What has been Caps' biggest issue during lingering slump?


With a week off between games for the Capitals, it seems like a good time to take stock of the team and its season. Here are some key mid-season questions for Capitals writers Andrew Gillis and JJ Regan to discuss.

What has been the biggest issue during the slump?

Andrew: It's hard to nail this down to just one issue because I think it's a cop-out to say "everything." So, I'll go with consistency.

This team has been a rollercoaster since 2022 began. They won a big game on Feb. 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins where Ilya Samsonov stopped 43 of 45 shots sent his way. Less than 24 hours later at home against the Edmonton Oilers, Samsonov was pulled five minutes into the game after having allowed three goals.

The Capitals blew the lead, twice, against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 8 and then surrendered the winning goal with 45 seconds left in a 5-4 loss on a night the offense did enough to win. Two nights later, the league-worst Canadiens team outshot them 44-23 as they had to rely on Samsonov to get them a win. They have won three of their last four, yes, but none of the wins were particularly pretty (Montreal, Nashville, Philadelphia) and the loss on Super Bowl Sunday at home to Ottawa 4-1 was decidedly ugly. 

As I mentioned in the last post, there are excuses to be made. They've likely taken note of the standings and seen how in the clear they are, and they're missing two top-six forwards to injury. But the up-and-down play for them over the last few weeks has to be a bit concerning. 


Their numbers since 2022 began aren't what you'd expect for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Their special teams have been some of the league's worst and depending on the stat you look at, they're either league-average or just below league-average at creating and stopping chances. 

Now, all that said, do I think things will turn around? Yes. They'll get healthy, assuredly do something at the deadline — perhaps even something big — and the iteration of the Capitals we see now likely won't be the ones we see in late March. But, as obvious as this might sound, everything has to improve if they want to contend for a Cup.

JJ: Since the start of the new year, the Caps have a record of 8-9-2 and the biggest issue during that time has been their play at home. On the road, they are pretty decent with a 6-2-1 record. At home, however, they have a putrid 2-7-1 which is pretty stunning considering how strong Washington has been at home for several years.

When it comes to specific factors in their play, Andrew hit the nail on the head. There's seemingly no consistency from night to night. Here are some stats. Since the start of 2022, the Caps rank 19th in goals for per game (2.89), 19th in goals against per game (3.11), 24th on the power play (17.9%) and 26th on the penalty kill (73.7%). None of those are good. In addition, T.J. Oshie has played only twice and Alex Ovechkin has cooled off considerably with seven goals, tying him for 51st in the NHL during that stretch.

In terms of goaltending, which has been a major concern, Vitek Vanecek has a strong .925 save percentage in 2022, but has been out injured since Feb. 1. Ilya Samsonov has a 902 save percentage and, as Andrew documented, cycles between spectacular performances and real clunkers.

It's hard to really pin any one of those issues as the main issue so I will say their play at home is the biggest factor. It's not as if they have looked great in all of those games on the road, but they are finding ways to win in and they are just not doing that at Capital One Arena right now. The good news is that the team will not play at home again until Feb. 28 which should hopefully give them enough time to let this play out and return home with some renewed confidence.