There’s a remarkable statistic that get surprisingly little play when people discuss the current eight-game losing streak the Washington Capitals are struggling through.
They haven’t been outshot one time.
I’m going to repeat that, because as I said it is remarkable: despite losing eight consecutive games, in not one of the have the Capitals allowed more shots than they’ve taken.
To be sure, I’m not saying that they’ve been the superior team during that eight game stretch. For instance, in last night’s game against Boston, the Capitals had a sluggish start and ended up getting outshot 11-5 in the first period, at which point it was already a 3-0 game and things were almost out of reach. A remarkable third period saw the Capitals outshoot Boston 26-2 but only score once; but all those shots weren’t enough to dig them out of the hole their slow start had earned them.
Another fun point: of those eight losses, five have been one-goal games (and two of those went beyond regulation time). Two other losses have been by two or three goals – a 3-1 loss at the hands of Atlanta, thanks in no small part to a 45-save performance from Ondrej Pavelec, and a 3-0 loss to Florida on the back of Tomas Vokoun’s 36-save shutout. The only real blowout came at the hands of the Rangers; Henrik Lundqvist made 31 saves for that shutout while Semyon Varlamov allowed seven goals on just 20 shots.
Imbalance between the pipes has been perhaps the most noticeable component of this particular stretch; a quick comparison shows just how unbalanced things have been:
- Capitals goaltenders: 0-6-2, 3.38 GAA, 0.868 SV%
- Opposition goaltenders: 8-0-0, 1.38 GAA, 0.964 SV%
The timing of this particular streak has been especially bad, with the Capitals being covered around the clock by HBO. The series has shone the spotlight on head coach Bruce Boudreau, often in a not especially flattering way. “He’s lost the room,” seems to be the opinion of hockey fans across the continent.
Personally, I don’t get it. If the Capitals have really lost their motivation, why do they keep outshooting their opponents? Can we blame the team’s goaltending woes on the coach? I don’t see how fans, with a very limited window into what the players are actually thinking, can make that assessment.
Again: this isn’t a blameless team here. They can’t start slowly, as they did against Boston, and they can’t slow down when they start strongly, as they did against Florida (shots 18-6 after one, 18-26 the rest of the way). But this is still a team that has lost a series of very tight games in no small part to weak goaltending in their own net and strong goaltending in the other net. One bounce would have made a critical difference in five of those games.
It may not be enough to save Boudreau’s job; maybe it shouldn’t be enough to save his job. But this team is nowhere near as bad as their record.