Capitals are better than we expected but still room to improve

Tom Wilson, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Wilson, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

While the Washington Capitals aren’t great this season, they’re still better than we expected.

Not many people had high expectations for the Capitals entering the year. In fact, expectations were low for a team that missed the playoffs last season and a core that has gotten one year older. But they certainly could be worse.

Look at the situation in Edmonton against the Oilers. A 3-9-1 record with just seven points. Seventh place in the Pacific Division with the only team worse being the San Jose Sharks. Many experts predicted they would win the Stanley Cup this season and that core with Connor McDavid leading the charge is much younger.

But after a successful weekend road trip the Caps sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division. With a 7-4-2 record and 16 points, third in the Metro is a good spot. Part of the turnaround in the slow start to the season was their recent stretch where they are 6-1-1 in their last eight games.

The defense has been outstanding in that stretch. And their penalty kill has killed off 18 straight opposing power plays. That’s first in the NHL in that span. Since that stretch began, their .813 point percentage is ranked third in the league. The Caps also blocked 32 shots in their 4-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday night which was their highest total since Feb. 4, 2016 which was also a win over the Islanders where they blocked 33 shots.

What needs to improve the most for the Caps is their offense. With 30 goals on the season, that’s ranked 31st in the NHL. Only the San Jose Sharks are worse with 18 goals. But a 4-1 win is just the jump start that offense needs.

Alex Ovechkin had two goals in the winning effort. In the night before, they also had four goals in a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils. If they can put up four goals a night, that ranking will improve.

We’ve also seen improvement from Evgeny Kuznetsov. He had a two goal effort in Friday’s win over the Devils. Dylan Strome has cooled off after his hot start to the season with six goals but look for him to get back on the scoresheet soon.

More. Capitals sweep back to back road trip with 4-1 win over Islanders. light

If someone told me that the Caps would be sitting at third place in the division on Nov. 13, myself and any other Caps fan would certainly take that start. We’ll see if they can continue the momentum with a big test tomorrow against the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights.