Once a week this season, we're taking a closer look at the numbers and pointing out a few trends that every Capitals fan should know about.
The power play
After striking twice with the man advantage in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Islanders, the unit has (finally) cracked the upper half of the NHL. It’s now ranked 14th at 18.7-percent. Over the past six games, it has connected on seven of its 21 opportunities. Going back 13 games, it has scored at least one goal on nine occasions. Over those 13 games, the unit has been clicking at 23.5-percent, which is the seventh best rate during that span. So, yeah, the Caps’ potent PP is pretty much back on track.
All the rookie does is make plays…and shoot the puck. Hard. Since going pointless in his first four NHL games, Vrana has racked up a goal and two assists the past three games. Of course, one of those assists was initially counted as a goal vs. the Isles but was eventually switched to Justin Williams who inadvertently tipped it en route to the net. Vrana has also mustered four shots in a game three times in his seven NHL contests.
Speaking of Stick (which is one of my all-time favorite hockey nicknames, btw), he’s en fuego as well after a frigid start to his 16th NHL season. The 35-year-old has four goals the past four games, five points over the past five contests and has contributed to few more goals by going to net and running interference at the top of the crease. Williams had two goals in his first 23 contests. Seems like his protracted slump is over.
One of the Caps’ biggest concerns over the first two months of the season has suddenly become one of the team’s biggest threats on offense. The 24-year-old center has six assists in the last five games, including five primary helpers. He’s been moving his feet, making a bee line to the net and, most important, being decisive when the puck is on his stick. Is the old Kuzy back? I need more information. But it certainly looks promising.
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The coaching staff’s patience with the 21-year-old finally ran out on Tuesday as young Burakovsky was scratched for the first time this season. The move wasn’t much of surprise; during Monday’s practice he rotated in on a four-man forward line. He hasn’t scored a goal since potting a pair in the opener, a career long drought of 26 games. He failed to record a point in seven straight games and lately had seen his ice-time dwindle single digits. It’ll be interesting to see what happens going forward. The player who replaced him, Brett Connolly, scored against the Islanders and now has three goals in his last 13 games played.
Goals from the blue line
Matt Niskanen’s two goals on Tuesday night helped propel the Caps to their fifth straight victory. But on a whole, the Caps’ blue line is lagging behind in terms of scoring. In all, Washington has a total of six goals from defensemen. Here’s how that compares to the top-5 teams in goals per game: Pittsburgh (11 goals from Dmen), New York Rangers (12), Columbus (13), Philadelphia (20) and Montreal (17). Look, the Caps are on a roll. Dormant forwards are showing signs of life. Special teams are humming. The team is strong defensively and in net. But there are areas where they could use a little more. And this is one of them.
The captain is one of the last guys I ever worry about. Buuuuut…he is going through a bit of a cold snap. Since his hat trick vs. St. Louis on Nov. 23, he’s registered one goal in nine games. Ovi’s still getting shots—he’s put 13 on net the past three games—and he’s still on pace for 38 goals. But he needs to pick it up, and I suspect he knows that.
Wilson is a big reason for the Caps’ improving penalty kill, logging more shorthanded ice time than any forward not named Jay Beagle. The 22-year-old also leads the team in drawn penalties per 60 minutes played (1.83). That all said, they need more from Wilson, who has two goals and no assists, in 28 games. Perhaps his empty netter vs. Vancouver and three shot performance vs. the Islanders is the start of something.