It’s taken them six weeks and 22 games, but the Capitals find themselves where they’ve wanted to be since Day One of the regular season – atop the Metropolitan Division with a 17-5-1 record and 35 points.
But if you ask second-year head coach Barry Trotz if he’s happy with where his team is a little more than a quarter through the 2015-16 season, he chuckles.
“No,” he said. “We’ve lost too many games already. No, I’m not.”
Through 22 games the Caps rank third in the NHL in wins (17), fourth in goals per game (3.22), tied for third in shots per game (31.1), fourth in goals-against per game (2.22) and second in shots against per game (26.7).
“Don’t always get fooled by the numbers,” Trots warned. “Our numbers are good, but I look at it in pockets. I thought our first 10 games were pretty good but there are areas in our (next 10) that I don’t like. I don’t like the lack of consistency.
“Our forecheck is probably the No. 1 thing,” Trotz continued. “Our game has some really good areas but I don’t see them every night. I see them in bits and pieces.”
Trotz used his team’s 7-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche and its 1-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers as Exhibits A and B.
“The Colorado game there were a lot of good areas,” Trotz said. “Edmonton had a lot of areas that were junk. After the game I told the coaches to throw it in the garbage.”
Caps goaltender Braden Holtby, who leads the NHL in wins (15) and goals-against average (1.95) agrees.
“I think we’re where we want to be points-wise,” Holtby said. “I don‘t think we’re happy with where our game’s at. It’s been good and it’s been bad and it hasn’t been very consistent and that’s one thing we’re going to have to improve on if we want to have continued success.
“We’re getting away with it a bit right now but we’re not oblivious to the fact we have to be better.”
Despite the Caps’ inconsistencies they are doing enough good things on both special teams to be in every game. They rank third in the NHL on the power play and ninth on the penalty kill.
Caps right wing Tom Wilson, who scored his first goal of the season in his hometown of Toronto on Saturday night, said the Caps need to rekindle the reputation they developed near the end of last season, when one opponent after another praised the Caps’ work ethic.
“We’ve had some ups and downs so far,” Wilson said. “We have new pieces and to say it’s going to be 100 percent flawless is kind of unrealistic. I think we’ve been playing some good hockey. We still, I think, can do a better job of being harder to play against.
“I don’t think (teams) are leaving our rink thinking that was a tough game. We have to make sure that when teams come into Verizon Center we’re pedal to the metal the whole 60 minutes and not waiting until the third period.
“We have the pieces. I mean, there’s no doubt in my mind that with this group we can do some special things, but that being said, we still have a lot of work to do.”