Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/25/11

It is really difficult to believe, but this year’s regular season is almost one quarter complete.  At 12-7-1, the Washington Capitals currently sit in second place in the Southeast Division, two points behind Florida although they have one game in hand.  It’s probably an appropriate time to step away from the ice to see what we have learned about this year’s Caps team — good and bad.

Bottom line up front:  This year’s Capitals have been among the least consistent teams of the thirty franchises in the NHL.  From being 7-0 for the first seven games of the season on the one hand to losing six out of seven games in early November on the other, it’s sometimes difficult to fathom that this is really the same team.

  • The Capitals remain an offensive juggernaut.  Third overall in goals per game, Washington is one of only five teams in the league to average more than three goals per game (3.25).
  • The Capitals are a more well balanced offensive team this year, with six players having five or more goals this year, compared to previous years when only the first or second lines could be counted on to score.
  • The Capitals defense continues to be their nemesis.  The three goals allowed per game puts them in the bottom third of the league’s teams.
  • Goaltending has not been one of the Caps strong suits to date.  Tomas Vokoun ranks in the middle of the pack in both goals against average and save percentage, while Michael Neuvirth’s performance has been disappointing, ranking near the bottom in both categories.
  • Alexander Semin typifies the inconsistency that has plagued the Caps.  Several of his five goals resulted from his incredible stick handling and skating ability that mark him as one of the most talented players in the league — while his 14 penalties in the 19 games he has played make him one of the four most penalized players of the hundreds of NHL professionals.  This inconsistency recently caused Coach Bruce Boudreau to bench Semin as a healthy scratch for the first time since his rookie year.
  • Alexander Semin’s time in the box notwithstanding, the Capitals remain one of the least penalized in the league.  Only Phoenix and Detroit have demonstrated more disciplined play thus far in the season.
  • Special teams remain a concern.  Washington ranks in the bottom third in penalty killing success, and 15th of 30 in power play percentage.
  • Jason Chimera is having a breakout year.  He leads the Capitals with eight goals, including a critical shorthanded goal against the New Jersey Devils that helped to stop a two game slide earlier this month.  Chimera is also tied for the team lead in plus/minus at +9.  Both his goal scoring and plus/minus put him in the top five percent of the league’s players.
  • Nicklas Backstrom is having a solid year so far, after what many Washington fans considered an off year last season.  He leads the Capitals in assists (16) and total points (23) and is among the top ten NHL players in both categories.

So to summarize, this correspondent would grade the Caps’ performance to date as a B minus (although some have stated that I’m too tough a grader).  There are many good things happening, but lots of rough spots that must be smoothed out as the regular season progresses.  There is still a lot of hockey to be played between now and April, and Washington would be wise to fix the shortcomings sooner rather than later — well before the start of the playoffs.

Let’s Go Caps!

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