Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Capitals are still having some scoring issues. With a 4-4-1 record through the first nine games, the Capitals have scored 28 goals, which equates to 3.11 per game. However, given the current state of the team’s defensive unit, it does not get talked about as much as other team statistics.
When looking at the goal numbers mentioned above, it does not seem the Capitals have much of an issue scoring goals. Yet, looking at the players, only nine Capitals have scored a goal.
Look at some of the other teams that are struggling around the NHL, such as the Montreal Canadiens. They have scored only 18 goals in nine games played. Nine players have scored for them as well. The Edmonton Oilers are also struggling, with a 2-5-1 record eight games into the 2017-18 season. They have scored 15 goals, or less than two per game. Nine players have scored for them. These are struggling teams.
Looking at the Metropolitan Division, the New Jersey Devils (currently in first place) have scored 31 goals, with 14 players having scored for them, ten of which have scored at least two goals. The Pittsburgh Penguins have scored 31 goals so far this season. Of the sixteen Penguins that have scored a goal, seven guys have at least two goals. Twelve players have scored for the Philadelphia Flyers and they have scored 30 goals. Only five players on the Flyers have at least two goals. The Columbus Blue Jackets have scored three less goals than the Capitals, but fifteen players have scored, of which five have at least two. Finally, the New York Islanders, who have scored 29 goals, have ten players who have a goal, with six players having two or more goals.
Those are teams that will be mentioned right now. One could look at the Carolina Hurricanes and/or New York Rangers, but they are a bit farther back in the division standings, and right now we’ll just talk about the teams the Capitals are trying to catch.
The Capitals’ top three goal-scorers are Alex Ovechkin (10), T.J. Oshie (6) and Nicklas Backstrom (3). That alone is 67% of the Capitals offense and other players ave got to step up.
Center Evgeny Kuznetsov is goalless and while he has 12 assists, Ovechkin has been hot at the same time. Andre Burakovsky hasn’t been reliable…yet, as he has just one goal in nine games. Brett Connolly scored in the first game of the season and hasn’t scored since. Nathan Walker has a goal, which came accidentally, really. Some of the Capitals’ leading scorers are rookies Jakub Vrana and Christian Djoos, with two goals each. While it’s a good thing that the young players have come in and can contribute, the Caps have got to get some of the veterans to start putting the puck in the net.
One of the Capitals who does not have a goal is defenseman John Carlson. Carlson, who is the best offensive threat the Capitals have on the backend, is getting attention due to his ice time. The ice time is even more noticeable when one looks at the Capitals’ defensive corps and its current state. A currently injured Matt Niskanen, an aging Brooks Orpik, a “veteran” Dmitry Orlov, and two rookies in Djoos and Madison Bowey, as well as veterans Taylor Chorney and Aaron Ness.
I won’t say that Carlson is struggling, and it’s way too early to say the career-high ice time is affecting him. Something I did notice in the last game though was Carlson getting beat on an inside move. It happened three times in the team’s last game against the Florida Panthers, twice on the penalty kill. Two of the three times required backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer to make a good save, the other time the puck went off the post.
If one wants to see the times Carlson got beat, click the link above and go to the 2:00 mark, the 3:00 mark and the 3:25 mark.
Were these just a couple of bad plays on which he got neither the puck or the man? Maybe, but if you’re someone who likes to watch for stuff maybe watch for that next game. Do other teams attack Carlson specifically on the penalty kill?
Speaking of the penalty kill and special teams, those are filling the nets in Capitals games, for both good and bad reasons. The good is that the Capitals have a 25% conversion rate on the power play. That’s seventh in the NHL, but it is early, and if the Capitals can keep that up, they’ll likely be at least in the top three when the season ends. Last season, the top-ranked power play was 24.8% (Buffalo Sabres).
The bad is that the power play is also letting the other team score way too much. Washington has allowed four shorthanded goals so far this season, which is second-worst to only the Sabres, who have allowed six shorties. Last season, the Caps allowed just three shorthanded goals and the season before that, they allowed a total of five shorthanded goals.
Maybe it’s just me but it does seem that penalty kills around the league are getting more aggressive. The speed is much better these days in the NHL, and perhaps coaches are getting more aggressive because of that. And because of that speed, coaches may have more faith in their penalty killers getting back on defense when they do attack.
Just a couple of things to think about before the Capitals start their Western Canada road trip.
By CJ Witt