What kind of week did the Washington Capitals have this week? One word; Epic.
Here’s a few things to start off with. Did you know that the Caps have scored four or more goals in all but two of their eleven games this month? The Caps faced down Detroit (who even though banged up is always a dangerous opponent), Pittsburgh, and Phoenix. The Caps scored 13 goals in those three games. They were also 38% on the power play scoring 5 PPG’s on 13 attempts. More impressive, the Caps were flawless on the power-play this week allowing no power-play goals. That’s 0-15 for the Caps’ opponents in the past three games.
The Caps outscored their opponents this week by a combined score of 13-7. These teams didn’t just lay over for the Caps, as the Caps’ goal-tenders faced an average of 38 shots per game. I don’t know what it is about the Caps’ bench, but both of their goal-tenders have had a taste of it here recently, and their game seems to have improved as a result. The Caps’ combined goaltending this week was 3-0-0 stopping 107 of 114 total shots with a .938 Save % and a 2.33 Goals-Against Average (GAA).
Jose Theodore has had the hot hand this month, but even so, he still managed to dig deep and come up with two impressive games, and a dozen highlight-reel stops versus Detroit and Pittsburgh. Michal Neuvirth seems to have finally shaken off the demons from his bad game in Tampa and put up an impressive win over Phoenix.
Ovechkin may have had a rare “pointless” game versus Detroit, but he shined where Caps fans wanted it most; versus Pittsburgh. Especially after Penguins’ pseudo-star Sidney Crosby got a garbage goal on a broken play to give the Eskimo-Chickens the lead, Alex responded with two goals and an assist. I personally would have loved seeing Ovechkin get the hat-trick because if you thought Sadly Crieslikababy was upset about the hats in Verizon Center in game two last year, he’d have been suicidal about hats raining down from his own rafters.
So, what are the Caps doing differently? Well, the Caps penalty kill stat gives us the first clue. The Caps have changed their mindset in the defensive-zone. The Caps used to play more of a collapsing umbrella style of defense which was focused more on taking away the shooting lanes and forcing attackers to the outside. Now the Caps have gone to more of a box-style of defense where they keep the goalies’ sight-lines clear and can play more aggressive on the outsides. In essence, they are taking away the passing lanes and trusting their net-minders to make the stops.
This allows the Caps to chase down the puck-carrier into the boards and pinch him in so that he has to shoot, or risk turning the puck over.
The Caps are also playing more aggressive in the attacking zone with a focus more on setting up plays than taking the quick shot and getting back to play D. They try to get the puck in deep, and then feed the puck back to their waiting defenders at the point. Now the defender can go point to point across the ice. Dump the puck back into the corners or activate themselves and charge the net. This system doesn’t rely on Alex Ovechkin to make the play every night, and instead has allowed a lot of Caps’ players to flourish; such as Eric Fehr.
Fehr had 15 goals in his first 113 games; he has had 14 in his last 36. Nicklas Backstrom has long been known as Ovechkin’s “set-up man” and has had consistently high numbers of assists; he is on pace to score 30 goals this season. Nearly half the Capitals’ bench has double digits in goals.
So, we now know how the Caps’ did this week, so where do they stand?
The Caps are:
1st in the Southeast Division with 72 points; 19 points ahead of Florida in second place.
1st in the Eastern Conference; 3 points ahead of New Jersey in second place.
3rd in the League overall; 6 points behind San Jose in first, and 2 points behind Chicago.
1st in average Goals per Game with 3.74; San Jose is second with 3.28.
1st in Power Play Scoring % with 26.0; Montreal is second with 24.7.
1st in win % when the opponent scores first (.579); New Jersey is second with .500
The Caps are busy this week with four games. The first comes tonight as the Caps play their only away-game for the week in New York versus the Islanders. The come home tomorrow to face off against the Anaheim Ducks, and then they welcome two division rivals to Verizon Center as they take on the Florida Panthers on Friday and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday.
If the Caps pull off a win tonight, it will be the third straight season the Caps have had a seven game win-streak. Prior to Boudreau’s arrival the Caps went 13 seasons without winning as many as seven games in a row.
Want to join other Caps’ fans for a “Road Viewing Party”? Then you’ll want to check out Glory Days Grill in Gainesville (7581 Somerset Crossing Drive, Gainesville, VA 20155) for the Official Caps Viewing Party. There will be giveaways, premium raffle items as well as food and drink specials. Tonight’s game versus the Islanders will be on as many as 6 big screens! Happy hour runs from 4-7pm leading up to the game and at 9pm there will be $5 Appetizers. You won’t want to miss Slapshot and your fellow Red-Rockers for this party! Who knows, you might even see me there!
C-A-P-S!! Caps! Caps! Caps!
Let’s Go Caps!