Washington Capitals: Scoring Struggles Continue Late in Season

Mar 16, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals center Jay Beagle (83) passes the puck as Nashville Predators center Filip Forsberg (9) defends in the third period at Verizon Center. The Predators won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals center Jay Beagle (83) passes the puck as Nashville Predators center Filip Forsberg (9) defends in the third period at Verizon Center. The Predators won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

The  Washington Capitals, at the beginning of the regular season, were very good at putting the puck in the back of the net in bunches on a consistent basis. That characteristic has recently vanished. If found, please return.

If you could believe it, the Washington Capitals of this 2016-17 NHL Season were on pace to surpass their President’s Trophy-winning counterpart of the previous season. That’s not hyperbole. It was beginning to become a reality as the regular season progressed.

Then the Hockey Gods frowned down upon the boys in red.  2-4, 2-4, 2-4, 2-5, 4-2, and 1-2. Those are the scores from the Capitals’ last six outings. Five of the last six games the Capitals have found themselves on the short end of the scoreboard. In the month of January, the Capitals’ goals per game average spiked to over 4. That number has dwindled to 3.17.

This is far from the ideal position the Capitals wanted to find themselves towards the end of the season. With twelve games remaining, lest Washington move on and find their offensive identity in time for the postseason. A lapse in player morale is the last thing they need heading into what could perhaps be Alex Ovechkin’s best and last real shot at winning a Stanley Cup. Here’s hoping that is not the case.

Washington Capitals
Washington Capitals /

Washington Capitals

Trouble in Paradise

The disastrous west coast tour was perfectly demonstrative of Washington’s struggles. Two goals were all the Capitals could muster against the Stars, Sharks, Kings, and Ducks. Yet despite how one-sided the scores of Washington’s recent games may appear, the goal differential is not indicative of their opponents’ dominance.

Dallas won on the heels of key miscues from Washington. The shot differential was 22 in favor of the Capitals. 44 shots to the Stars’ 22. Many pucks flew by the net just wide or rang off the pipe.

Three days later in San Jose, the Capitals once again outshot the opposition. 27 Washington shots to 24 for the Sharks. Again, several close calls on the part of the Capitals.

Against the Kings, the Capitals were outshot 22 to 19. In Anaheim, a day later, Washington failed yet again to tilt the scales in their favor again in terms of shots on goal, with the Ducks outshooting the Capitals 32 to 27. But it is important to consider the thin margin in shot differential.

If the Capitals were being outshot by double-digits, this would be a much different problem. Yet the numbers show that Washington was capable of keeping pace with their California adversaries. Washington simply could not find the back of the net. History shows such a trend rarely carries on for very long.

Ovechkin’s Drought

Alex Ovechkin, did in fact, go ten games this season without scoring. That is a statement many thought they would never hear. Yet for what seemed to be an ice age after scoring against Philadephia on February 22nd, Alex Ovechkin failed to find the back of the net for nearly three weeks until finally hammering home a power play goal against Minnesota this past Tuesday.

At times, Ovechkin looked visibly unconfident. Unfortunately, it only seemed appropriate that the league’s most prolific goal scorer would hit a wall during Washington’s cold streak.

Regardless, Alex Ovechkin has faced adversity in his career before. With the string of recent shortcomings in past postseasons, Ovechkin is more motivated than ever to bring Washington its elusive Stanley Cup title. This was just a mere bump in the road despite how problematic it may have seemed initially.

The Silver Lining

A four-game losing streak should constitute concern in most cases in any sport. Yet based on what was witnessed prior to the start of Washington’s offensive woes, this team may just have the characteristics needed to rebound.

Early on, it looked as though Washington would have been capable of netting five to six goals per game in their sleep. All cylinders were clicking. A dynamic offense, well-disciplined defense, and superb goaltending on the part of Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer (who’s had a career season with 10 wins and 3 shutouts) propelled the Washington Capitals to the top of the league after an inconsistent start amidst a 21-9-5 record to begin the regular season.

Take a deep breath and relax. Pain is only temporary. Minus this recent drop in performance, the Washington Capitals have given fans every reason to believe this season is different. Nicklas Backstrom is set to have a career season with 71 points currently and became the first Capitals player in the history of the franchise to record 50 or more assists in seven separate seasons. Ten skaters have scored 10+ goals. They currently boast a 28-6-2 home-ice record. And let us not forget the massive acquisition of Kevin Shattenkirk, which exponentially bolsters what was already a solid back six. This squad knocks last year’s lineup out of the ballpark.

Next: Three Players Who Have Suprised Offensively

The Washington Capitals are built to withstand adversity such as this. This team has too much depth to remain offensively stagnant. How they ultimately respond will be very intriguing to see.