5 Stats That Should Make the Washington Capitals Worried Moving Forward
While we're just eight games in, it's never too early to start examining the trends a team is displaying statistically.
That's especially true for a team like the Washington Capitals, who have turned in a handful of dominant performances but have endured through some tough outings as well.
Sitting at 4-2-2 following a three-game road swing in Western Canada, the Caps are more or less where they'd like to be at this point in the season. But in order to survive in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division, more consistency will be needed.
With that in mind, here's a look at five stats that should make the Capitals and their fans worry going forward.
Faceoff Percentage: 49.2
Despite boasting a world-class pivot in Nicklas Backstrom and what appears to be a formidable group of forwards down the middle, draws continue to be an area of concern for the Caps.
Currently, Washington stands 18th in the league with a win percentage of 49.2 in the circle, and that simply isn't good enough for a squad that's aiming to become a more difficult opponent to play against.
Strength on faceoffs also would appear to be a strong predictor of success in today's NHL, as all four of last season's conference finalists rank within the top half of the league, and both the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens are within the top five.
Goals Against in Period 1: 7
Thus far, the Caps have looked like a much more defensively responsible squad under Barry Trotz, as indicated by their ninth-ranked 17 goals against.
However, Washington sits in the bottom half of the league with seven goals given up during the first period of play. And given that the Caps have yet to win a game in which they did not score first, it's a trend that must be reversed going forward.
By nature, the Capitals are a team that runs on emotion. As such, early goals have a tendency to deflate the team from the net out.
If the number of first-period goals scored by opponents can be reduced, Washington will stand a much better chance at overcoming deficits, particularly when recognizing Braden Holtby's penchant for giving up goals in bunches.
Goals by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Brooks Laich: 0
As always, Washington's offense will live and die by the performances of Alex Ovechkin and Backstrom. But like every other team, the Caps are much harder to beat when receiving production from all four forward lines.
As such, it has to be pretty alarming that forwards with the offensive pedigrees of Brooks Laich and Evgeny Kuznetsov are still in search of their first goals of the season.
For Laich, his three-game absence due to injury is somewhat to blame for his goalless start. Nonetheless, the former 25-goal man has been given too many chances to not have found the back of the net yet.
And in the case of Kuznetsov, the former KHL All-Star and World Junior Championship MVP has far too much skill to have just three assists in eight games.
Yes, there's something to be said about the way Kuznetsov's been used by Trotz, as the sublimely talented Russian's been relegated to fourth-liner minutes for the most part.
Regardless of the causes, both Kuznetsov and Laich need to contribute more offensively. Relying solely on the dynamic duo and rookie sensation Andre Burakovsky for consistent production is a recipe for disaster.
Games in Which Alex Ovechkin Has Scored: 3
With five goals through eight games, it's not as if the Capitals should be even looking for the panic button when it comes to Ovechkin's offensive output.
Yet the three-time Hart Trophy recipient's lack of production remains a concern. Washington's almost always a better team when the captain's playing with confidence.
Yes, Ovechkin's had some big nights, as he almost single-handedly willed his team to three of a possible four points with two-goal efforts against elite teams in Boston and the San Jose Sharks.
But after leading the league in goals in each of the last two seasons, more is expected of the franchise player. For Washington to reach its potential during the regular season, Ovechkin's got to light the lamp with more regularity.
Starts in Which Braden Holtby's Save Percentage Has Been Below .900: 2
Since breaking into the NHL as a starter during the 2011-12 postseason, Holtby's proved to be spectacular at times but absolutely dreadful during others.
Last season, he struggled mightily to produce consistent efforts down the stretch, which led then-general manager George McPhee to deal for veteran stopper Jaroslav Halak.
But Holtby once again began 2014-15 as Washington's clear-cut starting man. While he's produced a solid 3-1-1 mark, his tendency to give up goals in bunches has come to light on multiple occasions.
Against San Jose, Holtby gave up three goals in the first period, digging the Caps a seemingly insurmountable hole.
Ultimately, Washington's offense bailed backup Justin Peters out and salvaged a point, but Holtby turned in another poor showing against the Edmonton Oilers, as the 25-year-old surrendered three goals on 20 shots against a very beatable opponent.