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Courtney Breaks Down the Caps Start to the Season

Courtney Laughlin examines the Washington Capitals first month of action on the 16-17 season.

by Scarlet Caps @CourtneyCSN / http://www.washingtoncapitals.com

Hey Scarlet Caps!  

Courtney Laughlin here. And it's time for some more Caps hockey talk! 

 

The team has been off to a very good start, posting an 8-2-1 record. Grubauer recorded his first NHL shutout vs. the Avalanche. The Caps won three out of the four games in a tough Western Canadian road trip. And Ovechkin blasted home his 18th career overtime game winner vs. the Jets. Already a lot to be excited about through the first 11 games, and I'm here to offer you my insights and analysis of the season so far. 

Team defense has been excellent. The Caps have allowed only 23 goals against through the first 11 games, ranking them 2nd defensively. They are one of the only teams in the NHL to return all 7 defensemen and both goaltenders, which helps give them tremendous stability on the back end. Their success in their own end stems from good defensive coverage and execution, and getting pucks into the hands of the forwards very quickly so that they can make a clean exit. The faster the puck is moved out of the defensive zone, the less time there is for the opposition to create any sustained pressure and get shots to the net. Case in point: the Caps have allowed the fewest shots against than any other team. Team D has been on point!  

Special teams are coming together. I think we can all agree that both the penalty kill and power play were off to a rocky start. But in the last 5 games, they seem to have turned the corner, and special teams as a whole has started to execute the systems better. A general rule of thumb is that a team's special teams index (combined PP and PK percentage) should be over 100%. Right now, through the first 11 games, the Caps are sitting below that. But I am not worried about this aspect of their game whatsoever due to their special teams personnel and track record. The Caps 
PK has killed off 13 of the last 14 penalties, and their PP has scored 4 in the last 6 including the slapper we witnessed by Ovechkin's from his wheelhouse in OT vs. the Jets. 

Offense seems to be finding its groove. After the 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers, Barry Trotz did a complete overhaul of the Caps forward lines. He made changes throughout the top nine to try to spark more 5v5 offense. Backstrom moved back up with Ovechkin, and so did Williams. The second line featured Wilson (who moved from the 4th line to the 2nd) to help create more room on the ice for Kuznetsov and MoJo. And Oshie dropped down to play with Eller and Burakovsky. This seemed to have worked! In games 1 through 5, the Caps were averaging only 2 goals per game. Since the changes, the Caps are now scoring over 3.5 goals per game. Change is good! 

Great teams find a way to win. Through the first 11 games, the Caps have found ways to win, even if they weren't at their best for the full 60 minutes. Last season, the team's motto was "stick to the script." But this year, it's all about going that extra mile and having a will to win each and every game. It's about finding a way to win under all circumstances. It's about "will over skill." This new motto seems to be working! 

I'll check back with you guys soon, and let's go Caps!  

-Courtney

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