George Foussekis The Hockey Writers
Washington Capitals Through the First 15 Games
Through the First 15 Games of 2014-15, how do the Washington Capitals look?
The Washington Capitals have come out of the gate of 2014-15. In the first 15 games, they have had their ups and downs. They have played their hockey in periods of good and bad spurts.
Through November 12, the Washington Capitals have managed to secure a 7-5-3 record. This is good for 17 points in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals sit at third in the Metropolitan Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference.
Goals: Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson (8)
Assists: Nicklas Backstrom (12)
Points: Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom (16)
Plus/Minus: Best: Nate Schmidt (+8); Worst: Brooks Orpik (-5)
Goaltender: Braden Holtby: 11 GP: 5-3-3; 2.54 GAA; .903 SV%
Powerplay: 28.0% (2nd)
Penalty Kill: 78.8% (19th)
Shots For: 30.9 (9th)
Shots Against: 26.4 (2nd)
Faceoffs: 50.4% (14th)
Score Adjusted Fenwick (Puck Possession): 54.12 (7th)
-The Washington Capitals have done a tremendous job keeping the shots against their net down. They averaged around 33 shots against per game last season. Capitals goaltenders are seeing around 7 fewer shots thrown against them per game.
-The powerplay is still alive and ticking very effectively. At 28% effectiveness, it is very potent. The Capitals run a 1-3-1 powerplay formation to perfection. If Alex Ovechkin gets off his wicked shot from his spot in the circle, 9 times out of 10, it will go in the back of the net.
-Because of the Capitals improved defensive play and limiting shots and time in their own zone, they have been able to receive better puck possession. Last season, they were in the bottom five in the NHL for total team puck possession. Now, the Capitals are in the top 10 in the NHL for team puck possession. More puck possession should equal more goals in the opponent’s net and less in the Capitals net.
-While the Capitals are good with the man advantage, they are so-so on the penalty kill. They are under 80% effective when they have to kill penalties. There is still room for improvement in this area, but I feel it will get better as the season progresses. The Capitals have plenty of forwards and defensemen who are able to kill penalties well.
-Blown leads/mental lapses: the Capitals have blown several games this year after getting ahead. The Capitals have blown leads in three of their last four home games. They only managed to win one of those games that they blew the lead in. The Capitals have been pretty good striking early, but letting up off the gas too quick. I know Barry Trotz and his coaching staff are not teaching these bad habits, but the Capitals must learn to keep their foot on the gas and they must learn to bury their opponents.
-A tale of two Holtbys:
Good Braden Holtby
Bad Braden Holtby
Before I get accused of saying Braden Holtby is terrible, let me explain myself. First, I think Braden Holtby is a very good goaltender. When he is actually on his game and is in the zone, he is unstoppable.
Like the rest of the team on some nights, Braden has his mental lapses. He tends to forget his positioning and he tends to get a little loose with his reads of plays.
Braden has always been a goaltender who gets stronger as the game moves along. But there is just some points in games where he tends to let in the “softie” at inopportune times. Compared to the past couple of seasons, he is still light years ahead of where he was. Does Braden have the opportunity to show good consistency in the net? Absolutely. It is going to take some more time for him to regain his form.
-Andre Burakovsky: the young Capitals rookie is really good. He is very creative on the ice and has a good shot. He is second among all NHL rookies with 12 points.
-Nate Schmidt: the young 23-year old defenseman has really elevated his game. He is the Capitals “sixth” guy on the blueline and has played very well in his limited role. He has given the Capitals added depth and he has provided around 15 quality minutes a game. He leads all Capitals skaters in plus/minus with a +8 rating. He has been on the third pairing with Mike Green and they have been a consistent defensive duo for the Capitals.
The Washington Capitals have shown that they can be a playoff caliber team this year. However, they have also shown that they can be fragile at times. If the Capitals play a full 60 minutes, they can compete and hang with anyone in the NHL. If the Capitals take periods and shifts off and tune out of the game, they can be easily defeated.
There is a mental aspect to the game of hockey. Hockey players have to have a killer instinct in order to put another team away. The best NHL clubs know how to play a full 60 minutes consistently. Hockey is a game that requires effort and determination. In order to win, players have to have fight and strong will.
Overall, I feel the Capitals roster has the ability to do a lot of good things. But it all starts with effort. If the Capitals do not put forth the effort on a nightly basis, they will not win many games. If they do put forth the effort, they will win games. The Capitals must learn to correct their mistakes whenever they mess up. From Alex Ovechkin on down, accountability is key moving forward.
The season is still young and the Capitals are still learning. When they put it all together, they will become one of the best teams in the NHL.
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