but I personally want my top center to be better than 37%. It’s also debatable if Kuznetsov is the Caps top center, but since he plays with Ovechkin, I consider him the first line center. Backstrom obviously is the Capitals best center.
Moving onto a stat I like to keep an eye on is high danger shots against. When Braden Holtby plays, the Capitals allow 4.16 high danger shots per game. That’s a pretty low number and even better, Holtby saves about 92% of those shots. That is an excellent number.
Those numbers both rise and drop when talking about Philipp Grubauer. The shots rise to 5.66 per game and the save% drops to 64.71. The Capitals have not played as well in front of Grubauer.
Special teams have been a bit of a mixed bag for Washington. The power play is still top ten at 25%. Still as deadly as ever. The penalty kill (PK) on the other hand is just 76.9% which ranks 23rd in the NHL. The PK started the season strong allowing just one goal in 14 power plays faced. It has since gone 17/25 and 68%.
It’s a matter of opinion on which is more important, the power play or penalty kill. I fall on the PK side. I’ve seen a bad PK sink a team a lot quicker than a bad PP has.
There is time to fix anything bad the Capitals are doing. What is a stat that you want to see the Capitals do better at?
Related Reading for 9-Game Review and Analysis:
Review of shots and scoring chances for each of the first 9 games
The Great 8 Out of the Gate: Looking at Alex Ovechkin’s Start through the First 9 Games
General Progress Report: A Look at the Capitals First 9 Games
Washington Capitals Injury Report
By CJ Witt