Photo: Amanda Bowen
It’s basically late March and, since the Caps have had the conference wrapped up for a couple months now, it seems like the playoffs have approached at the pace a watched pot boils. But the playoffs really are growing near and, given that the Caps are basically a lock to enter as the number one seed in the East, the two things to worry about are health and process. In other words, don’t anyone get hurt and, regardless of results, hopefully the Caps will look like the dominant team they’ve been for much of the season and the standings suggest they are.
Before jumping into the snapshot numbers, let’s take quick stock of just how dominant the Caps have been this season. The numbers are current prior to Sunday’s game against the Penguins:
Let’s dig into the numbers, current as of noon on Sunday.
Photo: Amanda Bowen
The Caps have lost in regulation just 14 times through 68 games. They’ve had the Metro division wrapped up since the Carter administration (Jimmy, not Aaron or Nick) and are running away with the President’s Trophy. And yet, things aren’t going very well right now.
Four of those 14 regulation losses have come in the last 10 games, with an overtime loss giving the Caps five losses in their last 10 games. Since the John Scott Game break, the Caps score-adjusted shot attempt percentage is 49.9 percent, 17th best in the league. Braden Holtby’s 5v5 save percentage during that time sits at 91.3 percent, ranking 34th among the 44 NHL goalies who have played at least 300 minutes since the break.
Feel nauseous yet?
The good news is that this team is still a Stanley Cup contender. No matter what “yeah, but” or “well, actually” rebuttal someone may have to that statement, the fact remains that this team is winning more through 68 games than the majority of teams in NHL history. No, the team has not looked great for a while now. And yes, their results have outpaced their performance for quite some time. But, it’s important to keep perspective that all teams go through ebbs and flows during the grind of an 82-game season.
The Caps might lose in the first round of the playoffs. But they’re also among a small handful of teams that have a legitimate shot at winning it all. Troubling trends have arisen at a time in the season when you’d least like to see it, but this isn’t the end of the world.
We can’t have anyone freaking out. We gotta keep our composure. We’ve come too far. We’ve got too much to lose. Keep our composure.
Photo: Amanda Bowen
It is March 6 and the Caps have 100 points. We are watching a remarkable season. It’s true that the team hasn’t looked as dominant in recent weeks, yet they continue to rack up points in the standings, going 7-3-0 in their last 10 games.
As concerning as some of these trends may be, here’s a snippet from the week 2 snapshot that feels relevant today:
There will be ups and downs so, as the team embarks on this long road, it’s best to try to keep an even keel.
Despite whatever concerns one might have, the Caps are still nearly lapping the field. All concerns should be within the context that this is a team with 100 points in early March, and while feeling a little anxious about how this all ends is understandable, it’s also okay to enjoy the here and now.
Take it slow. It’ll work itself out fine. All we need is just a little patience (with our 100-point team).
Photo: Chris Gordon
The trade deadline comes Monday afternoon, but a lot of teams have already started loading up. As of the time of this post, the Caps have only made one minor move in adding depth defenseman Mike Weber. That could change, as John Carlson is on LTIR and Brooks Laich was placed on waivers, giving the team some salary cap flexibility, if they wish to use it.
I still think the best move would be to add a skill player to replace Tom Wilson on the third line. It’s not so much that Wilson isn’t capable of handling third line minutes, but look how much adding skill player Marcus Johansson has helped that line. Adding another top-six capable player would give the Caps depth that would prove helpful come playoff time.
Regardless of what they do at the deadline, the Caps are a legitimate contender. Their game has had some kinks in it lately, but they remain on a nearly historic pace this season and are one of a handful of teams that have a legitimate shot at winning four playoff rounds come springtime.
Trade deadline activity and rumors continue to swirl and we’re fast approaching the stretch run. Prepare for takeoff and hold onto your butts. Please make sure your trays are in an upright and locked position and your seat belts are securely fastened.
The numbers are current as of the end of Sunday’s game against Chicago.
Photo: Chris Gordon
The Extra 2% is a book about the Tampa Bay Rays looking for every small, incremental advantage over their competition and how this philosophy helped aid the team’s rise from the bottom of the MLB to being a perennial threat in the American League.
Part of the Rays’ motivation in doing so was financial. As a team with a small budget, they looked to find value in market inefficiencies. Given that they weren’t going to outspend their competitors, they looked for ways to outsmart them.
But there are lessons in the Rays’ approach to all teams of all budget sizes across every sport. In the world’s best sports leagues, the difference between the best and the worst is so minuscule that any advantage gained, no matter how small, can pay big dividends.
