Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Capitals have been struggling in January 2022 thus far, with no wins and a record of 0-2-2. In fact, many fans are convinced that the Capitals have historically performed poorly during the month of January.
I decided to examine the Capitals’ performance in the month of January for past seasons to see whether slumps in January were common. This particular examination is limited to the team performance starting with the 2007-08 season.
Below is a chart of the Capitals record for the month of January from 2007-08 through the present season.
In nine of those 15 seasons, the Capitals won more games than they lost, in either regulation or in overtime. This included the 2020-21 season which started in January rather than October, thanks to the global pandemic.
In two of those 15 seasons, the Capitals earned more than 50% of available standings points, thanks to the inclusion of overtime losses, but their wins did not exceed their losses. In the remaining four seasons, the Capitals had a losing record for January, with regulation losses exceeding wins. One of these seasons was 2012-13, a season shortened by an NHL lockout, where the season started in January.
Tops In January
Their best January performances were in 2009-10, where the team was 13-2-0, and 2016-17, where the team was 12-2-1. The Caps won the Presidents’ Trophy in both those seasons. In 2009-10, the team started a franchise record winning streak in early January that continued into February.
The Capitals had a 7-1-2 record in January during their other Presidents’ Trophy winning season of 2015-16. As a rule, having a strong performance in January was helpful for winning the Presidents’ Trophy.
Their worst performance in January came in 2012-13, the lockout shortened season, where they went 1-5-1. However, they got hot later that season and made the playoffs. The Capitals had a 4-7-4 record for January in 2013-14, the only season during the “Rock the Red” era where they missed the playoffs. They recorded a 3-6-3 record during 2018-19, the follow-up season to their Stanley Cup Championship.
Overall, it appears that the Capitals January swoon has not been a trend in team history, despite the perception of many fans. Fans’ perceptions of the team’s performance could potentially be colored by recency bias since the team has yet to win in January 2022.
Previous Four Seasons
During the 2017-18 season, the Caps were 6-2-2 which was good but not outstanding. They followed that month with a mediocre February record of 6-6-2.
2018-19 was a season marked by a poor January record of 3-6-3, which included a seven-game losing streak (five regulation losses and two overtime losses) but the team performed well in both December and February.
2019-20 was a season marked by a strong January record of 8-3-0, but followed by a 4-7-1 record in February, including a four-game losing streak.
In 2020-21, the Capitals had a 6-0-3 record for January but had a relatively mediocre record of 6-5-1 in February, a month that started off with four losses in a row. It was also a time where they had four players in COVID protocol.
While the Capitals have occasionally performed poorly in January, over the past 15 years, they have generally had a winning record for January. However, during the last two seasons, the Capitals have slumped during the month of February, with a losing streak to start off February in 2020-21 and a losing streak during February in 2019-20. Fans are right in that the Caps have had some slumps during wintertime in recent years. However, poor performance in January is not a trend for the team.
By Diane Doyle