Caps Preview: Week 7
After a disappointing weekend of winless hockey, the Caps are looking to snap their two-game losing streak. Their record stands at 7-7-3 (17 points), good for fifth in the Metropolitan Division. After facing the New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues, the Caps take on three of the League’s weaker teams.
11/18 at Arizona
The Caps last played the Coyotes on Nov. 2 and lost 6-5 in a wildly inconsistent game. The Coyotes haven’t had a magical turnaround since. They’re still pretty bad, with a 8-9-1 record (sixth in the Pacific Division.) Their possession leaves much to be desired (48.4 CF%, 23rd in the NHL).
The ‘Yotes are riding a two-game win streak after a 5-0 blowout of the Canucks and a narrow 2-1 win against the Oilers. Despite being outshot by a 35-23 and 34-28 margin in each contest, the ‘Yotes have enjoyed stellar goaltending from backup Devan Dubnyk. In their previous two wins, their power play and penalty kill clocked in at 25% and 85.7% respectively.
This game should be winnable (we said that last time, too.) First and foremost, the goaltending must be better, and the Caps need to regain their scoring touch. Moving Jay Beagle off the top line would be a good start. Recently, the Caps got a lot of good looks on the power play but couldn’t capitalize. They’ve scored two goals as many games, and both tallies came at even strength despite a handful of man-advantage opportunities. Even their 4-2 win over Columbus isn’t as dominating as the final score would appear. The Caps’ possession is (mostly) there, but it’s just not translating.
11/20 at Colorado
This week, the Caps have a trio of matchups against some of the NHL’s weaker teams. The Avalanche are among these teams. Their 6-8-5 record is stronger than their second-worst CF% numbers would indicate (with a Corsi-for percentage of 43.6%, the only thing stopping them from a league-worst ranking is the Buffalo Sabres.)
Yet the Avs are coming off two strong road wins against the Rangers and Devils. Their power play (17% success rate) is absolutely moribund, but their penalty kill is the NHL’s fourth best. Even with playing a disciplined game, the Avs haven’t allowed a power-play goal in two games (five total opportunities.)
The Caps will be facing a team with four days of rest time. But they can’t use a fresh opponent as an excuse for slow starts or lazy penalties. The Caps need to focus on shutting down the Avs’ many offensive talents, from Matt Duchene to Erik Johnson to Tyson Barrie to Nathan Mackinnon…and preferably with an improved “shutdown pair.” And let’s not forget Varly, who has a .918 SV%.
11/22 vs. Buffalo
The Caps and Sabres met three time last season, and the Sabres won each contest by a one-goal margin each time. Fortunately, Ryan Miller is now playing for the Canucks, so if the Caps can outshoot the NHL’s worst possession team (37.2 CF%), there’s no excuse not to win.
The Sabres have suffered through a number of blowout losses (three in this month alone), but dished out their first beatdown Saturday night against the Leafs. Shot totals were 35-34 Sabres, whose six goals came from five different players. Such offensive output is rare from the Sabres, who scored seven goals in four games at the start of November. Their power play is unsurprisingly in last place, at an incomprehensible 7%.
All signs point to the Caps winning this game, especially as Trotz adjusts lines to overcome the lack of offense. Without a brick wall to stop every shot, the Sabres look to be a conquerable opponent. With that being said, it’s possible that our old friend Neuvy might get the start–and his numbers look pretty solid (.918 SV% and 2.96 GAA.)