Halfway

The Capitals’ 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins was their 41st game of the season. The halfway point.

Let’s take a quick moment, without any pomp or heavy opinions (except GIFs), to appreciate where the Caps are right now.


Overall Record

Overall: 22-17-2
Home: 15-5-1
Road: 7-12-1
Standings points: 46

The Capitals currently sit 8th in the Eastern Conference, essentially tied with Pittsburgh.

They are second in Southeast Division, one point ahead of the Winnipeg Jets and four behind the Florida Panthers. The bright side is that the Caps have played one game fewer than those teams. Still, the Caps are battling for standing in the division that used to be their feeding ground.

As Neil Greenberg pointed out on the Post Tuesday, the Caps’ home record is 5th best in the league. Their road record is 24th.

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Vokes and the boys celebrate the shutout. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)

The Washington Capitals lost two straight games in California before coming back home to lick their wounds and face the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pittsburgh Penguins, however, were not available for hockey. The team that showed up was some shell-shocked, injury-riddled assemblage of yinzers in PGH uniforms. Not that the Capitals were much better.

Jason Chimera stepped up for the national broadcast, scoring on a breakaway set up by Jeff Halpern’s lovely set pass and some poor decisions by Paul Martin and Evgeny Malkin. And then… nothing. That’s all she wrote. Caps beat Penguins 1-0.

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Kings beat Caps 5-2 and I Hate California

Photo credit: Chris Carlson

Washington Capitals at Los Angeles Kings. Here’s Jonathan Coulton’s recap of the Caps road trip in California:

Marcus Johansson scored the night’s first goal, a 2-on-1 set up by Mike Knuble. Kyle Clifford got one past Tomas Vokoun on a rebound to tie it up. Anze Kopitar added to that late in the first period after Brooks Laich was pilfered. Jack freaking Johnson converted a 3-on-1 and then did the freaking Tebow move as if the world didn’t already suck. Then Stoll scored and our eyes started glazing over. Something else happened, but our eyelids were heavy. Johansson looked bored somehow scoring his second of the night.  Kings beat Caps 5-2.

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Dennis Wideman swims with the sharks. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

The Washington Capitals had a good bit of time off before heading to California to face the San Jose Sharks. In that time, Mike Green continued his rehabilitation, Alex Semin returned to game-shape, and Nicky Backstrom’s head kept him out of action. No one was expecting an easy opener to the road trip, but this was ridiculous.

The back of Tomas Vokoun’s skate knocked in the first goal of the night, but Jason Demers got credit for it. Dennis Wideman crashed the net on the power play to tie it back up. Brent Burns converted a late second period power play with the help of a few screens. Joel Ward scored his first goal since November 5th to tie it up, but Patrick Marleau re-established the lead just 16 seconds later. Marc-Edouard Vlasic put the Caps in a pickle with a 4-on-4 goal, then Torrey Mitchell got the empty netter. Sharks beat Caps 5-2.

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Why Alex Ovechkin Throwing Gang Signs is a Good Thing

Photo credit: Michael Martin

For those of you who stayed up late Saturday with the hopes of getting an up-close-and-personal look at #AvsFailWatch, sorry. The Capitals are scuffling. The team has mustered only one goal in each of the past three games (1-2-0), they have failed to win more than two straight games since starting the season 7-0, and they have an unimpressive 4-5-0 record since Dale Hunter was hired as coach. 31 games into the season, the Caps are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and would not qualify for the playoffs if they started today. Bummer city.

While it’s easy to fret about all the unmet expectations this season, there are also some positive changes going on– though you might have to get out a magnifying glass to see them.

First, the Capitals are giving up nearly one less goal per game under Hunter (3.27 GAA with Bruce, 2.55 with Dale). Five-on-five, the Capitals are finally subscribing to more of a chip-and-chase system and are trying to be a tougher team to compete against. “Unfortunately, it’s a really hard way to play,” Tomas Vokoun recently explained to CSN’s Chuck Gormley. “But it’s the only way you can win a Stanley Cup. And the sooner we learn it as a team the better off we’re going to be.”

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Tomas Vokoun’s New Presidents-Themed Mask

One day after Michal Neuvirth spectacularly shut out the Winnipeg Jets, the biggest news of the day is still goaltending.

