Since starting the season 3-0, the Caps have dropped six of seven. Maybe that's why it's hard to feel like this year's edition of the Caps is much better than last year's.
Or maybe it's the fact that they have fewer points through 10 games (last year's team was 3-3-4 versus this year's 4-6 squad). Or maybe it's that the team's goals per game is down a whopping 22.5% (from 31 to 24). Or that the power play is actually worse, down from 16.67% to 14%. And while Alex Semin's limited availability has contributed to these stats, don't forget that there are four new "upgrades" in the lineup as well.
But progress has been made in other key areas. Penalties taken are down from 62 to 51. Shots on goal against are down from 36.6 to 29.3. Faceoff percentage is up from 48.13% to 54% (good enough for third in the League). Non- shootout goals against are down a bit (from 32 to 29).
So either it's just a matter of time before it all comes together, or it's more of the same here in D.C. I guess your take on that probably is influenced by the most recent game's result, and given that last night's wasn't great (and sure, the Caps were undermanned)... well, let's just say there's plenty of room for improvement.
As for Saturday night's 4-3 loss to St. Louis, some quick thoughts:
- Michael Nylander took an offensive-zone hooking penalty with 12:35 left and the Caps down two - not a very veteran move.
- In his first full NHL game as a center, Nicklas Backstrom finished with a minus-two rating, but did win five of his nine draws.
- Alex Ovechkin was credited with six hits last night, more than Shaone Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina, Brian Pothier, Mike Green and Jeff Schultz... combined.
- Another strong game for Greenie, with two goals (as many as he had all of last year), five shots on goal and a plus-one rating.
- Speaking of Ovechkin, he's got to change his shooting angles and/or release point - last night he had five shots blocked (most, if not all, by Barret Jackman).
- Schultz led the D with 20:35 of ice time and finished minus-two on the night.
- Viktor Kozlov has a team-high six shots on goal.
- The last minute of regulation - with Brent Johnson pulled - was as ugly as it gets. If the League awarded goals for simply getting the puck into the offensive zone under control, I'm not sure the Caps would have tied the game.
- Remind me again why the Bruins traded Brad Boyes to St. Louis for Dennis Wideman.
- On the injury front, Semin is day-to-day after re-injuring his troublesome ankle, Chris Clark may go tomorrow night and Tom Poti sounds less likely to play.
Elsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
Kevin Paul Dupont discusses the Rangers woes and the Randy Jones/Patrice Bergeron hit.... Through five home dates, St. Louis's average attendance is up 5,995 per game, from 11,820 to 17,815. Not to take anything away from the team's resurgence, but it certainly helps that by the start of the season, the Cards and Rams were both done for the year.... It was a night of firsts in Newark, as the Devils opened their new building. "First boos: 7:13, when defenseman Karel Rachunek is introduced. The second boos follow immediately, when defenseman Johnny Oduya is announced." Nice.... Only 29.8% of NHL defensemen are right-handed shots (three of the eight on the Caps roster are).... Orland Kurtenblog interviewed Tarik the other day....Finally, our favorite (and John Tortorella's) hockey columnist, Larry Brooks, has some provocative things to say about this Capitals team. (Thanks for heads-up, Faux.)
- Hart: Rod Brind'Amour (3G, A, +3)
- Ross: Rod Brind'Amour, Ray Whitney (4 points each)
- Norris: Nathan Paetsch (G, A, +2)
- Vezina: Martin Gerber (W, 31 saves on 32 shots against)
- Richard: Rod Brind'Amour (3G)
- Calder: Jack Johnson (+2, 3 SOG, 2 blocked shots, team-leading 23:36 of ice time)
- Aiken: Rick DiPietro (L, 6 goals allowed on 14 shots against in just 27:48 of work)