The Washington Capitals are off to one of their worst starts of the Alex Ovechkin Era. They’re under .500 with a record of 7-9-3. They sit seventh in the Metropolitan Division. They trail first-place New Jersey by 11 standings points. If the playoffs started today, the Caps would miss the dance for the first time since 2013-14.
There are good excuses as to why. The team is badly injured, missing top players like Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, and TJ Oshie. Some of those injury-replacement players have themselves been lost to injury as well. Still, it seems like the Caps have enough talent in the lineup to win more frequently.
The Caps have struggled, starting slow and rarely putting together full 60-minute games.
Here are numbers that stand out as concerning.
The number of times the Capitals have given up three or more goals in a period. That’s seven times in 19 games. The Capitals are 1-5-1 in those contests. “It’s not a recipe for success,” John Carlson said after the Caps surrendered three goals in the first period to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday — the third straight game they’ve done so.
Caps bad periods
Washington’s rank in converting power plays this season at 19.4 percent. John Carlson’s PPG on Thursday ended a cold streak across 23 opportunities. The Capitals also started the season 0 for 9 on the man advantage.
The team relies heavily on Alex Ovechkin, who has scored five of the team’s PPGs this season. His teammates have found the back of the net only nine times combined.
The Capitals’ record on the road this season is the fifth-worst in the NHL. The Capitals average 2.50 goals and give up 3.30 goals per game away from Capital One Arena. Their power-play percentage drops to 12.5 — second worst in the league. The Capitals have taken the sixth-most minor penalties in the NHL (42) on the road, giving up nine power-play goals (fifth-most in the league).
The number of five-on-five goals Conor Sheary has, leading all Capitals players (including Alex Ovechkin). Sheary is a player who fits more in a middle-six role. But due to the team’s injuries, he has become one of the team’s most dependable scorers as players like Anthony Mantha have scuffled. Sheary’s seven goals at all strengths this season ranks second on the team. This is a good thing, but it’s also bad. It speaks to how little the Caps are getting from everyone else.
The percentage-point increase in opponent offense compared to league average when first-pairing defenseman John Carlson is on the ice, according to HockeyViz. This is the highest increase in opponent danger among all Caps defenders. (Orlov is plus-8.)
Washington’s rank in PDO in the month of November, 0.976. PDO is the sum of shooting percentages (6.8 percent) and save percentages (90.8 percent) during five-on-five play. Washington’s PDO in October was 1.029, third highest in the league. This suggests the Capitals have been super unlucky lately.
The difference between Washington’s possession of shot attempts (48.3 percent) and their possession of expected-goals (44.9 percent). Only four teams have a bigger gap between quantity and quality: Arizona, Anaheim, Winnipeg, and Colorado.
Erik Gustafsson’s team-worst on-ice goal differential. Gustafsson was signed over the offseason by GM Brian MacLellan to play on the team’s third defense pairing. He is aggressive in creating offense in the offensive zone and the Swede does so, posting a team-high 53.8 shots-attempts percentage amongst Caps defensemen. But that is leading to too many goals the other way. He’s been on the ice for 13 5v5 opponent goals, which trails only Martin Fehervary (14). Gustafsson is skating on the first pairing with John Carlson as the team waits to get Dmitry Orlov back from injury.
Percentage of expected goals belonging to the Caps when Connor McMichael is on the ice. This is the lowest percentage of any player in the entire league who was played at least 30 minutes. (The Capitals goal differential is even in this time: 2 for Washington, 2 for opponents)
The number of goals Darcy Kuemper has saved above the number expected by Moneypuck’s model (37.9 expected, 36 actual). Kuemper has faced the ninth highest total expected goals in the league. (Just for the record, Vitek Vanecek has saved 0.4 goals above expected, and Ilya Samsonov has saved 4.9 goals above expected).
Kuemper’s been good, but the struggling Caps defense needs even more from him.
None of Washington’s starting four centers have a faceoff percentage over 50 percent.
Lars Eller: 49.9%
Evgeny Kuznetsov: 47.0%
Nic Dowd: 44.9%
Dylan Strome: 44.7%
Sure, faceoffs don’t matter over the long haul, but seeing this gives me heartburn anyway.
The number of Capitals players who have missed time this season due to injury. The Capitals are the most-injured team in the NHL this season.
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