Photo: Will Newton/Getty Images
With the Washington Capitals having played 21 games in the 2018-2019 season, it is time to do a quarterly assessment of the team. In this piece, NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle looks at the first quarter of the Capitals’ season (see last season’s first quarter review HERE).
At the moment, the Caps have an 11-7-3 record, are in third place in the Metropolitan Division (and eighth overall in the Eastern Conference), and would be in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs if the season ended today.
Inside the Numbers
Of the Caps’ 11 wins, seven games were won in regulation, with three overtime wins that did not go to a shootout and one shootout win. They have lost three games in overtime, with one of those three overtime losses coming in a shootout. To break down totals by month, the Caps were 5-3-2 in October and 6-4-1 during November so far. For a comparison, here is a chart from last season:
They have scored 71 goals, which is five more than the NHL average of 66 goals, and have given up 68 goals, which is two goals worse than the league average. Their Goal Differential is three, as they have given up one less goal than they they have scored. Their “Goals For” and “Goals Against” totals are listed as 68 and 67, given that teams are credited with an extra “Goal For” for shootout wins and debited with an extra “Goal Against” for shootout losses. In the case of the Caps, they won one shootout and lost another shootout so their “Goals For” and “Goals Against” totals reflect this.
- Alex Ovechkin – 15
- T.J. Oshie – 9
- Evgeny Kuznetsov — 6
- Nicklas Backstrom – 18
- Evgeny Kuznetsov – 15
- John Carlson — 17
- Nicklas Backstrom – 24 (six goals, 18 assists)
- Alex Ovechkin – 24 (15 goals, nine assists)
- John Carlson – 22 (five goals; 17 assists)
- Evgeny Kuznetsov – 21 (six goals; 15 assists)
- T.J. Oshie – 14 (nine goals, five assists
General Analysis of Offense
So far, the Caps, as a team, have scored 71 goals, which, as mentioned above, is five more than the league average of 62. The offense could be described as top-heavy given that two players, Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie, have scored a disproportionate share of the team’s goals. Ovechkin has scored 15 goals and Oshie has scored nine goals, but only two other players have scored more than five goals; Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom who have scored six each. Combined, Ovechkin and Oshie have scored 34% of the team’s goals. Three other players on the team have scored five goals: Backstrom, John Carlson, and Jakub Vrana. 19 players have scored goals for the Caps season at this point in the season.
The Caps have scored an average of 3.26 goals per game, which is the seventh-worst in the league. They have given up an average of 3.24 goals per game, which is the ninth-most in the NHL. During the first 10 games of the season, they scored more than four goals on five different occasions, but goal scoring has leveled off since then. They averaged 3.9 goals per game during their first 10 games. In their next nine games, they exceeded four goals in a game only once, with goal scoring particularly scarce during the following six games. They scored five goals in one game during that time frame but scored two goals in only one of the other five. During the first 10 games, they gave up six or more goals three times and four or more goals five times. During the nine games prior to their game against the Montreal Canadiens on November 20, they had given up six or more goals just once and four or more goals three times. Overall, their goal scoring has gone down but they’ve improved their ability to suppress goals. They currently rank 20th in the league in shots per game with 30.6 and have given up an average of 32.6 shots, which ranks as 10th-worst in the league. They have won 46.9% of their faceoffs, which ranks 20th in the league.
The Capitals’ starting goaltender, Braden Holtby, played in 15 games and had 421 saves on 463 shots for a save percentage of .900 in the first quarter, which is below his career save percentage of .909. He has an 7-5-2 record for the year, which will likely improve over the course of the season. Backup goalie Pheonix Copley has played in eight games, starting seven and has a 4-2-1 record for the year, with a save percentage of .899, which is better than his career average of .889, which includes only two other games, including one particularly bad game back in 2016-17.
For the season so far, the Capitals have scored 20 power play goals on 67 power play opportunities, for a conversion percentage of 29.8%, which currently ranks third in the league, which is superior. The power play conversion percentage has come down from a high of over 30%. The Caps’ Penalty Kill percentage is 74.4%, as they killed 68 penalties in 78 opportunities, which ranks 28th of 31 teams, which is near the bottom of the league. They give the other team an average of 3.24 power plays a game and give up an average of one goal. The Caps have given up one shorthanded goal this year.
- Alex Ovechkin passed Dino Ciccarelli (608) for 18th on the all-time NHL goals scored list on 10/4/2018 in a road game against Pittsburgh
- Alex Ovechkin passed Bobby Hull (610) for 17th on the all-time NHL goals scored list on 10/10/2018 in a home game against Vegas.
