F Street Faithful
by Matthew Tate on 01/20/12 at 06:40 PM ET
Over the past 11 games, the Capitals are 8-3. In that span, they have outscored their opponents by a combined 28-22, limiting their opponents to a goal or less 6 times. In 7 of their 8 wins, their opponents have scored below their average. All of this points to a team that is finding its stride defensively. The caveat to this appears to be a team that’s offensive production is faltering.
As it stands right now, the Washington Capitals are currently ranked 9th in goals/game, averaging just over 2.8 goals. Most fans should agree that 9th is a pretty good place to be. The issue is at shots/game. For the season the Caps sit at 26th in the league in shots/game, averaging 27.6 a night. That would be nice, if it weren’t for the fact that they are averaging less than 22 per night over the last 11 games. This includes a current 2-game stretch of recording less than 20 shots. They have hit 30 shots just once in the past 11 games, in the 5-2 loss to the Sharks. They are currently giving up over 10 more shots than they are taking, although much of those are coming late in the 3rd, with the Caps protecting a lead.
What this all creates is a paradox. We are watching a team regularly succeed, without taking shots. How big of a problem is this? Looking at their last 11 opponents, we see only 4 current playoff teams, 2 of whom to the Capitals lost.
An easy conclusion to jump to is that the Capitals have to make a move. I would say this is a bit quick with the trigger. It is well-known that top-6 forwards are on every team’s list. This leads me to believe this is clearly going to be a seller’s market for cellar-dwelling teams. Sure, the Capitals have some decent pieces to offer, like Schultz or Semin, but it might cost more. And when we look at the top-6 forwards the Caps have—Backstrom (when healthy), Ovechkin, Johansson, Brouwer, Laich, Semin—shots should not be a problem. With the exception of Johansson, they have all scored 20 goals at least once in the past 2 years.
I don’t see this lack of shots as a lack of production from them as much as it is simply Dale’s style. Hunter has said that when a team focuses on defense, the offense will come. I firmly believe that Dale is content with 16 shots at this point. He has this team thinking defense first, and is still succeeding in scoring. Once he has them truly playing comfortably defensively, we will see their offensive game begin to drift back.
Even last year, both the Bruins and Canucks actually had better winning percentages when they were outshot. Boston was 22-10-5 (.595) and Vancouver was 23-5-3 (.742). Now, while they still outshot their opponents more than they undershot, they obviously went through spells when they had to be advantageous with their goals.
The Capitals still have a little over a month before the trade deadline. If they truly believe that a move needs to be made to increase shots, they should not make it until then. Though, I am willing to bet, shots will not be a problem.
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Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate. This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals. The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.
In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at York College of Pennsylvania. I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland.
You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at email@example.com.