I just wanted to recap “Rivalry Week” with some takeaways, as well as look ahead to the rest of the schedule and what some implications in the race for the Metro and playoffs are!
The Capitals recently went 1-1-1 in a week where they played three straight division opponents in the Flyers, Rangers and Penguins. It was a pretty down week overall. Philadelphia all but destroyed the Capitals and the Rangers’ Zibanejad had a historic five goal night in a 6-5 OT Win for the New York. Not a great start to “Rivalry Week” but the boys responded with some of their best hockey in recent memory when they dominated the Penguins in a 5-2 win on Saturday. The Penguins have struggled big time lately going 2-8-0 in their last 10 games but I still believe that was a huge win against a big-time opponent. You can basically toss out records and “trending play” when these two teams square off. Some takeaways from Rivalry Week:
1. Penalties Penalties Penalties – The Capitals lead the league with 264 minor penalties taken. The next four teams are TBL – 252, Carolina Hurricanes – 250, and New York Rangers – 243. In the last three games, the Capitals took 16 penalties! At the end of the Rangers game, they took three straight at the end of the third period and it 100% cost them the game. Not sure there is a simple solution to fix the penalty issue. Its been a problem ALL SEASON and nothing has changed so why expect anything different moving forward. The constant penalties and defensive lapses game after game could very well doom the Capitals in the playoffs.
2. Cold Special Teams – The Capitals Power Play went 0-16 last week and are a whopping 2 for 21 since 02/21. That is good for 9.5% and 28th in the league. The Penalty kill which is usually top three in the league is now 23rd since the same 02/21 timeline. They have allowed eight goals on 32 penalties (75% kill rate). You are not going to go very far in the playoffs when you take the most penalties in the league and can only kill 75%.
3. Third and Fourth Line Productivity - It is not all doom and gloom for the Capitals. The third and fourth lines have been VERY productive as of late. Of the 12 goals score in three games last week, the third and fourth line contributed to nine of those goals. Richard Panik seems to have taken his fourth line demotion in stride and is playing some of his best hockey of the season so far. New addition Kovulchuk also appears to also be finding his groove lately. He scored a very impressive goal against the NYR. He now has 4 points in 6GP for the Caps since joining the team. Having all four lines producing is major key and I am hoping the balanced scoring from entire offense continues all of March and into the playoffs.
4. Remaining Strength of Schedule – According to NHL.com, the Capitals have the easiest remaining schedule. This is based on average opponent point %. The Capitals average opponent point % is .514. The red hot Flyers are 21st in the league with an average opponent point % of .568. The Penguins are 19th at .563. I am cautiously optimistic that the Capitals will hold on to win the division based on schedule alone. The Pittsburgh win was huge and that should give the boys confidence moving forward. I haven’t seen anything from the Capitals that makes me believe they will easily beat teams left on their schedule like Buffalo, Detroit, and Ottawa but they SHOULD beat the lesser teams. If they beat the teams they are supposed to…they should win the division…right?!
Here is the remaining schedule:
03/09 @ BUF
03/12 vs DET
03/14 vs CHI
03/16 vs EDM
03/19 @ CBJ
03/20 vs OTT
03/22 @ PIT
03/24 vs STL
03/26 vs NYR
03/28 @ DET
03/30 @ BUF
03/31 vs TOR
04/02 vs MIN
04/04 @ FLA
Do you think the Caps win the Metro? Does it honestly even matter at this point? I would love to avoid Philly or Pittsburgh. Let's be real though, no matter who the Caps play, its likely going six or seven no matter what. Thanks for reading!