Photo: Margaret Norton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
December 23 is traditionally the day that the non-commercial holiday of Festivus is celebrated across the world. The high-holiday includes a Festivus dinner, an unadorned aluminum Festivus pole, practices such as the “airing of grievances” and “feats of strength”, and the labeling of easily explainable events as “Festivus miracles”.
We will begin our celebration of the holiday with the Airing of Grievances. And even though the Capitals have played much better during the month of December, there are still plenty of grievances to air.
Notoriously Nauseous November
The Capitals played poorly in November, winning only five games all month. Okay, that was technically 5-7-2 since two of the team’s nine losses were in Overtime, but it was enough to dump them into sixth place in the Metropolitan Division. They were out of the playoff picture and barely ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers who are one of the worst teams in hockey this season.
To add to their disgrace, they even had a worse record than the Montreal Canadiens, who were absolutely the worst team in hockey last season. Falling into a big hole early can seriously jeopardize a team’s playoff chances. Just ask the New York Islanders about the 2021-22 season where they were expected to be serious contenders.
Shooting Ability is Shot
Capitals players scoring goals this season was like pulling teeth. There have been too many occasions where they make the opposing goaltender look like Dominick Hasek in his prime. (For you young kids, who haven’t heard of Dominick Hasek, try googling “Dominick Hasek Goaltending”.)
The Capitals’ shooting percentage this season is 9.7%, which ranks 21st and is in the bottom third of all teams. Their shooting percentage at 5-on-5 even strength ranks even lower, as in 24th in the league.
There have been all too many games this year where the Caps have peppered the opposing goaltender with shots, with very little success. This included their 2-1 loss against the Dallas Stars on December 15 where they had 46 shots on goal, their 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on November 26, their 5-4 shootout loss against the St. Lous Blues on November 17 where they had 51 shots on goal, a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on November 15 where they had 43 shots.
Even some of their wins were closer than they should have been, especially their 3-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers where they had 50 shots on goal.
The Capitals have often depended on elite shooting percentages to carry them to wins in the past, but this season, their shooting percentage is way below average, especially at even strength. Better shooting is needed since the team can not expect their goalies to be better than Vezina Trophy quality to win games.
Extra Players Never Play
One notable characteristic of Peter Laviolette’s roster management is that the extra forwards and extra defensemen seldom play. Many times the extra players this year are the prospects brought up from the Hershey Bears.
First, there was the case of Connor McMichael who played in just SIX games from the beginning of the season through November 17. He was finally sent down to the Hershey Bears so he could finally get regular playing time. He is supposed to be one of the team’s best prospects, but how is he to develop if he plays so sparingly? And when he does play, plays very limited minutes?
Joe Snively is another case of an extra forward who seldom plays, as he has played in just FIVE games all year and last played on November 15. That’s been over a month ago.
Photo: Connor McMichael Twitter Account
On the defenseman front, it was the prospects Lucas Johansen (now back in Hershey) and Alex Alexeyev (who’s been dogged by injuries and is only now back). Wasn’t the purpose of signing Matt Irwin to have a veteran player be the extra defenseman as opposed to one of the kids? Granted, the development of both Johansen and Alexeyev was set back by injuries, year after year, but it’s a grievance, nonetheless! We don’t want them ending up like Jonas Siegenthaler, begging for a trade.
Offensive Zone Penalties
This grievance is listed especially for the Capitals’ game against the Ottawa Senators on December 22. Sonny Milano took a double minor penalty for high-sticking in the offensive zone during the third period. This ultimately led to the Senators’ goal that tied the game at 2-2. The Capitals were able to kill the first penalty of his double minor but could not kill them both.
Then, Nicolas Aube-Kubel took a high sticking minor, also in the offensive zone. That penalty did not cost the Capitals, but taking offensive zone minor penalties are great for killing the team’s offensive momentum. Guys, we need you to be more careful.
Injury After Injury After Injury
The biggest grievance of all is the long list of injuries, many to key players. There is a good possibility that missing so many players contributed to the Capitals’ subpar performance during the early portion of the season and their low shooting percentage.
Before training camp started, center Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson had off-season surgery and were expected to be out long-term. As the season progressed, there were even more injuries. Connor Brown injured his knee, needed surgery, and is out for the season. T.J. Oshie was out for several games, came back, but is out again. Martin Fehervary has been out since early December. This is not even a complete list of injuries. The Caps currently top the NHL in man-games lost.
Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post
ESPN NHL Coverage
The coverage for the Capitals/Blackhawks game on December 13 was particularly awful. For one thing, it was broadcast starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time or 8:00 pm Central Time. 8:00 pm local time is already a late start which was bad enough for Blackhawks fans who live in the Central Time Zone but worse for Capitals fans on the East Coast.
ESPN still working out the bugs…a year plus later.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) December 14, 2022
The game coverage itself was beyond horrible. The broadcast had a split screen that showed the announcement of the Blackhawks’ starting lineup while the game action had started. Thus, they missed Ovechkin scoring a goal less than a minute into the game.
That’s it (for now). Do you have any we might have missed?
Happy Festivus Everyone! And Serenity Now!
By Diane Doyle
Festivus – Airing of Grievances – December 23, 2021 Edition