Believe it or not, but the Capitals’ season is halfway over. The team has played 41 games (exactly half of the 82-game season) and have performed quite well despite a rash of injuries, a less-experienced blueline, and the offseason departures of top forwards. In this Second Quarter Recap, NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle looks at the team’s performance at the halfway mark. You can find Diane’s First Quarter here.
With the Washington Capitals having played 41 games of the 2017-2018 season, it is time to do a mid-season assessment of the team. At the moment, the Caps have a 25-13-3 record for 53 points, are in first place in the Metropolitan Division, and have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference after the Tampa Bay Lightning who are 29-8-2 with 60 points. Of the Caps’ 25 wins, 17 games were won in regulation, with five overtime wins that did not go to a shootout and three shootout wins. They have lost 13 games in regulation and three games in Overtime, with one of those losses coming in a shootout. To break down totals by month, the Caps were 5-6-1 during October, 10-5-0 during November, 10-2-2 in December, and 1-0-0 in January.
They have scored 125 goals, which ranks seventh in the league, and have given up 116 goals, which ranks thirteenth in the league. They have given up nine more goals than they have scored. Note: the “Goal Differential” shown for them in the NHL standings is +11 rather than +9. By having a 3-1 record in shootouts, they net two extra points in goal differential. The Caps have an 8-3 record in contests that required overtime or a shootout. This indicates they have done well in close games thus far but this may not be sustainable for a full season.
They have performed extremely well at home, especially lately, currently sporting a 16-5-0 record at Capital One Arena and a winning percentage just over .750. On the road, they are 9-8-3, which is considered slightly better than breaking even when only counting regulation results, but considered as mediocre when counting the overtime losses as losses.
Team Offensive Leaders
Alex Ovechkin – 26
Evgeny Kuznetsov — 12
T.J. Oshie – 11
Jakub Vrana — 10
Evgeny Kuznetsov – 27
John Carlson — 27
Nicklas Backstrom – 25
Alex Ovechkin – 17
Alex Ovechkin – 43 (26 goals, 17 assists)
Evgeny Kuznetsov – 39 (12 goals; 27 assists)
Nicklas Backstrom – 33 (eight goals, 25 assists)
John Carlson – 31 (two goals; 27 assists)
General Analysis of Offense
So far, the Caps, as a team, have scored 125 goals, which ranks seventh in the league and is six goals above the league average which is 119. They have given up 116 goals, which ranks 16th as they have given up three fewer goals than the league average. They are at the median for “goals allowed” although it seems that two teams, the New York Islanders and Arizona Coyotes, have skewed the average higher. Judging by the relative rankings, they are slightly above average in goals scored but average in goals allowed.
Alex Ovechkin has scored slightly over one-fifth of the team’s goals as he has 26 goals of the team’s 125. Three other players on the team have scored more than 10 goals: Evgeny Kuznetsov with 12, T.J. Oshie with 11, and Jakub Vrana with 10. While the Top 4 goal scorers have nearly half the team goals, the scoring has become more balanced as the season has progressed. At the first quarter point, Ovechkin and Oshie alone had accounted for nearly 40% of the team’s goals. At the midpoint of the season, 11 Capitals players have scored five or more goals.
The team currently ranks 31st in the NHL (i.e. worst in the league) in shots taken per game, at 28.76. They have given up an average of 31.93 shots which ranks 15th in the league. They have declined in shots taken per game since the first quarter of the season but have improved their ranking in shots against since then. Their current Shooting Percentage is 10.6%, which ranks fourth in the league. If they took shots at the same rate but had less success at scoring, the team’s overall performance would likely get worse.
Among the team offensive leaders, Ovechkin had 13 goals during the first quarter of the season and added 13 more for the second quarter, so on a quarter-by-quarter basis, he is consistent on the goal-scoring front. He had seven assists during the first quarter and added 10 for the second quarter. Points-wise, Ovechkin had 20 points during the first quarter of the season and 23 during the second quarter.
Oshie scored 10 goals during the first quarter, but only one for the second quarter. He suffered a concussion in the game against the San Jose Sharks on December 4 and did not return until December 19. He has only scored the aforementioned one goal since his return since he still has likely not regained his timing yet. While he has 24 points overall (11 goals and 13 assists), he has only gained one point during the second quarter.
Kuznetsov scored five goals and had 18 assists during the first quarter and seven goals and nine assists during second quarter. Hence, he gains 23 points for the first quarter and 16 for the second quarter.
Backstrom scored three goals and had 12 assists during the first quarter and five goals and 13 assists during the second quarter. He ended up with three more points for the second quarter than for the first quarter.
Carlson scored both of his goals and had 15 assists during the first quarter. He had 12 assists for second quarter.
The Capitals’ starting goaltender, Braden Holtby, played in 31 games and had 882 saves on 962 shots for a save percentage of .917, which is slightly lower than his career save percentage of .922. He has a 23-8-0 record for the year. Backup goalie Philipp Grubauer has played in 13 games, started 10 and has a 2-5-3 record. His record for the second quarter of the season is 2-0-2, with his two most recent starts being overtime losses. He currently has a save percentage of .909, which is below his career norm and will likely get better. He has improved his save percentage from the first quarter when he had a mediocre .876. Overall, the team has not played well when Grubauer is in net. Either the defense, the penalty killing, or the offense would fail for the Caps. Most recently, he shutout the New York Rangers in regulation, except the Caps’ offense did not score at all and lost in a shootout. In the game he started before that, they lost to the woeful Arizona Coyotes in overtime, a game where the Caps had not scored since the end of the second period
For the season so far, the Capitals have scored 15 power play goals in 72 power play opportunities, for a conversion percentage of 20.8%, which currently ranks 12th in the league, which is slightly above the league average of 19.11%. The Caps’ Penalty Kill percentage is 80.28%, as they killed 114 penalties in 142 opportunities, which ranks 22nd out of 31 teams, which is a tad under the league average of 80.89. They have given the other team an average of four power plays a game and give up an average of one power play goal. The Caps have given up five shorthanded goals this year.
