Twenty Games In: Where We Stand

Rob Carr

Photo: Rob Carr

With about a quarter of the 2014-15 season gone, we’re running a series on RMNB about where the Caps stand and where they’re heading. I’ve already gone into some detail, and I’ll have more analysis and opinion coming in the next few days, but for now let’s take a bird’s eye view.

Forgive me, I’m about to draw some pretty broad conclusions.

The Capitals are mediocre, but keep reading.

At scoring, they’re neither good or bad; they’re just about even. They’ve got a coin flip’s chance at making the playoffs.

But the Caps’ goaltending and shooting are both below average and are both likely to get better. The Caps are outshooting their opponents convincingly, suggesting that they’ll start outscoring their opponents in the future, although the team will continue to get into trouble when protecting a lead.

Special teams look stable. Washington’s power play is second best in the league and looks to remain that way. The penalty kill is in the middle of the league, and projects to stay there as well.

In short, the Capitals’ record is unremarkable, but there are encouraging signs below the surface– and the team has opportunity and motive to get even better.

Lemme break it down.

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Christian Petersen

Photo: Christian Petersen

Editor’s note: The snapshot should be up first thing on Monday morning. Instead, now that the Capitals are twenty games into the season, we’ll be running a series on how they look so far.

Barry Trotz is a huge improvement over Adam Oates. It’s not even close.

But as the season goes on, it’s becoming apparent that Trotz has chosen his favorite players and will place them wherever he wishes in the lineup despite evidence that it’s hurting the team. For all his many, many successes, Trotz is not exercising good evidence-based decision making in his distributing ice time.

Now that we’re twenty games in, this is a good opportunity to understand how Trotz is apportioning time, and how it’s working (or not working). To do that, I’m gonna use a visualization introduced by Tyler Dellow about one year ago that was later adopted a lot of places, including here, back with the top-Heavy Oates!Caps.

It’s not going to be pretty.

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Sabres beat Caps 2-1: Mike Green Hurt, We Are Butthurt

kids

The Sabres aren’t good by any stretch, but the Washington Capitals just couldn’t beat Jhonas Enroth during evens. A little luck and a one weak Caps shift were all the Sabres needed to take the lead in Saturday’s dismal low-scoring affair. Boo.

The Capitals dominated possession in the first period but couldn’t put the biscuit in the basket. They backed off the aggression in the second period, allowing the Sabres to close the gap and even score a weird one off Matt Mouls0n’s stick.

Marcus Johansson drew a penalty on a breakaway in the third. Matt Niskanen scored his first goal in a Caps uniform on the ensuring power play, bouncing off the stick of a Sabres defenseman. Torrey Mitchell, inexplicably, put the Sabres back in the lead with a scrap in the crease with less than 8 minutes left in the game. That was it. Wow.

Sabres beat Caps 2-1.

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Caps vs Sabres Pregame: “Weakest Competition Yet”

noaa

Photo: NOAA

When the Washington Capitals play the Buffalo Sabres tonight, they’ll be playing one of the worst teams in memory. You could say the Sabres are the Caps’ “weakest competition yet,” but you’d be doing so at your own peril. First, you should verify your translation, and second, the Sabres have won their last two games.

If the Caps fall into another lull, the Sabres, now cured of snowbound cabin fever, will attack. Instead, the ideal outcome would be the Caps helping Buffalo on their quest for McEichel with a clean, blowout, rego win. 7 PM on CSN. Game on.

Team Record Possession PDO Power Play Penalty Kill
Washington Capitals 9-7-3 55.99% 98.90 24.1% 82.0%
Buffalo Sabres 5-13-2 42.01% 99.28 6.8% 78.2%

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Ovi in the Hero Unit: Caps beat Avs 3-2!

Doug Pensinger

Righteous photo (Photo: Doug Pensinger)

The Washington Capitals are bad with the lead. They demonstrated as much on Thursday night when their conservative play caused two blown one-goal leads. The Colorado Avalanche, who are really bad, genuinely outplayed the Capitals as soon as the Caps took the lead– a continuation of a pattern we’ve seen since week two of the season.

But when the Caps are scrappin’, they’re one of the best in the league. Blowing two leads just made Alex Ovechkin more dangerous on Thursday night. Here’s how it went down.

Ovechkin made some nasty moves in the second period to find Nick Backstrom, which was a weird reversal of roles for the Caps’ first goal. The Avs tied it up promptly after as Nate MacKinnon beat Nate Schmidt and Evgeny Kuznetsov failed to mark the trailing Danny Briere– freaking Danny Briere– who tied it up. No worries though, as Jason Chimera restored the Washington lead with a dart to the top corner.

The Caps played bad hockey in the third period until Tyson Barrie beat a fumbling Capitals defense to tie it. That woke the Caps up. Alex Ovechkin went Rambo style into the Colorado zone, scoring solo on his own rebound during 4-on-4 hockey. The Caps withstood a late attack and took the win in rego.

Caps beat Avs 3-2!

