Reasons Behind The Capitals’ Current Four-Game Losing Streak

Photo by John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images

If you’re a fan of the Washington Capitals, you’ve no doubt noticed that the Capitals have started off 2022 with a paltry 0-2-2 record, all while being outscored 19-9 in those four contests. The stretch has left many wondering what’s been going wrong, so I thought I’d take a look at some of the statistics behind the four-game losing streak in this post.

If you would like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our glossary. The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com.

Possession, Shot Generation, and Scoring Chance Generation

Let’s take a look and compare some of the key metrics from the four-game losing streak versus the rest of the season:

The key takeaway here is that a lot of these numbers are very similar to the season-long trend, specifically high-danger chances and goals for percentages. The area where there’s a very considerable drop-off is in goals for percentage.

Based on the other metrics here, like HDCF% and HDGF%, we can make a rational assumption that the Capitals aren’t giving up more goals than they’ve scored because of bad defense or a lack of chance generation.

During this four-game stretch, the Capitals are shooting at a 7.95% rate during five-on-five play (20th in the NHL). Prior to this four game stretch, the Capitals’ shooting percentage was second in the NHL at 9.90%. On top of that, the Caps are being outscored 12-7 during five-on-five play.

They had dominated prior to this four-game stretch, putting up 82 goals versus 55 allowed. Before this four-game losing streak, the Capitals scored five-on-five goals at a rate of 3.05 per 60 minutes. During the losing streak, they’re scoring nearly an entire goal less (2.07) per 60 minutes.

So, one assumption we can make here is that the Capitals are struggling because they are lacking in the finishing department, especially compared to earlier in the season.

Statistics While Leading

Let’s take a look and see if there are any considerable statistical evidentiary points that can point to why the Caps struggle while holding a lead:

Interestingly enough, the Capitals have actually been better than the rest of the season in possession statistics while leading during this four-game stretch. Part of this is sample size, and we’d likely see a regression to the mean.

The interesting piece is that although almost every metric is better (other than GF% and a very slight decline in HDCF%), the Capitals have struggled with leads, considerably, culminating in the Bruins piling-up six straight goals on the Capitals after the Capitals had gone ahead 2-0.

There’s nothing in these key areas that points to a monumental breakdown in the system, or an entire team breakdown, to explain why the Capitals have struggled with handling leads, at least that is any different than they have all season.

Special Teams

The Capitals’ special teams have been a sore point all season long. This four-game stretch has seen the Capitals already struggling special teams hit near rock bottom:

The power play is operating at a 9.10% effectiveness over the past four games. It’s getting more and more difficult to justify keeping a power play scheme in place that has struggled all season while having arguably the greatest goal scorer of all time, a top-five offensive defenseman in the NHL, and high-end playmakers.

On top of that, the penalty kill has faltered, dropping to 75% effectiveness during this stretch. It is extremely hard to win games when you cannot convert on power plays, and you can’t kill penalties at an elite level. Stanley Cup contenders need at least one elite unit on special teams to advance in the playoffs. The Capitals currently have zero elite units.

Goaltending

It’s typically unfair to blame goaltending during a team’s losing streak, but we should take a look, regardless. Here’s how the save percentages stacked up in different situations:

The most eye-opening statistic here is the considerable drop-off in save percentage during five-on-five play. The Capitals did pretty well here all season prior to this losing streak, at a .925 rate, but saw more than a 5% drop in save percentage during this four-game losing streak. That’s coincided with a near 5% drop in save percentage on scoring chances.

It’s safe to say that the defense hasn’t exactly been stingy during this four-game losing streak, but NHL goaltenders need to steal games. Unfortunately, that’s not been the case for Capitals goaltenders during this stretch.

Conclusion

The Capitals have struggled mightily in the last four games, and look to turn that around on Saturday against their division rivals on Long Island. A few key areas to watch are the overall finishing ability on offense, special teams performance, and overall save percentages on scoring chance opportunities. If the Capitals can clean up these three areas, they will return to the form we had seen earlier in the season.

By Justin Trudel

About Justin Trudel

Justin is a lifelong Caps fan, with some of his first memories of the sport watching the team in the USAir Arena and the 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. Now a resident of St. Augustine, FL, Justin watches the Caps from afar. Justin graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science from Towson University, and a Master's of Science in Applied Information Technology from Towson University. Justin is currently a product manager at a non-profit in Jacksonville, FL. Justin enjoys geeking out over roster construction and cap management.
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