The Washington Capitals are having their fair share of struggles recently, falling for the third-straight game after losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-3 Monday night. Ultimately, struggles winning puck battles along the boards and beating Toronto’s forecheck doomed the Capitals’ efforts despite one of the best showings from a Capitals’ penalty killing unit in a long time.
The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference, and MoneyPuck. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our analytics glossary.
Prior to entering this game, we called out that if you’re going to bet on tonight’s game, hammer the over:
There will be goals tonight. Leafs are 5th in the NHL in GF/60 during 5v5 play with 2.99, Caps are 11th with 2.68. TOR gives up 2.68 GA/60. (via Natural Stat Trick)
For you bettors out there, hammer the over. https://t.co/IYZxiq8qJJ
— Justin Trudel (@staytru20) February 28, 2022
The over/under for this tilt was 6.5 goals. With Toronto’s penchant for both scoring and allowing goals, we pretty much figured this would happen, but by much different means: the Capitals kept the league’s top power play unit off the board. Oh, not just off the board, but didn’t even allow a shot against. The Capitals outshot (and outscored) the Leafs while the Leafs had the man advantage.
In a game where the Caps looked like they were a step or two behind the speedy Leafs, the penalty kill was where the Caps feasted. Unfortunately, the struggles during five-on-five play continued.
Not only were the Caps dominated in the scoring column during five-on-five in the first period 3-1, the Capitals were thoroughly dominated in the third period during five-on-five play:
The Caps had a total of five Corsi shot attempts in the third period during five-on-five play. That was in 11:57 of playing time. The Leafs more than tripled that with 16. The Leafs generated nine scoring chances to the Caps’ two, and generated six high-danger chances to the Caps’ one. The tough piece to swallow here is that the Leafs are not a good defensive team during five-on-five play. They’ve given up the 9th most five-on-five goals with 116 in 53 games.
Tonight was just yet another game where the Caps struggled to score during five-on-five play. Here’s the rolling five game average of fice-on-five goals for scored by the Caps, via MoneyPuck:
This is certainly not a good sign. It’s becoming more and more clear that the Caps are lacking a top six scoring wing, and with Anthony Mantha coming back, maybe it can get better. Perhaps that’s why General Manager Brian MacLellan has yet to pull a trigger on a trade to acquire another forward.
The Capitals are now 6-9-5 when allowing the first goal and are 3-7-3 at home when allowing the first goal. Slow starts on the scoreboard are starting to be a real curse for this team. Not to mention the Caps are now 1-9-1 when trailing after the second period at home, and 2-14-4 overall. It’s almost getting to the point where you can turn the game off after the second period if the Caps aren’t leading or tied entering the third period.
Long story short, something significant needs to change with this team, because it’s clear that it’s broken. The Capitals’ extreme struggles during five on five are not promising.
By Justin Trudel