Photo: NHL/Getty Images
With the Washington Capitals having finished the 2017-2018 regular season, it is time to do a fourth quarter assessment of the team. They ended with a 49-26-7 record and clinched the Metropolitan Division title and closed out the regular season with a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils.
The Capitals finished behind the Atlantic Division front-running Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, and tied in points with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but would technically be ahead of them in the standings via tie breakers. The Caps performed well during the last 21 games of the season, going 15-6-0 to overtake the Pittsburgh Penguins in the division race; a Pittsburgh team that had led the division at the three-quarter point of the season, and who had gained ground on the other divisional contenders.
Of the Caps’ 49 wins, 38 games were won in regulation, with eight overtime wins that did not go to a shootout and three Shootout wins. They lost 19 games in regulation and seven 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; 9-5-0 during November; 10-2-2 in December; 6-2-2 in January; 6-6-2 in February, 10-4-0 in March, and 3-1-0 in April.
The Capitals scored 256 total goals, which finished ninth in the league, and gave up 238 goals, which ranked 16th in the league. They scored 18 goals more than they had given up. Note: the “Goal Differential” shown for them in the NHL standings is +20 rather than +18. By having a 3-1 record in shootouts, they net two extra points in goal differential.
The Caps have an 11-7 record in contests that required overtime or a shootout.
The team performed well at home, sporting a 28-11-2 record and a win percentage of .645. On the road, the Caps went 21-15-5, which is considered slightly better than breaking even when counting the overtime losses as losses.
Team Offensive Leaders
Alex Ovechkin – 49
Evgeny Kuznetsov – 27
Nicklas Backstrom – 21
T.J. Oshie — 18
Lars Eller — 13
Evgeny Kuznetsov – 56
John Carlson – 53
Nicklas Backstrom – 50
Alex Ovechkin –38
T.J. Oshie– 29
Alex Ovechkin – 87 (49 goals, 38 assists)\
Evgeny Kuznetsov – 83 (27 goals; 57 assists)
Nicklas Backstrom – 71 (21 goals, 50 assists)
John Carlson – 82 (15 goals; 53 assists)
T.J. Oshie—47 (18 goals; 29 assists)
General Analysis of Offense
During the 2017-18 season, the Caps scored 259 goals, which ranks ninth in the league and is 16 goals above the league average of 243. They gave up 249 goals, which is four more goals than the league average, and ranks 15th.
Alex Ovechkin scored nearly one-fifth of the team’s goals with 49 of the team’s 259. The Caps had two other players score over 20 goals per year: Evgeny Kuznetsov with 27 goals and Nicklas Backstrom with 21. There were four more players who scored 15 or more goals: T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller with 18, and John Carlson and Brett Connolly with 15. There were four other players who had between 10 and 15 goals: Tom Wilson with 14, Jakub Vrana with 13, Andre Burakovsky with 12, and Dmitry Orlov with 10. Among the players with 10 or more goals, two of them are defensemen (Carlson and Orlov).
The team is currently 31st (last) in the NHL in shots taken per game with 29.0. They have given up an average of 31.0 shots per game, which is tied for 17th-worst in the league. Their average shots per game has marginally improved from their total from the first three quarters of the year. The average shots taken against them is nearly in the middle of the league. Their current Shot Percentage stands at 10.8% which is near the top of the league standings and tied with Tampa Bay.
Several players had career-highs offensively during the 2017-18 season, including Evgeny Kuznetsov, who had 27 goals (which topped his previous career-high of 20) and 56 assists (which was only one less than his previous high of 57); Carlson, who had 15 goals and 53 assists; Eller, whose 18 goals were a career-high and whose 20 assists were only two shy of his career-high; Connolly, who tied his career high in goals with 15 and had his second-best assists total with 12; Orlov had a career-high in goals and his second-best total in assists with 21; Wilson had career highs in both goals and assists, with 14 and 35, respectively; Devante Smith-Pelly set a career-high in goals with nine and was only one shy of his career-high in assists with 16.
The Capitals’ incumbent starting goaltender, Braden Holtby, played in 54 games and had 1495 saves on 1648 shots for a save percentage of .907, which is significantly lower than his career save percentage of .919. He finished a 34-16-4 record for the year. His save percentage decreased several points since the halfway mark of the season when it was .917; the decrease came as a result of an extended slump. Backup goalie Philipp Grubauer played in 35 games, started 28, and finished with a 15-10-3 record. He finished with a save percentage of .923, which is the same as his career average. He improved his save percentage from the first half of the year when it was .909. The team played better during his starts during the second half of the season than they had during the first half of the season.
The Capitals scored 55 power play goals on 244 power play opportunities, for a conversion percentage of 22.5%, which is above the league average of 20.2%. The Caps’ Penalty Kill percentage is 80.3%, as they killed 216 penalties on 269 opportunities, which ranks 15th of 31 teams, which is close to the league average of 79.81. The Caps have given up eight shorthanded goals this year and have scored four shorthanded goals.
- Alex Ovechkin scored his 600th career goal on March 12, 2018 against the Winnipeg Jets.
- Alex Ovechkin scored his 602nd career goal on March 20 against the Dallas Stars to pass Jari Kurri for 19th on the All-Time goals scoring list.
- Alex Ovechkin played in his 984th career game on February 26 against the Columbus Blue Jackets and passed Calle Johansson (983) to set the franchise record for most games played.
- Alex Ovechkin played in his 1,000th career NHL game on April 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins
- On February 26, Alex Ovechkin scored his 40th goal of the season Friday to become the 10th player in NHL history to score 40 or more goals in at least eight seasons.
- For the 2017-18 season, Ovechkin tied Bobby Hull for the most times leading the NHL in single season goals (7)
- On April 7, Ovechkin passed Luc Robitaille for the second-most career multi-goal games by a natural left winger (120- just one shy of tying Hull for the most)
- Nicklas Backstrom played in his 800th NHL game on March 8 against the Los Angeles Kings, becoming the seventh player in franchise history to reach the 800-game mark.
- On March 26, against the New York Rangers, Nicklas Backstrom recorded his 791st point, passing Mike Gartner (789 points) for third-place on the Caps’ All-Time list.
- John Carlson played in his 600th career game on March 22 against the Detroit Red Wings
- Lars Eller played in his 600th career game on March 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes
- Lars Eller scored his 100th career goal on March 10 against the San Jose Sharks
- Barry Trotz recorded his 202nd career win with the Capitals on March 28 against the New York Rangers, passing Bruce Boudreau for the second-most wins by a coach in franchise history.
Injuries and Illness
- Brooks Orpik out on March 18
- Evgeny Kuznetsov out on March 17
- Braden Holtby out on March 22 with knee injury
- Philipp Grubauer out on March 27
- Jay Beagle out since April 2 with upper body Injury
- T.J. Oshie out on April 7 with lower body injury
- Travis Boyd was called up from the Hershey Bears on February 27 but returned to Hershey. Recalled on April 3.
- Madison Bowey was assigned to the Hershey Bears on March 13 and recalled on April 3
- Pheonix Copley was recalled from the Hershey Bears on March 22, reassigned on March 26, recalled on March 27 and reassigned on March 29.
- Shane Gersich signed an entry-level deal with the Capitals on March 23
- Brian Pinho signed an entry-level deal with the Capitals on April 4
The Road Ahead
The Caps will meet the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, with the series starting on Thursday, April 12.
By Diane Doyle
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Washington Capitals: Second Quarter Review- 2017-2018
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