We are six games into the season and the Caps are 3-2-1. But oh boy, after losing 4-1 Wednesday night to Edmonton you’d think this team was coming down the home stretch and in danger of missing the playoffs. Braden Holtby stated that the team was facing adversity while Matt Niskanen said the team was looking average. It’s not a bad thing that the team is recognizing parts of their game could get better.
But can all of us non-Caps players pump the brakes on being concerned about this team just yet? For one thing, it’s only six freaking games into the season, so regardless of how the Caps have played, it’s too early to make sweeping judgments about this team. And here’s the thing, they’ve actually played decently in the six games.
So, let’s all take a deep breath and talk about why, even when not accounting for sample size, there is no reason to be down on the Caps.
A 96 point pace and talk of adversity shows you just how high expectations are for this team. The Caps won the conference by 16 points last season and the chances of this happening again are slim to none. The Caps can still regress by about 20 standings points this season and finish with around 100 points. The regression may seem frustrating, but it’s important to compare Washington’s success to the entirety of the league, not just last season’s juggernaut team.
The Caps are -3 in special teams goal differential. Last season they finished +17. There’s simply no way the Caps keep up their -41 goal differential pace on special teams. This power play and penalty kill will not continue to be near the bottom of the league.
The Caps are fourth in the league in puck possession with a 54.6 shot attempt percentage. A team that can control 54.6 percent of the shot attempts is a good team. Over the past two seasons, a team has finished with a 54.6 percent or above twice. Both times it was the LA Kings.
Does this mean the Caps will keep up this pace? Not necessarily. But it shows that they’ve played really well at five-on-five.
It’s too early to get carried away with sweeping judgments. Even when we assess the first six games, there’s plenty of reason to still be really optimistic about this team.
Headline photo: Bruce Bennett
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