Washington Capitals

The week that was: Capitals plus and minus

The Washington Capitals went 2-1-1 over the past week, picking up wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche and falling to the Philadelphia Flyers and Arizona Coyotes, the former of which was a shootout loss.

In terms of puck possession, the Capitals continue to be trending in the right direction, and a much better direction than they had been heading over the previous few months. The Caps posted a score-adjusted Corsi For percentage of 53.7 percent or better in each of the four games, including a ridiculous 73 percent possession game in a 4-2 win over the Avalanche.

The results didn’t line up all that well with the 60.6 percent puck possession on the week because, via War on Ice, the Capitals only shot 3.2 percent at 5-on-5 over the four games. But, needless to say that the Capitals are looking more like the formidable playoff opponent they are capable of being with the recent uptick in puck possession:

Here’s a look at the plus…and minus…from the past week for Washington.

PLUS

Alex Ovechkin

Ovechkin pumped home two goals in four games this week, which isn’t all that eye-popping for a goal-scorer of his ability, but considering his team only scored nine goals, and the aforementioned team-wide shooting struggles at 5-on-5, that’s enough to get him a plus for this week. Ovechkin also posted a 64.8 Corsi For percentage for the week, plus-5.9 percent relative.

Ovechkin will need to go on a small tear to reach 50 goals again this season; he stands five goals short as the team enters the final week of the regular season. But more important for Ovechkin and the Capitals than any individual milestone, he’s starting to shoot the puck at the rate the league is more accustomed to. As the visualization from Corsica shows, after a noticeable drop in individual shot generation in early-to-mid March, Ovechkin is back to his usual ways.

 

Jay Beagle

After a lackluster performance in the previous week, Beagle bounced back and was one of the Capitals few productive forwards over the past week. Beagle contributed two points which, just as with Ovechkin, isn’t necessarily all that impressive in and of itself, but looks a lot better when put in the context of the team’s recent scoring woes. Unlike Ovechkin, Beagle is a bottom-six forward, which makes this kind of offensive production rather unexpected.

Beagle isn’t the strongest puck possession player in the world, but he posted a 60.9 percent Corsi For percentage in Washington’s four games this week, just on the right side of the relative possession at plus-0.4 percent.

 

MINUS

Power Play

It may seem odd to call the power play a minus for the last week considering the Capitals converted 23.1 percent (3 for 13) of their opportunities for the week, but some of the underlying numbers suggest the team needs to work out some kinks to have their man-advantage humming when the postseason starts.

After all, with the number one seed in the league locked up, the process is much more important than the results for the Capitals right now, and the power play process hasn’t been in top form of late.

Here’s a look, again via Corsica, at the Capitals’ 10-game rolling shot attempt rate this season when up a man:

The expected goals per 60 minutes tells a similar story:

While the power play continues to convert at a great clip, the underlying process suggests there’s still work to be done.

Marcus Johansson

Considering he was called upon to skate between Ovechkin and TJ Oshie, a week with zero points at 5-on-5 and only one assist overall is enough to earn Johansson a minus for the week. To be consistent and fair, it has to be pointed out that the process for Johansson was pretty strong, but the results in the small sample didn’t follow suit. Johansson posted a 62.7 score-adjusted Corsi For percentage for the week. If he can turn in another week with such a strong process, the results will likely fall in line.

The improved process from Johansson has to be an encouraging sign for the Capitals, who haven’t gotten nearly enough in the results department from him recently. Since the All-Star break, Johansson has just two goals and nine assists in 26 games.

Johansson’s goalless drought currently stands at 17 games, having last scored on Feb. 28 against Chicago.

The Capitals wrap up their regular season next week, playing host to the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, before visiting the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night and coming back home to finish the season against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.

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