If it seems like the Caps have been inconsistent of late, you’re half right.
In their last 10 games, the Caps have gone 6-4-0 with 25 goals for and 27 goals against. They dominated Pittsburgh and ended Minnesota’s win streak, but also suffered an ugly two-game road trip in Nashville and Colorado. They lost to Buffalo, but just barely managed wins over Edmonton and Arizona.
All of this makes it hard to figure out just what sort of team the Caps are.
There is one pattern, however.
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In those same 10 games, Washington is 5-0-0 at home with 15 goals for and eight against. On the road, they are 1-4-0 with 10 goals for and 19 against.
Washington has enjoyed a lot of success in recent years in the friendly confines of what is now called Capital One Arena. Even with the roster turnover this team saw over the offseason, the Caps are still getting a boost on home ice.
What makes them play so differently at home vs. on the road? Besides rules meant to favor the home team such as last change, energy may also play a big factor.
In Nashville and Colorado, the Caps struggled in the first period. Washington really seemed to wait for their opponents to come to them. They played a reactive game, not a proactive one and they paid the price for it. In both games, they found themselves down 2-0 after 20 minutes. Back at home on Saturday, there was a different energy at the start of the game. The Caps scored first and then responded with a second goal just 44 seconds after Minnesota tied the game.
How much of that energy at the start of the game had to do with the home crowd? It's a question with no quantifiable answer, but clear difference between the team's success at home vs. the road seems to suggest the crowd has at least some effect.
Here’s another stat to show you how important energy is for this team: in back to back games this season, the Caps are 0-4-0. In all four games, they gave up the first goal and never lead in the first period.
If Washington wants to improve its record, a major key to that will be getting better starts. If they feed off the energy of the home crowd, great, but they need to find something else to boost them on the road.
After their ugly road trip, the Caps took a hit in this week’s NHL Power Rankings. Find out where they land here.