Washington Capitals – Third Quarter Review for the 2017-2018 Season

With the Washington Capitals having played 61 of the 82 games for the 2017-2018 regular season, it’s time for our third quarter assessment of the team. (You can access the second quarter report here, and the first quarter report here.)

Currently, the Caps have a 34-20-7 record, with 75 points, are first place in the Metropolitan Division, and have the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference after the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Inside the numbers
Of the Caps’ 34 wins, 25 games were won in regulation, with 6 Overtime wins that did not go to a shootout and 3 Shootout wins.  They have lost 20 games in regulation and 9 games in Overtime, with one of those losses coming in a shootout. The Caps have a 9-7 record in contests that required overtime or a shootout.

To break down totals by month, the Caps were 5-6-1 during October; 9-5-0 during November; 10-2-2 in December; 6-2-2 in January; and 4-5-2 in February, thus far.

The Caps have performed well at home, currently sporting a 20-9-2 record and a winning percentage of .645. On the road, they are 14-11-5 which is considered slightly worse than breaking even when counting the overtime losses as losses.

The Caps have scored 186 goals, which ranks ninth in the league, and have given up 182 goals, which ranks 21st in the league.  Note: the “Goal Differential” shown for them in the NHL standings is +6 rather than +4.  By having a 3-1 record in shootouts, they net two extra points in goal differential.


Alex Ovechkin – 36
Evgeny Kuznetsov – 16
Nicklas Backstrom – 15
Brett Connolly – 14
Lars Eller — 13

Evgeny Kuznetsov – 39
John Carlson – 36
Alex Ovechkin –32
Nicklas Backstrom – 30
T.J. Oshie– 21

Alex Ovechkin – 68 (36 goals, 32 assists)
Evgeny Kuznetsov – 55 (16 goals; 39 assists)
John Carlson – 47 (11 goals; 36 assists)
Nicklas Backstrom – 45 (15 goals, 30 assists)
T.J. Oshie — 33 (12 goals; 21 assists)

As noted, the Caps as a team have scored 186 goals, which ranks ninth in the league and is 8 goals above the league average of 178.   They have given up 182 goals which is 4 more goals than the league average and ranks.

Alex Ovechkin has scored nearly one fifth of the team’s goals as he has 36 goals of the team’s 186.  No other player on the team has scored over 20 goals, although there are several players who have scored 10 or more goals: Evgeny Kuznetsov with 16, Nicklas Backstrom with 15, Brett Connolly with 14, Lars Eller with 13, T.J. Oshie with 12, and Jakub Vrana with 10.

Backstrom has improved his scoring in the third quarter, potting 7 goals including scoring career goal #200.  Connolly also had a scoring spike in late January.  On the negative side of the ledger, Jakub Vrana has scored no goals since December 14 and has found himself to be a healthy scratch on occasion.  After a red-hot start, T.J. Oshie has had only 2 goals since returning from a concussion in December. The team’s goal leaders since January 1st, 2018:

The team currently ranks 31st in the NHL in shots taken per game, at 28.7 which is worst in the league.  They have given up an average of 32.5 shots which ranks 10th worst in the league.  Their average shots per game has remained consistent with their first half statistics.  The average shots taken against them has gone slightly down from the midpoint of the season, with shots going from 32.5 from 31.93, essentially going from about average to top of the lower third.   Their current Shot Percentage is 10.6% which is fourth in the league.

The Caps primary goaltender, Braden Holtby, has played in 45 games and has 1414 saves in 1542 shots for a save percentage of .909, which is significantly lower than his career save percentage of .920.  He has a 28-13 record for the year.  His save percentage has decreased several points since the midpoint of the year when it was .917.

The backup goalie, Philipp Grubauer, has played in 21 games, started 16 and has a 6-7-3 record.   His record for the third quarter of this season is 4-2-0 with his two most recent starts being wins.  He currently has a save percentage of .916 which is below his career average of .921.  He has improved his save percentage from the first half of the year when it was first quarter where it was .909.   The team has played better during his goaltending starts than they had during the first half of the season.

Special Teams
The Capitals have scored 39 power play goals in 183 power play opportunities, for a conversion percentage of 21.3%   It currently ranks at #8 in the league which is above the league average of 19.9%.   The Caps’ Penalty Kill percentage is 79.80%, as they killed 162 penalties in 203 opportunities.   That ranks #18 out of 31 teams which is a smidgen under the league average of 80.1.      The Caps have given up 7 shorthanded goals this year and have scored 3 shorthanded goals.

