Photo: Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images
With the Washington Capitals having played 61 games in the 2018-2019 season, it’s time for our third quarterly assessment of the team. In this piece, NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle looks at the third quarter of the Capitals’ season (see First Quarter Review and Second Quarter Review).
At the moment, the Caps have an 34-20-7 record and are in second place in the Metropolitan Division, four points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins in points (and fifth overall in the Eastern Conference).
Inside the Numbers
Of the Caps’ 34 wins, 26 games were won in regulation, with four overtime wins that did not go to a shootout and three shootout wins. Their home record stands 17-9-5 while their road record sits at 17-11-2. They have won more at home, but their overall winning percentage is slightly better on the road. They have lost seven 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, 10-4-1 in November, 9-4-0 in December, 3-6-3 in January, and 7-3-1 in February to this point. For a comparison, here is a chart from last season:
The Capitals have scored 202 goals, which ranks eighth in the league and is 19 more than the NHL average of 180 goals, and have given up 192 goals, which is nine goals worse than the league average. Their Goal Differential is 9, as they have given up nine less goals than they have scored. Their “Goals For” and “Goals Against” totals are listed as 205 and 193, 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’ve won three shootouts and lost another shootout so their “Goals For” and “Goals Against” totals reflect this.
- Alex Ovechkin – 43
- Jakub Vrana – 18
- T.J. Oshie – 18
- Tom Wilson — 16
- Evgeny Kuznetsov — 15
- John Carlson — 46
- Nicklas Backstrom – 43
- Evgeny Kuznetsov – 39
- Alex Ovechkin — 27
- Alex Ovechkin – 70 (43 goals, 27 assists)
- Nicklas Backstrom – 56 (13 goals, 43 assists)
- John Carlson – 55 (nine goals; 46 assists)
- Evgeny Kuznetsov – 54 (15 goals; 39 assists)
General Analysis of Offense
So far, the Caps as a team have scored 199 goals, which, as mentioned above, is 19 more than the league average of 180. One player, Alex Ovechkin, has scored more than 20% of the team’s goals. There is a large drop off from Ovechkin to the next highest scorers on the team, Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie, who have 18 goals. After that, Tom Wilson has 16 goals and Evgeny Kuznetsov has 15. Several other players are close behind in goals, including Brett Connolly with 15 goals and Nicklas Backstrom with 13 goals.
The Caps have scored an average of 3.31 goals per game, which is the eighth-best average in the league. They have given up an average of 3.15 goals per game, which ranks 22nd in the NHL. They are above the NHL average of 3.02 goals scored and below average in giving up goals.
They currently rank 25th in the league in shots per game with 29.8 and have given up an average of 32.5 shots, which ranks as ninth-worst in the league. They have won 45.6% of their faceoffs, which is the worst in the league.
The Capitals’ starting goaltender, Braden Holtby, played in 43 games and had 1,239 saves on 1,342 shots for a save percentage of .908 at the end of the third quarter, which is below his career save percentage of .918. He has a 21-15-4 record for the year. Backup goalie Pheonix Copley has played in 22 games (starting 19) and has a 13-5-3 record for the year, with a save percentage of .904. Copley has made 573 saves on 634 shot attempts. His career save percentage is now .900 which includes only two other games, including one particularly bad game back in 2016-17.
For the season so far, the Capitals have scored 39 power play goals on 179 power play opportunities, for a conversion percentage of 21.8%, which currently ranks 10th in the league, which is slightly better than the league average of 20.3%. The Caps’ Penalty Kill percentage is 78.6%, as they killed 162 penalties in 206 opportunities, which ranks 22nd of 31 teams, in the bottom third of the league. They give the other team an average of 3.4 power plays a game and give up an average of .733 goals per game. The Caps have given up three shorthanded goals this year.
- T. J. Oshie scored his 200th career goal at home against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 8
- Alex Ovechkin passed Bobby Hull (1170) for 50th place on the all-time point list at home against the Boston Bruins on January 10
- Alex Ovechkin passed Mike Bossy (127) and Jaromir Jagr (127) for ninth place on the all-time list for multi-goal games at home against the Boston Bruins on January 10
- Alex Ovechkin tied Dave Andreychuk (640) for 14th place on the all-time goals scored list at home against the St. Louis Blues on January 14
- Alex Ovechkin passed Brendan Shanahan (235) for sixth place for most career power play goals at home against the St. Louis Blues on January 14.
- Brooks Orpik played in his 1,000th career NHL game at home against the St. Louis Blues on January 14
- T. J. Oshie played in his 700th career NHL game on the road against the Nashville Predators on January 15.
- Alex Ovechkin passed Dave Andreychuk (640) for 14th place on all-time NHL goals list at home against the San Jose Sharks on January 22.
- Alex Ovechkin recorded the 23rd hat trick of his career at home against the San Jose Sharks on January 22. He passed Teemu Selanne (22) and is now tied for 10th place with Jari Kurri.
- Alex Ovechkin ties Sergei Fedorov (1179) on the all-time for points scored by a Russian on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 23.
- Alex Ovechkin scored his 400th career even strength goal of his NHL career on at home against the San Jose Sharks on January 22. His 400th career even-strength goal was his third goal of the game.