- Alex Ovechkin passed Bernie Federko (1,130) for 56th on the all-time point list on 10/17/2018 in a home game against the New York Rangers
- Alex Ovechkin passed Marian Hossa and Patrick Marleau (1,134) for 54th on the NHL all-time point list on 10/22/2018 in a road game against Vancouver
- Alex Ovechkin passed Dino Ciccarelli (232) for ninth on the NHL power-play goals list on 10/22/2018 in a road game against Vancouver
- Alex Ovechkin passed Mark Messier (122) for 13th on the NHL multi-goal games list on 10/22/2018 in road game against Vancouver
- Alex Ovechkin passed Steve Yzerman (124) for 12th place on the NHL multi-goal games list on 11/1/2018 in road game against Montreal
- Alex Ovechkin passed Marcel Dionne (234) for eighth-place on the NHL power-play goals list on 11/7/2018 at home against Pittsburgh
- Alex Ovechkin passed Nicklas Lidstrom (1,142) for 53rd on the NHL all-time point list on 11/17/2018 in road game against Colorado
- Nicklas Backstrom recorded his 800th career point on 10/3/2018 in a home game against the Boston Bruins
- Nicklas Backstrom recorded 600th career NHL/Capitals assist on 10/22/2018 in road game against Vancouver
- Nicklas Backstrom is just the third player in franchise history to record 800 career points in a Capitals sweater (Alex Ovechkin: 1,136; Peter Bondra: 825). Backstrom became the first member of the 2006 NHL draft class to hit the 800-career points mark
- Nicklas Backstrom passed Michal Pivonka (825) for sixth-place on the franchise games played list, on 11/1/2018 in road game against Montreal
- Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded his 200th career assist on 11/13/2018 in road game against the Minnesota Wild
- John Carlson passed Sylvain Cote (623) for sixth-place in games played in franchise history among defensemen on 11/11/2018 against Arizona
- Jakub Vrana played in his 100th career game on October 17 at home against the New York Rangers
Capitals Milestones within Reach
- Brooks Orpik – Eight games shy of 1,000 career games
- Devante Smith-Pelly – One point shy of 100 NHL points
Injuries and Illness
- Brooks Orpik – Has been on Long Term Injured Reserve retroactive to October 28 with a lower body injury
- Michal Kempny – Was out October 3-4 with concussion; out November 14 with illness
- John Carlson – Was out on November 9 with lower body injury
- Travis Boyd – Was out from October 3 through October 27 with broken foot
- T.J. Oshie – left game on November 14 and missed game on November 16 with upper body injury
- Evgeny Kuznetsov – left game on November 14 and missed game on November 16 with upper body injury
The Road Ahead
The Caps play the Detroit Red Wings the day after Thanksgiving. After that, they go to New York and play the Rangers on November 24 and the Islanders on November 26. Their last game in November is on November 30 at home against the New Jersey Devils. They play thirteen games during December, seven at home and six on the road.
Nearly all the players from the Stanley Cup winning 2017-18 team returned to the team, except for Jay Beagle and Alex Chiasson. Beagle’s contribution was expected to be missed from the team, given that he was a great faceoff artist and penalty killer. The team’s faceoff percentage has declined without him. In addition, the Penalty Kill has struggled this season. But in comparing the first quarter statistics for this season with last season’s first quarter statistics, the Penalty Kill had struggled then, too, giving up a power play goal per game, on average.
The entire complement of the Top 6 defensemen returned to the Caps. However, Brooks Orpik has missed a significant chunk of the season thus far. As a result, Madison Bowey, a rookie last year, is getting significantly more time in the lineup than he did last season.
Because of the long suspension to Tom Wilson, the forward lineup was disrupted. The Caps tried several different players at right wing on the top-line, including Devante Smith-Pelly, Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, and Dmitrij Jaskin. Since Wilson is a valuable penalty killer, his presence was missed on the struggling penalty kill which was giving up about a goal per game. In addition, opponents were taking more liberties with Caps’ players.
The Caps’ record of 11-7-3 would be considered just shy of a losing record if overtime losses counted as losses, for purposes of the NHL standings. The Metropolitan Division teams are bunched so close together that a winning streak could catapult a team into first place. But a losing streak could plunge a team into the cellar.
Their current record is close to their record at this point last season which was 11-9-1. Additionally, the team is closer to top of the Metropolitan Division than they were at this point last year. The hope for fans is that the team follows the same script as last year’s team who had gone onto win the Cup.
The overall quarterly grade for the team would be C. The offense, as a whole, would get a B. The power play would get a A-. The defense would earn a C. The penalty killing would get a D. The goaltending would get a C.
Capitals Milestones Achieved in First Ten Games of the 2018-19 Season
Shorthanded Capitals Defeat Grubauer, Avalanche, 3-2 (OT); Nicklas Backstrom Snipes Game-Winner
Jets Edge Caps 3-1: Evgeny Kuznetsov Leaves Game With Upper Body Injury
Statistics obtained from NHL.com, Hockey Reference and Puck Base.
By Diane Doyle and Michael Fleetwood