First, during today’s practice, Alex Ovechkin and Michal Neuvirth switched gear with each other. ‘Cause why not. The Great 8– sporting a goalie glove, blocker, and mask– skated to the crease and took several long-range shots from his teammates.

The other big goalie news of the day is that Swedish airbrush artist David Gunnarsson released photos of his latest project: Tomas Vokoun‘s new presidents-themed mask.

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Winnipeg Jets Pregame: Now Boarding, ReSet Airlines

Doug Johnson, weaver of words, Puck Buddy. Connect with @PuckBuddys via a series of tubes.

The Puck Drop: Lesson – don’t waste all your good rival city bile in your first pregame post. You may get the hahas, but it doesn’t leave you much room for new jokes. Lesson: as we continue to repeat until GMGM hears us, there are two Caps teams. One team is Ninja Master, the other is Donkey Kong. There is no telling which will show up, and this must be fixed.

Lesson: do NOT write mouthy, taunting blog posts your team (or butt) cannot cash.

Lesson: if a team is going to win, it will win as a team. The Caps seem to have a hot-shot mentality of late; namely they play really well, until something unexpected happens. Not a first goal, as we seem to play better if we’re just one down, but a second, surprise goal. At that point you can almost see the shoulders schlump, the feet get leaden and the team lose heart, players scrambling to pump the sinking ship (almost like how and fans Verizon last night). Panic does not become a great team. Keep calm and carry on.

All of this is to say: we must be humble if we are to be great.

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Lessons in Humility: Flyers beat Caps 5-1

Greg Fiume

Photo credit: Greg Fiume

One morning during high school, I dressed up like the Devil for Halloween and then got roughed up by a tough guy. I remember cowering on the floor of the hallway, dressed up like an idiot. With our site all decked out in Jaromir Jagr flamebait, I feel the same way.

The Philadelphia Flyers taught the Washington Capitals humility and shame in a 5-1 mauling. All that bravado and confidence from two wins in a row? Evaporated. Flyers beat Caps 5-1.

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Kris Versteeg wipes out. (Photo credit: Thearon W. Henderson)

How was your weekend? The Caps won. That was cool. I bet Coach Hunter is psyched. I lost my cell phone. That sucked.

On Monday night, the Capitals hit the road again, leaving a tumultuous three-game home stand behind them. They’ll be suiting up in Sunrise, Florida, which is a ludicrous name for a city. The hosting team? The Florida Capitals.

Marjory the Trash Heap was also assembled from other people's refuse.

Ahh, shoot! Florida Panthers. Sorry. But the Florida roster does sport four ex-Caps: Tomas Fleischmann, Matt Bradley, Jose Theodore, and Marco Sturm (who shouldn’t really count). How did so many Caps players end up in Florida? Over the summer, Panthers GM Dale Tallon got his checkbook out and started signing free agents all willy nilly just to reach the salary floor.

And now– somehow– the Panthers are at the top of the Southeast Division. No one saw that coming. This team was assembled from spare parts. We had joked that it was a retirement home. These guys shouldn’t have a cohesive personality, let alone a winning record. Instead, they’re 14-8-4 and they’ve commited the fewest minor penalties in the league. It’s disciplined and effective hockey they’re playing in Sunrise, which is still is a stupid name for a city.

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Epic Stats: How the Caps Look After 25 Games

Photo credit: Rob Carr

Warning: You’re about to read statistics from someone who can’t keep score at Scrabble.

The Washington Capitals started their season with a 7-game winning streak. They were the talk of the league, a team made of smiles and wins.

They would go on to lose 12 of their next 18 games, their head coach, and their confidence. As of game 25, the Capitals are in a three-way tie for 8th in the Eastern Conference. For perspective, the players on the 9th place team usually get started on their suntans a little earlier than everyone else.

This article takes a look at the numbers behind the Caps season to date to try and give its schizophrenia some context. I’ll look at shots on goal, save percentage, puck possession, power play, and penalty kill.

Because with all of the opinions about why the Caps have fell so far (many I’ve posited myself), I owe you guys some objective assessment without the usual bluster or pageantry.

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