- Alex Ovechkin scored his 22nd career game-winning overtime goal on January 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes. This extends his NHL record for most overtime Game Winning Goals
- Alex Ovechkin became the fourth player in NHL history to score 25 or more goals in each of his first 13 seasons on January 2, joining Jaromir Jagr (17 seasons), Mike Gartner (15 seasons) and Wayne Gretzky (13 seasons).
- Alex Ovechkin scored his 100th career game-winning goal on January 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes, making him the first Capital to achieve 100 game-winning goals in his career. He is now third among active players, behind only Patrick Marleau and Jaromir Jagr, and eighth on the All-Time list.
- Alex Ovechkin played in his 962th game for the Washington Capitals on January 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes, breaking a tie with Peter Bondra for second place in franchise history. The only player who has played more games for the Capitals is defenseman Calle Johansson, played in 983 games with the team.
- Alex Ovechkin scored his 218th power play goal on December 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets and passed Mike Gartner and Jaromir Jagr for 10th place on the NHL’s all-time power play goals list. He now has 219 power play goals.
- Barry Trotz recorded his 737th win on December 30, becoming the fifth-winningest coach in NHL history
- Nicklas Backstrom’s goal on December 23 was his 134th even-strength goal and moved him past Bobby Carpenter for fifth place on the Caps’ all-time list. Earlier that month, he passed Bengt-Ake Gustafsson & Kelly Miller on the Caps’ leader board for that milestone
- Devante Smith-Pelly played in his 300th NHL game on December 16 against the Anaheim Ducks
- Devante Smith-Pelly earned his 50th career assist on December 8 against the New York Rangers
- Alex Ovechkin scored his 578th goal and passed Mark Recchi for 20th place on the All-Time Goals Scored list on December 4. He now has 584 goals
- Jay Beagle recorded his 100th NHL point on November 24 against the Tampa Bay Lightning
- Travis Boyd played in his first NHL game on December 4 against the San Jose Sharks.
- Dmitry Orlov earned his 100th career point with an assist on a Evgeny Kuznetsov goal on November 30 against the Los Angeles Kings.
In the upcoming milestones department, Ovechkin needs 16 more goals to reach the 600-goal plateau, Backstrom needs four goals to achieve the 200-goal milestone, and Ovechkin also needs six assists to reach the 500-assist plateau which would make him the second member of the Capitals to achieve that milestone.
Injuries and Illness
- Matt Niskanen – Injured December 30 against the Boston Bruins and missed the game on January 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes
- Andre Burakovsky – Injured (broken thumb) October 21 against the Florida Panthers and returned to the lineup on December 8 against the New York Rangers.
- Nicklas Backstrom – was ill for a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on January 2 but did not miss the game
- Christian Djoos – injured on November 14 in a game against the Nashville Predators and returned to the lineup on November 30 against the Los Angeles Kings
- T.J. Oshie – injured (concussion) against the San Jose Sharks on December 4. He returned to the lineup December 19 against the Dallas Stars
- Chandler Stephenson – injured against the Columbus Blues Jackets on December 2. He returned to the lineup December 6 against the Chicago Blackhawks
- Nathan Walker placed on waivers on November 30 and claimed by Edmonton Oilers. Oilers waived him on December 19 and Caps re-claimed him. Assigned to Hershey Bears on December 28
- Tyler Graovac was placed on waivers on December 7. Was not claimed so assigned to Hershey Bears on December 8
- Travis Boyd recalled from Hershey Bears on December 3 and returned to them on December 7
- Aaron Ness waived on November 28, went unclaimed and assigned to Hershey Bears on November 29
The Road Ahead
For the remainder of January, the team has nine games left to play, with six at home. The phrase to describe the upcoming games this month could be “make hay while the sun shines”. In other words, win as many games as possible in front of a friendlier crowd at home. The Caps are only playing a total of ten games in January, with a four-day break between games from January 3-6, a five-day break from January 13-17, and a break from January 26-30 for the All-Star Break. In other words, the theme is “win at home”.
The Caps are currently sitting in first place in the Metropolitan Division with 53 points. They lead the New Jersey Devils by two points, although the Devils have a game in hand. They are tied for the division lead in Goal Differential with +12. The number is an improvement over their Goal Differential of -5 after the first quarter. Granted, much of their Goal Differential points are from winning in overtime so it may be skewing high. They are second in their division in Goals For, with 128, trailing only the New York Islanders who have 141 and overwhelmingly lead the division in that department. They are second best in Goals Against with 117, which is fewer than any team except for the New York Rangers. The Goals For, Goals Against, and Goal Differential statistics indicate a very close division race. The Goal Differentials range from -13 through +11. There are seven teams in the Metropolitan Division whose Goals For totals range from 113-128 which is not a very wide range. The Islanders overwhelmingly have the highest Goals For number with 141. For Goals Against, there are six teams whose totals range from 114-120, then there’s Pittsburgh who had given up 133 goals. The New York Islanders are the outlier who have given up 154 goals. In other words, judging from Goals For, Goals Against, and Goal Differential, the Caps still have a chance of finishing first, but the divisional race is so tight that the standings could very well shift greatly from their present configuration.
At the Midway Point, Are The Capitals Still the Favorite to Win the Metropolitan Division?
All 26 of Alex Ovechkin’s Goals Through the Midway Point of 2017-18
NoVa Caps First Quarter Review