Washington Capitals' 5 Most Impressive Stats Early in 2013-14
The Capitals have been an elite team, at least statistically, since the 2007-08 campaign, and that trend has continued during Adam Oates' first full season behind the Washington bench.
If nothing else, this team has consistently put up extremely impressive offensive numbers, even if the win totals and playoff results haven't always been indicative of it.
So far, with the team at 9-8-1 thus far, Alex Ovechkin and company haven't exactly lived up to expectations in the early going, but this hockey club has put up big numbers in a number of different ways early on in 2013-14.
With that in mind, here's a look at the Caps' most impressive statistics from the first 18 games of the season.
Yes, the Capitals dropped a shootout loss to Phoenix over the weekend, but there's no questioning that this team is arguably the game's most dangerous unit in that regard.
Since Oates replaced Dale Hunter behind the bench, the Caps have gone 6-1 in shootouts (3-1 this season), which has been a big factor in the team's success since the beginning of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.
What's most encouraging is that the Caps haven't always had to rely on Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom (though both have been exceptional for Washington in clutch situations), as Martin Erat, Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich and Mikhail Grabovski have all come up big when called upon.
While a team never wants to rely upon shootout proficiency to get wins, Washington's ability to get the job done when needed is certainly something of a safety blanket when games happen to go to an overtime session.
Last season, Nicklas Backstrom was Washington's No. 2 offensive center behind Mike Ribeiro for a good chunk of the 48-game schedule, but since being reunited with Ovechkin midway through the year, the slick Swede has gotten back to being the productive pivot that he was earlier in his career.
So far, Backstrom's picked up 15 assists (good for second in the league) and 20 points through 18 games, and that's been a big reason why Washington's power play has been firing on all cylinders.
A pass-first center by trait, Backstrom's ability to find Ovechkin, Brouwer, Grabovski or Marcus Johansson in big moments has been critical to the team's success, and he's been lethal in shootout situations as well.
Furthermore, despite his inclination to look for the open man, Backstrom's been shooting the puck more frequently (he's already fired 39 shots in 18 games, compared to 82 in 48 contests last season), which is a good thing for the Caps, because the former 100-point man has deceptively effective accuracy.
Ovechkin on Fire
Just as he did during the later stages of last season, Alex Ovechkin has been dominant for the Caps in 2013-14, as the three-time MVP has notched 13 goals and 20 points, putting himself among the league leaders in both categories.
As of now, Ovechkin's scoring at a more rapid rate than he did last season, which is very impressive when considering that he led the league with 32 goals in 48 games.
At this point, this much is clear: Ovechkin has to be the team's best player in order for Washington to have a chance at winning games.
And for now, he's doing just that, and his league-leading seven power-play goals and 136 shots are a big reason why this club is still above .500.
Ovechkin's expected to score goals and serve as the focal point of the Caps' offensive attack, and so far this season, he's doing just that.
Dominant Power Play
The Capitals have been absolutely lethal on the power play, as once again, Oates has Ovechkin, Backstrom and Mike Green torching the rest of the league with the man advantage.
Washington's setup is virtually unstoppable, as it puts Backstrom and Johansson down low on the left side and gives them the options of feeding Brouwer in the low slot or Ovechkin on the opposite wing.
And if they're both covered, Green or John Carlson are both more than capable of uncorking bombs from the point.
All of these factors have combined to give Washington not only the most effective power play in the game at 26 percent efficiency but also a league-leading 11 power-play goals in 18 games.
Ward Finding the Net
After scoring just 14 goals during his first 112 games with the Capitals, Joel Ward has bounced back in a big way this season, as the former Nashville Predator grinder's potted eight goals already this year.
Part of Ward's improvement offensively is obviously due to the increase in power-play time he's seen this year, as the 32-year-old has found the back of the net three times in 18 games with the man advantage after scoring just one in the two seasons prior.
While it remains unlikely that Ward will continue to produce at this clip, which would see him notch roughly 36 goals over a full 82-game schedule, the secondary scoring he's provided has been vital to the Capitals' success.