Enter the 2015-16 Capitals. Having afforded themselves such a comfortable place in the standings, it’d be easy for the Caps to coast over the final two months of the season. But the team shows no signs of resting on their laurels, as they continue to seek ways to improve. Barry Trotz continues to tinker with his lines, the team took a chance on signing a veteran center in the middle of January, the power play continues to try different things (while seemingly going away from other changes, perhaps hiding them from opponents who will be prescouting for the playoffs), and here on RMNB, we’ve suggested ways the Caps can continue to look for competitive advantages.
Keep improving, keep trying new things, keep looking for part of that extra two percent. You never know what you may come across that could make the difference in a third overtime at 1 AM on a weeknight in May.
Photo: Keith Allison
The Washington Capitals got embarrassed by the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
While the Caps are running away with the division lead and are consensus favorites to win the President’s Trophy for most regular-season points, the Stars are the most exciting team in the league. They’re locked in a duel with the Hawks for the Central Division lead and they’re unbelievably fun. Led by the league’s best scoring tandem in Benn and Seguin. the Stars have an aggressive offense, generating oodles of shots and globs of goals. They look a lot like the pre-2011 Capitals, really.
We all recall how those scoar-moar-goals Caps got handled in the postseason, but their dominance in the 82-game regular season was undeniable. In 2009-2010, they earned 121 standings points. Only the 2005-2006 Red Wings ever did better, with 124.
But here comes the 2015-16 Capitals, who are on pace for 128 standings points. They could become the most dominant regular-season team of the post-lockout era, which would be a tremendous feat, but it still wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans if they allow themselves to be dominated by a team like the Stars in the playoffs.
In this week’s snapshot, first of all, hi, it’s me, Peter, because Pat’s at the beach, but also, let’s talk about how the league’s most successful team might change over these final 30 games.
Photo: Amanda Bowen
The snapshot is back. We took a two-week hiatus because the Caps played one game over a 74-year period due to the snow and the John Scott Game break. But alas, we are back.
February is the dog days of the hockey season. The excitement of the start of the season has long since worn off, the holidays and Winter Classic have passed, and now we’re waiting for the stretch run and the playoffs. If ever there is a time in a hockey season that a team’s going to be on autopilot as a response to the monotony, this is the time.
If monotony has begun to strike the Caps, you wouldn’t know it from the results, as they are 7-2-1 in their last 10. They’ve found a way to keep rolling the rock. And, more often than not, when the rock returns to the bottom of the hill, two points are in tow.
Let’s do the numbers. They are current as of the completion of Saturday’s win over the Devils.
Photo: Patrick Smith
The snapshot is a weekly colmn that isn’t focused only on the previous week but also on the season-to-date. But let’s talk about Saturday night in Buffalo.
The Caps threw up a dud. They looked lifeless for much of the game and lacked the sharpness we’ve come accustomed to seeing from them as they’ve run roughshod over the rest of the league.
I couldn’t be less concerned. The Caps were due for a bad performance with a bad result. Heck, the Caps are probably due for a 5-10 game stretch where they throw up multiple duds, simply because it’s very hard to keep up the pace they were on for 82 games. And that’s okay.
Our eyes should still remain fixed on the prize: Winning 4 sets of 7-game weighted coin flips in the spring.
The numbers are current as of noon on Sunday.
Photo: Bruce Bennett
This team, y’all.
Whether it be through elite goaltending, top-notch special teams, strong 5v5 play, luck, some sort of Calvinistic predestination, or a of combination of all of the above, the Caps just keep winning. They’ve lost just seven times in regulation through the first 41 games entering Sunday’s tilt against the Ottawa Senators.
The good news is that the 5v5 play continues to come back to life after a prolonged stretch in which the Caps were relying heavily upon MVP-caliber play of Braden Holtby and elite special teams. The bounce back comes at a time when perhaps it’d be understandable if the process and results dipped, as injuries and suspensions have forced the team to call upon their depth recently, particularly on the blue line.
Hockey is fun and this team should be cherished. This group of players won’t be together forever.
Here’s a look at the numbers as of noon on Sunday.
The Capitals have played sixteen games since the beginning of December. In that time, the team added 24 standings points, making them one of the hottest teams in the league, but their 5v5 performance was actually in the league’s bottom third, between Philadelphia and Saturday night’s victors, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Possession doesn’t tell the whole story. Braden Holtby has been spectacular, and Washington’s special teams have been brilliant. Still, there’s reason for alarm: the 5v5 Caps of the last month were better than the 2013-14 Oates!Caps by just 0.4 percent. Without a marked improvement in even-strength play, outcomes will begin to catch up with possession. The only good alternative is for the Caps to begin playing better.
In this week’s snapshot, the Caps have begun to play better.
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