[Ed. note: Capitals During Wartime has illuminated struggles in Washington leading up to the trade deadline. Read previous installments: Centerless, Road-weary, Negativity, Bruce vs. Dale, and Trending topics.]
By this time Monday, Capitals general manager George McPhee will have already made whatever moves he has deemed wise for the future of his club. With all the prognostication and educated guessing about trade scenarios going around, I have decided not to add any noise to an already muffled signal.
Instead, we conclude this series with a look at two Capitals players who will loom large on Monday in one way or another. Those players are Mike Knuble and Tomas Vokoun.
[Ed. note: This is fifth installment of Capitals During Wartime, a series about Washington’s struggles before the 2012 trade deadline. Read previous entries about coaching, negativity, road performance, and centers.]
Everyone has the moment when you realize that the Caps are in serious trouble. You know when mine was, because that’s when I started this Capitals During Wartime series. For Ian, it was Monday night, when he finally admitted to me how worried he was. For the rest of the Internet and the broader hockey community, that moment is right now.
This article documents The Week from Hell, a litany of depressing and infuriating stories about your Washington Capitals. Because we need a single, coherent record of what exactly it was like when things couldn’t possibly get any worse.
[Ed. note: Capitals During Wartime is a series analyzing Washington’s struggles before the 2012 trade deadline. We’ve discussed weakness at center, a poor road record, and negativity among fans so far.]
In the latest edition of Capitals During Wartime, I mused about how and why we discuss the negative stuff going on with Capitals right now. Concluding, in short, that our foremost responsibility is to the Truth, and not just Good Feelings, I promised not to shy away from D.C.’s ongoing hockey bummers– but also not to drench that analysis in hyperbole.
This article is a statistical rundown of the Washington Capitals through 54 games for the purpose comparing the tenures of Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter head to head. But I will not be offering any commentary. My voice is limited to the selection of statistics below. Any conclusions you make or narratives you perceive are your own. I have included traditional stats, some advanced stats, and some individual curiosities that we’ve discussed recently on the site.
Way back when Ian first blackmailed me into writing about the Capitals everyday, it was easy. The Caps were on the way to their best ever season, a copious and capacious 121-point campaign that was chock-full of nutritious, whole-grain scoarmoargoals. My job was basically to regurgitate some boxcar stats, writing something defamatory about the other team, and think of escalatingly ridiculous metaphors for the Caps’ awesomesauce.
It was terrific, but that’s over now.
I’m not gonna get into it, but I think we can agree that Capitals are having trouble this season– even if we differ about the precise degree of that trouble. And while there are many varied and valid ways to express our disappointment with the team, my endeavor is to be as sober and honest about the Capitals’ struggles as I had been drunken and boastful about their victories. Is that bumming you out?
[Ed. note: this is the second article in our series about the Capitals’ struggles leading up to the trade deadline. The first Capitals During Wartime post addressed the team’s problems with the center position.]
At the end of All-Star Break, the Washington Capitals sit in 3rd place in the Eastern Conference and 1st in the Southeast Division, but their prospects for the postseason are not secure. The Southeast has two challengers– the Florida Panthers (with whom the Caps are virtually tied) and the Winnipeg Jets. Plus, the Capitals have a tough schedule down the stretch– including some tough games on the road. When Neil Greenberg at the Washington Post looked at the Caps’ remaining schedule, he was not encouraged.
That’s because the road is where the Capitals have had most of their troubles this season. The team’s home record of 18-6-1 is fourth best in the league, but away they are just 8-13-2, a dismal 25th. One spectacularly bad road game in Buffalo on November 26th probably cost Coach Boudreau his job. The power play and penalty kill perform vastly better in Verizon Center than they do when away. With 18 away games remaining, the Capitals will have to do better on the road if they want to make the playoffs.
The article looks at the Caps’ troubles away from D.C. from several angles: possession, shooting, special teams, and Alex Ovechkin. And because it’s interesting, I’m comparing Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter too. Uh oh.
[Editors note: over the next month, we’ll be looking at the challenges the Capitals face, the trade deadline, and the playoff chase. It’s not gonna be fun, but we gotta do this.]
When Nick Backstrom took a blow to the head from Rene Bourque on January 3rd, the Capitals lost the service of their number-one center. Backstrom was on track for a better than 80-point season, which would have been a strong recovery from the slump of ’10-’11. Instead, the team lost the anchor for its top line and its most productive forward.
Without Backstrom, the Capitals have only three strong options for centers: Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, Jeff Halpern. Additionally, Mathieu Perreault, Cody Eakin, and Matt Hendricks have done center duty in a pinch. Meanwhile, the Capitals offense has been shut out twice in the last three games and have averaged only 23 shots on goal since mid-December. That’s just not good enough.
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