Milestones Achieved

  • Tom Wilson recorded his 10th goal of the season on February 17 against the Chicago Blackhawks which was the first time in his career he has reached a double-digit goal total in a season
  • Head coach Barry Trotz coached his 1500th career game on February 17 against the Chicago Blackhawks, being the fifth coach to ever reach that mark
  • Alex Ovechkin earned his 1100th point on February 15 against the Minnesota Wild
  • Braden Holtby played his 20,000th minute in a Capitals sweater on February 13 against the Winnipeg Jets and was the second goaltender in franchise history to reach the mark. Olaf Kolzig was the only other one
  • Jay Beagle scored his 50th career goal on February 9 against the Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Nicklas Backstrom scored his 200th career goal on February 6 against the Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Alex Ovechkin’s scored the 586th goal of his career on January 12 against the Carolina Hurricanes, tying Brett Hull for the 3rd most all-time within a player’s first 13 NHL seasons.
  • John Carlson recorded his 300th career point on January 12 against the Carolina Hurricanes with an assist on Ovechkin’s goal, becoming the 24th player and the seventh defenseman to reach that milestone in franchise history.
  • Nicklas Backstrom scored his 198th career goal on January 12 against the Carolina Hurricanes, passing up Alexander Semin for fifth on the Caps All-Time goal scoring list
  • Lars Eller’s earned his 200th career point with a goal on January 9 against the Vancouver Canucks
  • Nicklas Backstrom scored his 197th career goal on January 7 against the St Louis Blues, tying Alexander Semin for fifth on the Caps All-Time goal scoring list

In the upcoming milestone department, Alex Ovechkin needs to play just one more game to tie Calle Johansson in games played for the Capitals as Johansson had played 983 games.   Ovechkin needs just six more goals to reach the 600-goal plateau.  Nicklas Backstrom needs to play in 6 more games to reach the 800 games played with the team.

Injuries and Illness

  • No notable injuries or illness. (click to enlarge).


Personnel Changes

  • Travis Boyd was called up from the Hershey Bears on January 12 but returned to Hershey on January 13
  • Michal Kempny was acquired in exchange for a 2018 third round draft pick on February 19
  • Taylor Chorney was waived on February 20 and claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Jakub Jerabek was acquired in exchange for a 2019 fifth round draft pick on February 21

The Road Ahead
For the remainder of February, they have three games left to play, two at home.  The month of March begins with the Stadium Series game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 3 followed by a road trip to California to play the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks.  All in all, March will be a very busy month.

The Caps are currently sitting in second place in the Metropolitan Division with 75 points.  They are behind the Pittsburgh Penguins by 1 point.  During February, they basically squandered their division lead and were unable to win ANY games while Pittsburgh had four days off between games.  They have just one game in hand, compared to Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh has won six games in a row and have been 8-1-1 in their last ten games.  Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers have also been hot, having won their last 4 games, and have been 8-0-2 in their last ten games.  The Caps position in the standings have been more precarious, as of late. The New Jersey Devils are currently in fourth place with 70 points and have been 4-4-2 in their last ten games.  The Columbus Blue Jackets reside in fifth place, with 65 points, having had a record of 3-6-1 in their last ten games.  The Blue Jackets are in a dog fight for fifth place with the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes.

As far as making the playoffs is concerned, the Caps are likely in a good position despite their recent mediocre play.  The Blue Jackets, Islanders, and Hurricanes have not done any better than the Caps, so they have not gained any ground.  Plus, all three of those teams are still ahead of the Florida Panthers in points which decreases the chances of the Panthers making the playoffs and crossing over to play Atlantic Division teams.

Chances are, the Penguins will finish first in the division, especially if assessing a team’s chances based on the PDO statistic (i.e. sum of Save Percentage and Shooting Percentage).  Despite their hot streak, the Pens still have a PDO of 981 which is below the expected norm of 1000.  The Caps have a PDO of 101.4 which is above the expected norm of 1000 and could regress downward.  Flyers, Caps, and Devils will also likely make the playoffs.

By Diane Doyle

Related Reading
Biggest Storylines Heading Into the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline
Washington Capitals — Second Quarter Review
Washington Capitals – First Quarter Review – 2017-2018

About Diane Doyle

Been a Caps fan since November 1975 when attending a game with my then boyfriend and now husband.
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