The Capitals And The Recent Surge In Goals Allowed Per Game

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Capitals have now lost two games in a row for the first time since their four-game losing streak back at the beginning of February (2/1 – 2/14). The two-game skid has subsequently dropped the Capitals into a three-way tie in points with the Islanders and Penguins at the top of the East Division standings..

The Capitals yielded eight goals in last night’s loss to the Islanders. It’s the first time they’ve given up that many goals in more than two years. (Blackhawks – 1/20/19). One game is just that, one game. But the Capitals have been coughing up plenty of goals in the last three games.

In fact, the Capitals have allowed a total of 17 goals in the last three games. They’ve allowed 12 goals in the last four periods and 16 goals in the last seven periods. That averages to 5.67 goals against per game over the last three games. In the previous 33 games, the Capitals averaged 2.76 goals against per game. That’s more than double their season average.


The following table lists the Capitals goals for and goals allowed by period. The first and second rows (season) cover the first 33 games of the season. The third and fourth rows cover the last three games.

As you can see, the third period continues to be the Capitals kryptonite. The average goals allowed in the first period is up almost a half a goal per game, while the second period has actually seen an improvement for the Capitals in both goals for and goals against.

‘The Capitals have been playing a fairly sound defensive game over the last 4-6 weeks, so what’s the deal with the recent surge in goals?


Is it a particular player, players, line of defensive pair? A quick glance at the player’s plus/minus ratings for the last three games initially indicates that all players are/are not responsible. Daniel Sprong is the only player not in the red.

But plus/minus is a thin stat and cumulative. So who’s been on the ice for the last 17 goals against in the last three games? (Click to enlarge)

Brenden Dillon (7), Justin Schultz (6), John Carlson (6) and Dmitry Orlov (5) have been on the ice for the most goals, defensively. Tom Wilson (6), Nicklas Backstrom (5) and Jakub Vrana (5) have been on the ice the most for goals allowed among forwards in the last three games. Essentially the top four defensive pairs and the top six forwards have been on the ice.

But that’s not necessarily implying that those players are responsible for the recent inundation in goals against, but it’s more of a starting point for follow-up analysis.


So what happened? We’ll dive a little deeper in follow-up posts, but here are a couple of  potential candidate reasons.

  • The competition is getting stronger. The Capitals faced a relatively easy schedule in March and now the top teams are coming up on the schedule.
  • Goals allowed in the third period has been an issue for the Capitals for a majority of the season. The longer it continues, the more it seems it’s a systemic issue.
  • Speed teams may indeed be a concern, as the Capitals recent surge in goals allowed has occurred against younger and/or faster teams.
  • Familiarity. Teams are figuring each other out. This may be leading some teams to find key advantages against the Capitals and their style of play.
  • We discussed the issue of age at the beginning of the season. Could the Capitals, the league’s oldest team, be tiring as games proceed? The average goals allowed per period rises as a game proceeds, gradually increasing each period.
  • It may be nothing. Law of averages indicate that a hot team eventually cools and that’s all that is happening here.

We will know a lot more after tonight’s game against the Devils. We will continue to track and let you know what we uncover.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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