Evaluating the Capitals’ Homestand: A Potential Turning Point?

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The Washington Capitals completed their season-high five-game homestand on Friday, going 4-1-0 in the five games. The Capitals won four consecutive games, taking the final four of the stretch. Overall, the Capitals are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games and got Andre Burakovsky back after he missed 20 games recovering from hand surgery. In this piece, NoVa Caps’ Harrison Brown evaluates the Capitals’ performance during the homestand. 

Offense: A-

Overall, the Capitals scored 20 goals during this homestand, averaging 4.00 goals per game.

The Capitals got contributions from 11 different goal-scorers. Captain Alex Ovechkin had three goals during that five-game stretch and led the team with eight points, averaging 1.6 points per game. Ovechkin scored a goal in three straight games and came out of the homestand leading the NHL in goals, two ahead of Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov.

After being held scoreless in 21 straight games, center Nicklas Backstrom recovered with goals in consecutive games to conclude the homestand. He was also second on the team with six points.

Evgeny Kuznetsov led the Capitals in goals with four, including a multi-goal performance against the Los Angeles Kings. Kuznetsov is two points behind Alex Ovechkin for the team lead (33). He also had an assist.

Brett Connolly was scratched for two games and got back in action against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He responded by scoring a goal in three consecutive games.

Tom Wilson might have been the biggest surprise, scoring three times in the final two games. He was promoted to the top-line with Backstrom and Ovechkin and has three goals and eight points since the move, seven of which came during the homestand. In addition, he had a plus-5 rating in those five games. He had a career-high four-point game against the Chicago Blackhawks in a 6-2 victory. The homestand represents a snapshot, but Wilson played like the player the Capitals expected him to be when they drafted him 16th overall in 2012.

T.J. Oshie suffered an injury during the Capitals’ 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Monday, but the Capitals still scored 10 goals in the two games they were without Oshie, winning both games.

It is important to note that the Capitals only took more than 30 shots once (40 on December 8 against the New York Rangers) and took 106 shots during the other four games. The Capitals scored on 13.7% of the shots they took.

Defense: B

The Capitals defense gave up 13 goals for an average of 2.60 goals against per game, though two of those were empty-net goals in the Kings game. Excluding the empty net goals, the team gave up just 2.20 goals per game.

Washington gave up an average of 31 shots per game and was outshot 155-146 for a -9 shot differential. The Caps gave up the most shots on December 6 vs. the Chicago Blackhawks (39) while taking the most on December 8 against the New York Rangers (40).

The Capitals blocked a total of 96 shots for an average of 19.2 blocked shots per game and had 96 hits for an average of 19.2 hits per game. They had a game-high 32 in each column against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Even though the Capitals had strong blocked shot and hit numbers, their giveaway numbers were dreadful. They had a total of 84 giveaways, including a high of 24 against the Blackhawks. That was the second time they had more than 20 giveaways (22 on December 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets) and the fourth time they had more than 15 (16 on December 4 against the San Jose Sharks and November 30 against the Kings).

The Caps also struggled several times to get the puck out of their defensive zone. This has been a continuing frustration for the Caps, and it’s an area in which they will have to improve dramatically to compete in the postseason.

Offensively, the Capitals’ defense combined just one goal and 12 points during the five-game homestand. Matt Niskanen scored the Capitals’ lone goal (the game-winner) from the blueline on December 8 against the Rangers.

Tom Wilson led the Capitals with a plus-5 rating during the homestand.

Goaltending: A+

The goaltending was a big reason why the Capitals came away with eight of 10 points in the homestand.

Braden Holtby gave up 10 goals in the four games he played, for a 2.50 goals-against average. He stopped 147 on 157 shots for a .919 save percentage. The biggest workload he faced was on December 6 against the Blackhawks, but he was up to the task — making 37 saves on the 39 shots that came his way.

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer made one appearance during the homestand, a 4-1 win against the San Jose Sharks. He steered aside 24 of the 25 shots he faced for a .960 save percentage. After losing his first six starts of the year, he has won his past two, stopping 49 shots out of 51 shots against in the process.

Holtby and Grubauer combined for a .939 save percentage and a 1.75 goals against average. The two goaltenders combined for 171 saves on 182 shots faced.

Special Teams: A

The Capitals’ special teams were very good in this five-game stretch.

On the power play, the team went 4-for-17, converting at a 23.5% efficiency. The team had six power plays on December 4 against the San Jose Sharks and converted on two of those opportunities. The Capitals scored one power play goal each against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks. Overall, Connolly — filling in for Oshie on the top unit — scored two power-play goals, while Jakub Vrana and Ovechkin tallied one each. The Capitals did give up one shorthanded goal to the Blue Jackets’ Matt Calvert on December 2.

While the power play was clicking, the penalty kill was perfect. The Capitals killed off 10 out of 10 power plays against them, despite the absence of Oshie on the PK for seven of those chances. The Capitals also scored one shorthanded goal, Wilson’s empty-netter against Chicago.

Overall: A

The Capitals had a fantastic homestand, winning four of the five games, including both games in regulation against Metropolitan Division rivals. The Capitals propelled themselves tied for the division lead with 37 points. They are currently tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have one game in hand on the Caps. Of course, there’s always room for improvement but it was a good homestand overall, getting Andre Burakovsky back from injury and getting eight of 10 much-needed points.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was seeing T.J. Oshie's hat-trick​ during Game 1 of the Caps' second round playoff series against Pittsburgh in 2016. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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One Response to Evaluating the Capitals’ Homestand: A Potential Turning Point?

  1. Pingback: News and Notes from Sunday’s Capitals Practice: Is T.J. Oshie Getting Closer to Returning? | NoVa Caps

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