Hockey is back and better than ever. Unfortunately, no one told the Washington Capitals as we didn’t have the best opening week.
While there were encouraging signs, there are still many things that need improvement. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see how the team evolves and what their style and ceiling will be.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly for week one (cue music).
The good: the power play is clicking
The Washington Capitals lead the league so far in power play goals and conversion percentage. They have already tallied six goals out of 12 tries for a 50% conversion percentage.
While this stat is slightly inflated by the three goals they scored in the season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Capitals have scored at least one power play goal in each game. What is encouraging is that while the power play certainly is Ovechkin focused, it is not as dependant on him as last year.
Teams have begun to cheat Ovi’s way and Mike Green/ Mikhail Grabovski (Green is really good at deflecting pucks of Grabbo into the net) as well as Nick Backstrom have made them pay.
It is going to be difficult for teams to slow down this power play moving forward because of the multitude of scoring options. While, for obvious reasons, the power play conversion rate will slide back down to around 25%, that should still be near or at the top of the league.
The bad: Tough Week
The Capitals played in three games this week and while they didn’t get blown out in any game, they didn’t bring home points either. The Caps didn’t win in regulation and suffered two losses, taking only two points from their first week of play.
After a decent performance against the Blackhawks on opening night, the Capitals didn’t look ready to play against the Calgary Flames and then ran out of gas against the Dallas Stars. One of the biggest clichés in hockey is that “you have to play for 60 minutes”. The Caps have yet to play a complete game and thus have yet to win in regulation.
The Caps have a chance to rebound with a light schedule this week. They also get the benefit of playing in front of the “Rock the Red” crowd at the Verizon Center. They face the Carolina Hurricanes and Colorado Avalanche in two games that they should be favored to win.
The ugly: Even Strength Play
In order to win those games, though, the Capitals will have to be a much more effective team at 5v5. The Capitals are the fourth worst team in the league at even strength with a 0.38 5v5 goals for/ against ratio.
The Caps have only scored three goals at even strength all year and have given up eight. This is a systemic flaw that has plagued the Capitals throughout the years and has lead to our failure in the playoffs.
Even strength play is extremely important when games are tight and space comes at a premium. The Capitals have not shown the ability to grit out wins along the boards so far and have not been able to generate many chances at even strength.
The Capitals are trying to transform their image and style of play from a finesse style to a more grittier, grinding type of game. Hopefully, right now they are simply going through some growing pains and will bounce back in the weeks to come.