After two frustrating losses in Pittsburgh, and the Caps losing 4 of their top players due to Covid Protocols for at least 4 Games, it’s pretty easy to feel down about the way things are going. But there are plenty of things going right for the Caps right now, and perhaps focusing on some of those will help put you in a better frame of mind. For starters, the Caps are ranked at the top of the division (thanks loser point!), but besides that, there’s a ton of solid play coming from players all over the roster.
Wilson and Vrana Sniping
While Ovechkin got off to a slow start, notching just 1 goal in the first 4 games, Wilson and Vrana have more than picked up the slack, combining for 5 goals. The two have also been relentless forecheckers creating goals and scoring opportunities where none seemed to exist.
While Vrana sneaks and steals, Wilson has been busy creating opportunities using his whole body, like this hit on Marino, which led to Ovechkin’s first and only goal of the season.
Panik and Jensen
After slow starts for both players last season, Panik and Jensen became the target of just an unreal amount of slander from Caps fans. No seriously, go on twitter and search their names, and try to find a fan tweet that doesn’t also include the word “trade”. I’d bet money the first one you’re gonna find is one of mine. People really think they suck. Also, if you thought you were escaping one of my articles without a math lesson, you were sorely mistaken. Numbers inbound.
But the reality is, in the latter half of the season, before the pause, both of these players turned their game around and became important pieces for the Caps. The two have picked up right where they left off. Jensen currently is currently sitting at 53% Adjusted Corsi For% while Panik is at a whopping 61%, which is only behind Sprong who has been in limited and heavily sheltered minutes.
Where the two have really shined has been on defense. Panik and Jensen are averaging 26 Adjusted Corsi Against/60 (best on team) and 37 Adj. CA/60 (2nd best among Caps D) respectively. Meaning they are doing an incredible job keeping pucks away from the Caps young netminders.
Personally I think a lot of the hate comes from where the two guys fall on the chart below. The two are firmly planted in the “Dull” quadrant of the team, which means they are less noticeable. But keep in mind, when a guy is a defensive specialist YOU DON’T WANT TO NOTICE HIM.
And even if you don’t believe in advanced stats, goals tell the same story. Nick Jensen hasn’t allowed a 5v5 goal while he was on the ice, not to mention actively saving a goal or two with some timely net front presence. And Panik has only been on the ice for 1 opposing goal so far.
Panik and Jensen are providing strong defense to a team that sorely needs it, especially with two inexperienced guys in net.
Laviolette’s Coaching is a Breath of Fresh Air
For two years the Caps struggled under Todd Reirden. Coaching in DC was mediocre at best (though I myself was resistant to acknowledge it at the time). There was little to no experimentation, discipline was a nightmare, and adjustments took absolutely way too long. That all changed with the arrival of Peter Laviolette.
Take for instance the case of Conor Sheary. After starting the first two games in Buffalo, Sheary was struggling.
Not an hour after this tweet, it was announced that Sheary would be replaced by Sprong. Only rather than just replacing him, Lavy completely re-shuffled the middle 6, testing the waters with Oshie on the 3rd line. And it worked to perfection, with Oshie performing extremely well with his new linemates including a goal and Sprong getting his first point as a member of the Caps. And that’s not even the only example of his lineup decisions that have paid off.
Obviously, there’s a lot of rust to be shaken off. Penalties are still a huge issue. But those things will work themselves out in time.
While it’s easy to feel down, there are plenty of things going right for the Caps. Especially at 5v5. I didn’t even get into how dominant the Caps were in Pittsburgh, had they just stayed out of the box, nor into how good the PK has been. Keep the faith Caps fans. I have hope this team can turn this season into something really good!
And let’s not forget the brightest spot in all of this:
THERE’S FINALLY HOCKEY ON MY TV SCREEN AGAIN.
Let’s get Chirpin!