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Caps at Avalanche Pregame: The Return of Bailamos?

ovi-mo

The Capitals aren’t scoring much lately. Alex Ovechkin, the mustache guy above, hasn’t scored since [checks watch] the late 80s. Actually 11/11. Tonight the Caps will be guests of the totally bad hot mess Colorado Avalanche.

Tonight should… SHOULD… herald the return of Bailamos. 9 PM on CSN. Do it.

Team Record Possession PDO Power Play Penalty Kill
Washington Capitals 8-7-3 52.19% 98.69 24.6% 82.0%
Colorado Avalanche 6-8-5 44.13% 99.65 13.4% 88.2%

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Blind Item: A Tale of Two Teams

Totonto Maple Leafs v Florida Panthers

Pic not related

Here’s a little experiment that might shed light on our current situation. I’m gonna share a couple key, even-strength stats from two teams, but I’m not going to tell you which is which.

Team A Team B
Possession 54.38% 50.18%
Goals 56.24% 42.11%
Shooting 9.14% 7.51%
Goaltending 91.67% 89.37%
Attempts / 60 38.78 38.15
Opponent Attempts / 60 32.53 37.87

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Last Call for T-Shirts and Koozies!

making-rmnb-last-lastday

Friends, the RMNB fundraiser will end tonight at midnight. If you want to get an RMNB portrait shirt before it goes into the Disney vault for freaking ever, the time to act is now. If you want our hot new not-entirely-designed-yet koozy, maybe get on that.

The Making RMNB Last campaign has raised more than $22,000 so far– meaning we’re gonna be able to do some cool stuff next year and for years to come. We’ll have some announcements about the specifics, though for now I can tell you that we’ll be making the mobile-friendly website design a top priority in the new year.

We’re blown away by the fact that 590 people have donated already, but we also know that the RMNB family is way bigger than that. Whether you’re a longtime friend-of-the-blog or a brand-new reader, your contribution of any amount (even just $1), will go a long way toward making RMNB even better.

As an added bonus, today is also Ian’s birthday. (It’s not polite to ask how old. He’s old enough.) You can consider your last-minute gift as a sort of birthday present to him, without the shopping and the wrapping and the anxiety over “oh gosh, will he like what I got him?”

If you’ve contributed or are about to, thank you from the bottom of my cold black heart, which might grow three sizes some day soon. Knowing that RMNB (or at least the shirts) matters to you does more than make me feel good about the absurd expenditure of time that we have invested so far; it justifies a continuation and escalation of the sometimes-dumb, sometimes-important, usually-fun stuff that we do here. Get ready.

To celebrate the fundraiser and say thank you, we’re throwing a little party in Frederick on Friday night. If you contributed before Tuesday, you’ve already been notified about it. We’ll send a reminder again early Friday. If you haven’t been contacted but are interested in coming, shoot us an email. It’ll be fun and silly and thoroughly Frederick-y.

Now, I’m gonna answer some questions.

  • If you contributed at any perk level, we will contact you early next week to ask what size shirt you want. Please respond as quickly as possible so we can get those shirts made and sent to you ASAP. That’s important.
  • We intend to get every shirt to every US-based contributor before Christmas.We will support shirt sizes from XS up to 4XL. The bigger shirts won’t be the same brand as the others, but they’ll still be great.
  • If you contributed at the platinum level, I’m gonna have to write an RMNB story about any topic you want. I am absolutely dreading this. We will ask you for your topic next week, but it might take some time before your article makes it onto RMNB. Oh no. I’m scared.
  • If you shot us an email about a special request, please hit us up again before the end of next week.

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The Awesome Index: We Needed That

Friends, I am having a bit of a day: Flat tire, bad weather, nasty cold, traffic jams, wah wah wah. In short: everything sucks.

But then I remember overtime, and Eric Fehr seizing victory from the jaws of mediocrity, and I can’t help but think: Man, that was awesome.

Maybe being badly-needed is an essential property of Awesome. Maybe, when things suck, awesome things become even more precious. In this week’s awesome index, only the most indispensable awesome things shall be indexed. And you’re damn skippy I am starting with Fehr.

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Fehr Redeems in the Desert: Caps beat Coyotes 2-1 (OT)

Christian Petersen

Photo: Christian Petersen

I don’t get it. Twenty minutes in, the Washington Capitals looked like they almost had it figured out. Despite some sub-optimal lines, they held a lead over an inferior team. Then they stopped skating, surrendered the lead to the Arizona Coyotes, and then looked not much better than the Oates Caps. I don’t get it, but at least they had Eric Fehr to seal the deal.

The two players we expected the least from, Jason Chimera and Jay Beagle, combined for a skill goal in the first period when Chimera burst into the o-zone then dropped to the late-guy Beagle, who put it in the back of the net. The Caps had control for the rest of the period, but surrendered all momentum in the second, culminating in Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s goal into a practically empty net.

Nobody could score in the third, so we got to see the dry scrape– maybe for the last time. Then, in overtime, Eric Fehr crashed the goddamn net and won it.

Caps beat Yotes 2-1 in overtime!

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