The Caps are bad at defense and give up a lot of odd-man breaks. Even when they win, Washington can’t hide that flaw. One aspect of that is particularly troubling: the amount of rushes they allow on their own power play.
The Capitals man-advantage has kept them afloat all year, generating about a third of their offense. However, against the Stars their PP could barely get going. Dallas had two breakaways on Washington’s opening power play, which was quickly negated by a John Carlson slash.
“Usually odd-man rushes are our breakdowns, not necessarily great plays by them,” Carlson said after the game. “We can’t let that happen. We’re too good of players.”
During the first period, as I sat in my perch (sorry, couldn’t help myself) in section 402, I noticed something through the visor of my motorcycle helmet: two fat birds frantically flying around Verizon Center looking for somewhere to land. You don’t get to see this kind of stuff on TV.
The birds swooped to and fro. Every few minutes they’d fly towards people in the crowd, making Caps fans scramble and hit the deck. While I focused on their escapades during the third period, I caught myself chanting bird! bird! bird! I also confused one of the birds for the puck after Alex Ovechkin chipped the biscuit into the air towards Jay Beagle. It almost helped me forget about the terrible game I was supposed to be watching. Almost.
Anyways, for whatever reason, the whole situation cracked me up (that’s an egg joke). Now I am filled with questions: How did these birds get into Verizon Center in the first place? Why are they still here now? (The first Verizon Center bird was spotted in December. It was skinny then.) Is Slapshot involved?
And what kind of birds are these?
Lucky for us, my future cousin-in-law Ian Gardner is the biggest bird nerd in the history of bird nerds. He’s currently at Penn State studying for his M.S. in Forest Resources, he has his B.S. in Wildlife Conservation from Juniata College, and he’s been involved in the Pennsylvania birdwatching community for the past 5 years. I sent him some photos of the birds and asked him for the low-down.
Eight games into his NHL career, Evgeny Kuznetsov is settling in. And by “settling in,” I mean living a life of luxury none of us will ever attain. First he got himself an apartment. Now he’s got himself a brand new car. The ride: a customized 2014 Mercedes Benz S63 AMG, with a base price of $140,000. It’s got 577 horsepower. That’s a lot.
We do not care about that. We care about Hough watching the Caps play at Verizon Center on Tuesday night (well, maybe we care; I guess this is debatable). I assume she was there to support her injured boyfriend, Brooks Laich, who recently went under the knife to repair his injured groin.
Wilson has an intimate chat with Claude Giroux. (Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Well, here’s something incredible we’ve uncovered about Tom Wilson.
Playing the Florida Panthers on February 27th, Wilson’s third-period slash on Brian Campbell put him at 112 penalty minutes on the year. Those two PIMs helped Wilson overtake the teenager penalty minutes record since 2004-05.
That mark was previously held by — you’ll never guess.
“We play a system where teams get probably more shots the way we play but most of them are from the outside, we’ll allow those. In some ways that might be better for this particular goaltender.”
This is not the sort of thing a professional hockey person outside of Toronto should say. This is not a thing that any grownup with even a passing acquaintance with the concept of probability should say.
Allowing more shots is never good. Every shot carries with it a discrete chance that it could go in the net. More shots: more goals.
And the Caps don’t possess some newly discovered, sui generis ability to limit their opponents’ shot quality with reliability. If they did, we’d see it in the stats. So George McPhee should not be saying the equivalent of “We let the other guy take a crazy ton of shots because we’re the first team in hockey history that is actually magical.”
Nope, nope, nope. And Wednesday’s loss to Philadelphia is evidence of the cosmic wrongness.
On February 27, 2014, In Analysis, By Peter Hassett
It has been 19 days since a Caps game! Nineteen days! My memory is faltering. The names and faces are starting to blend together. Brooks Brouwer and Jason Johansson, right? No? Okay, maybe a refresher course is needed.
With 23 games left in the rego (yes, that word is sticking around) season, the Capitals sit precariously on the playoff bubble. Alex Ovechkin is blowing up nets, but the team as a whole is struggling. General manager George McPhee, rumored to be in the final year of his contract, has less than a week to improve his team before the trade deadline. Head coach Adam Oates has a wealth of information about his players that seems to be– at least partially– in conflict with how he has marshaled them thus far. And somewhere over the ocean, there’s a youngster with a visa and some unknown date circled on his calendar.
We’re going to get a lot of answers over the next few weeks. Those answers will tell us who this team truly is, so now seems like the right time to remind ourselves what the questions are.
The veteran defenseman — who is supposed to be a leader out on the ice — is an anchor on the Caps. His 47.2% puck possession is 3.6% worse than the team does without him. The only defensemen on the team with a lower possession scores are rookie Connor Carrick and the recently released Alexander Urbom. Erskine ranks 173rd out of the 230 defensemen with at least 25 games played when measured by corsi percentage.
Then there’s the goals. While Erskine is on the ice at even strength, 62% of the goals scored on the ice belong to the opponent. Big John also has a penalty differential of minus-9 (he’s taken nine more penalties than he’s drawn).
I’d be more okay with the Capitals’ play this season — sometimes teams just don’t gel — if they were actually a bunch of terrible players playing terribly. But this team is loaded with a good core: a three-time MVP, one of the best centers in the game, three above-average defensemen, an above-average goaltender, and a bunch of intelligent veteran players. Unfortunately, the players in front of Braden Holtby either repeatedly make the same dumb mistakes, are too passive on defense, or are too careless with the puck.
There is no urgency with this team despite their difficult upcoming schedule and their recent seven-game losing streak. In the last two games, the Caps have given up nine goals against the Sabres and the Blue Jackets. Nine goals. Against the Buffalo freaking Sabres and the Columbus effing Blue Jackets.
Let’s review the Columbus goals. I want you to understand my pain.
In overtime, unless you’re a really bad hockey team or extremely good at shootous, you play to win the game. A minute and fifteen seconds into overtime, the Washington Capitals tried to do exactly that, making an aggressive play in the Carolina Hurricanes’ offensive zone to try and secure that one extra standings point.
They paid the price for it however, as Jeff Skinner scored his hat-trick game-winning goal on a jailbreak odd-man rush into the Capitals defensive zone.
Every Capital on the ice minus Philipp Grubuaer shares blame on the goal. Let’s take a look at the bad reads and bad decisions. (This is as close as we’ll ever get to a Justin Bourne Systems Analyst post.)