Especially Bad Special Teams Weekend For Washington Capitals

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The weekend was a productive weekend for the Washington Capitals, as far as winning hockey games, as they beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 in a shootout on Friday and beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 in a shootout on Saturday.  Despite the wins, there was a sense of frustration because of the poor performance of the Capitals’ special teams in both games. 

A better performance by either the power play or the penalty killing in those games would have likely given the Caps wins in regulation.   Granted, the method of winning will likely not matter for the end of the season standings, unless there’s a tie in standings points at the end of the season, in which case, the number of Regular and Overtime wins will be the first tie breaker.

On Friday, the Capitals beat Carolina in a game that was best known for an Alex Ovechkin hat trick.  They gave up a short-handed goal to Sebastian Aho that put Carolina ahead 2-1.  They gave up two power play goals during the second period in less than two minutes, which put the team behind 4-1.  The Caps tied the score before the second period closed.   Ovechkin put them ahead on his third goal of the night about half way through third period.  But then Justin Williams tied the game on a Carolina power play.  The Caps had nearly killed off the penalty when goalie Braden Holtby tried to pass the puck to a teammate.  Only problem, the puck hit the cross bar and bounced near Justin Williams who scored for the Canes.

In that game, the Caps were the benefactors of two power plays, scoring on one (Alex Ovechkin’s third period goal) but giving up a short-handed goal during the first period.  In the game, the Capitals were called for six penalties, with Carolina scoring three power play goals.   If the Caps had not given up the short-handed goal or if they had more successful on penalty kill, they would have likely won in regulation.  In that game, Caps’ goalie, Braden Holtby saved 17 shots of the 19 he had faced at even strength, but only five of the eight he had faced in the penalty killing situation, and was unable to save the one shot he faced on the Caps power play.

On Saturday, the Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres.  In that game, the Sabres scored their first goal when the Caps had just killed off a delay of game penalty against Michal Kempny.  While that goal was not technically a power play goal for the Sabres, the Caps were still in a defensive position.  The other two Sabres goals were power play goals.  Meanwhile, the Caps were given four power play opportunities and scored on none of them.  In that game, Copley had saved 22 of the 23 shots he had faced at even strength, although the shot he failed to save was immediately after a penalty was killed.  On the penalty kill, Copley faced six shots and saved four of them.  This was another game where if the Caps had scored on one of their power plays or had been more successful in the penalty kill, they would have won in regulation.

Here is a chart of their special team performance for the weekend.

Game Opponent Power Play Goals Power Plays Penalties Killed Penalties
12/14/2018 Carolina 1 2 3 6
12/15/2018 Buffalo 0 4 2 3

This past weekend’s special teams performance was definitely below par, and the team will likely be working on special teams in preparation for the upcoming game against Pittsburgh on Wednesday December 19.  This was a weekend where the special teams (penalty kill and power play) could be described as special in a bad way or not special or special in a bad way.

For the year, the Caps rank #27 in penalty kill with a percentage of 75.2%.  They rank #5 in the power play with a conversion percentage of 26.3%, although that percentage has been steadily dropping since October.  This weekend caused these percentages to become even worse.

Further Reading
Capitals Edge Sabres 4-3 (SO); Alex Ovechkin Extends Goal and Point Streaks
Capitals @ Hurricanes – Inside The Numbers: Sluggish Start, Furious Finish
Capitals Storm Back To Beat Hurricanes, 6-5 (SO); Alex Ovechkin Does It Again
Washington Post Recap on Carolina Game of 11/14/2018
Washington Post Recap of Buffalo Sabres Game on 11/15/2018


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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