- Alex Ovechkin passes Sergei Fedorov (1,179) on the all-time list for points scored by a Russian at home against Calgary on February 5
- Brett Connolly played in his 400th career game at home against the Colorado Avalanche on February 7
- Andre Burakovsky played in his 300th career game at home against the Colorado Avalanche on February 7
- Dmitrij Jaskin played in his 300th career game at home against the Florida Panthers on February 9
- Braden Holtby played in his 400th career game at home against the Florida Panthers on February 9
- Alex Ovechkin passed Rod Brind’Amour (1,184) for 48th all-time list for NHL points at home against the Los Angeles Kings on February 11
- T. J. Oshie earned his 500th career point against the San Jose Sharks on the road on February 14
- Alex Ovechkin scored his 40th goal of the 2018-19 season against the Anaheim Ducks on the road on February 17, joining Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Marcel Dionne as the only players to score 40 or more goals in a season for at least 10 seasons
- Nicklas Backstrom passed Dale Hunter (872) for fifth place in games played for the Capitals on the road against the Anaheim Ducks on February 17
- John Carlson earned his 300th career assist on the road against the Los Angeles Kings on February 18
- Alex Ovechkin scored his 650th career goal on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 21
Capitals Milestones within Reach
- John Carlson – One goal shy of passing Larry Murphy (86) for sixth place among Caps defensemen
- Nicklas Backstrom — Two power play assists shy of passing Brad Richards (282) for 50th place on all time power play assist list
Injuries and Illness
- Nicklas Backstrom – Was out on January 8 with illness
- Braden Holtby – Left game of January 12 due to eye injury. Served as backup on January 14 and 15. Returned to the crease on January 18
- Brooks Orpik – Had been on long-term Injured Reserve retroactive to October 28 with a lower-body injury and returned to lineup on December 31
- 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 with upper-body injury (concussion) and returned to lineup on December 11
- Evgeny Kuznetsov – Left game on November 14 with upper-body injury (concussion) and returned to lineup on November 30
- Christian Djoos — Out of the lineup on December 14 with compartment syndrome and returned to lineup on February 9
- Matt Niskanen — Missed the games on December 29 and December 31 with head injury
- Tom Wilson — Left game on December 4 with upper-body injury (concussion) and returned to lineup on December 14.
- Braden Holtby – Missed games of November 14 and 16, due to injury. Returned on November 19
The Road Ahead
The Caps play the Buffalo Sabres on the road on February 23 to begin the last quarter of the season. They return home the next day to play the New York Rangers on February 24 and the Ottawa Senators on February 26. After that, it’s another road trip to the northern U.S. during early March to play the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers, and the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Caps currently have a 34-20-7 at the season’s third quarter pole. Last season, they were 34-20-7 at the third quarter mark. Their records from 2017-18 and 2018-19 are exactly the same after 61 games. During both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, the Caps got off to a mediocre start in the first quarter of the season but rebounded during the second quarter. In both years, the Caps have had stretches during which they struggled during the third quarter.
Last year at this time, the Capitals were battling for the lead in the Metropolitan Division with Pittsburgh but were one point behind them. The Flyers were tied with the Caps for points, but the Caps had the tie-breaker for regulation and overtime wins. This year, the Caps are second in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind the New York Islanders, four points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and five points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes. Just like last year, the Caps had a worse record than the front-runner of the Atlantic Division, which was the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Capitals currently have the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference, behind the Islanders, Lightning, Boston Bruins, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Capitals’ Power Play percentage of 21.8% is slightly ahead of last year’s percentage of 21.3%; their Penalty Kill percentage this year is 78.6%, which is worse than their percentage last season of 79.8%.
The year has been marked by injuries to defensemen, with long-term injuries to Brooks Orpik and Christian Djoos. Orpik missed two months and needed surgery but has returned. Djoos had been out with compartment syndrome since mid-December but finally returned on February 9. Both John Carlson and Matt Niskanen had short-term injury absences. With the injuries, Madison Bowey and Jonas Siegenthaler have gotten more responsibility on defense and Tyler Lewington was called up from Hershey to fill in. There have been plenty of injuries to forwards this year as well, with T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov both leaving the same game with concussions and missing time and Tom Wilson leaving a game with a concussion. Travis Boyd missed time early in the year, as well.
While the Caps are in second place in the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders are two points ahead, Pittsburgh is four points behind, Carolina is five points behind, and Columbus, currently out of the playoff picture, is six points behind. Among Atlantic Division teams, the Caps are five points behind red hot Boston and one point behind Toronto. A winning streak, coupled with a downturn by the Isles, could put them in first place in the Metropolitan Division but a losing streak could push them out of the playoff picture.
The Capitals’ third quarter was marked by inconsistency. They started off the quarter continuing a three-game winning streak, then lost seven straight games, including two contests in overtime. The first four games were marked by offensive futility, in that they averaged just one goal per game in that stretch. The last four games of that stretch were marked by defensive futility in that they gave up an average of seven goals per game. The Caps were 6-3-1 in their last 10-game stretch during third quarter.
With such a similar record as last season, the hope for fans is that the team follows the same script as last year’s team who had gone onto win the Cup. But, similar to last season, defensive weaknesses need to be corrected.