by PuckStopsHere on 02/07/13 at 02:48 AM ET
In a shortened season the effect of a fast or slow start will be more significant than in a normal season. The team currently in last place is far from the weakest team in the NHL but they are off to a slow start. The Washington Capitals have a 2-8 record with one regulation tie point for a total of five points. This is currently the worst record in the NHL.
This result is in contrast to my pre-season prediction where I had the Capitals leading their division. What has gone wrong?
The biggest problem with the Capitals is their inability to keep the puck out of their goal. Washington has the fourth worst goals against per game in the NHL. The bottom teams are closely bunched enough that if they allowed one more goal they would be in a dead heat for worst in goals against.
Their goaltending has been below average. Braden Holtby has a .862 saves percentage and a 4.52 GAA. Those numbers do not belong in the NHL. Michal Neuvirth has been a bit better. He has a .893 saves percentage and a 2.99 GAA, but he too is below average. Washington desperately needs good goaltending and their young pair hasn't been able to provide it.
They have few players who have been defensive stalwarts in front of those goalies. John Carlson may be the best example of such a player and he is a -3 right now.
Offensively Washington has been average so far this season. They have the talent that they should be better. Alexander Ovechkin is supposed to be one of the best offensive players in the world and he only has five points in ten games. Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green are also performing below their past levels. In fact Mike Ribiero has been their top scorer so far this season.
I think Washington has too much talent to stay at this level all season. Things will get better. Ovechkin especially should get things going. This team will struggle to catch up to the playoff teams given their slow start and short season but they have the talent that they could do it. If they don't, coach Adam Oates might find himself out of a job. He would be the most likely victim of a slow start.
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