The Washington Capitals had a successful Canadian road trip. They managed at least a point in the three contests, going 2-0-1. They have won four out of their last five games to start March as well.
The team seemed to find their groove offensively, especially on the power play. The main reason for this is that the top-six are healthy and producing.
Capitals Having a Solid March
It has been a tough 2022. Panic set in after disastrous trade deadline moves and missing-the-postseason predictions, with little hope. Then spring brought new life. There still isn’t enough of a sample size to label the Capitals as contenders again; the defense gave up just one fewer goal than the offense scored during the Canada stretch. They also surrendered an average of 33.7 shots per game, which was the 10th most in the league during that span. The offense managed 31 shots and four goals per game.
Capitals’ Top-Six Finding Scoring Touch
During the team’s five-game point streak, the Capitals have averaged 4.2 goals per game, which is good for seventh in the NHL since the start of March. Expanding the sample size also makes the defense look much better. Their 2.6 goals-against in March ranks fifth in the NHL. That is primarily due to Vitek Vanecek returning to action. The goalie is 4-0-0 with a .930 save percentage while averaging 2.24 goals against per game.
Yet, it all comes back to Washington’s strength: offense. More specifically, the Capitals’ top-six forwards have been producing mightily of late. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Anthony Mantha, Nicklas Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie accounted for 19 of the team’s 31 points, or 61%, during the Canada stretch. Kuznetsov led the way with five points, and Oshie added four.
The offense maintained a 30% success rate on the power play, which has brought their season average up to 18.6%. This upward trend coincides with both Mantha and Oshie being on the ice. Even if they’re not producing, they have to be monitored by the opposition and therefore open the ice up for their teammates.
No Place Like Away From Home
The games in Canada were close and could have gone either way, which can be read as either a positive or negative. All three games were decided by one goal, and two of them went into overtime. Though they made a comeback against the Calgary Flames, one of the Western Conference’s best teams, they also allowed the Vancouver Canucks to get back into the game.
Seven of the 11 goals the team allowed came in the third period or overtime. By contrast, Washington scored seven of their 12 goals in the third period or overtime. Those three games balanced out, but it will be difficult to sustain those results moving forward and into the postseason.
With Vanecek, Mantha, and Oshie all healthy, some of Washington’s woes have been cured. The road has also been good for the Capitals. They are 18-7-5 away from Capital One Arena, the second-best road record in the NHL. In 2018, when they won the franchise’s only Stanley Cup, they clinched every series on the road. They are currently in the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, which means they wouldn’t have home-ice advantage (or perhaps disadvantage) in any round.
Two other important notes: In Calgary, Ovechkin tied Jaromir Jagr for third in all-time goals scored in NHL history at 766, and against the Edmonton Oilers, Backstrom reached his 1,000th-point milestone.
Washington hosts the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
Carl Knauf is an author and master journalist (so the degree says). He specializes in sports–primarily hockey–music, and the publishing industry. His sports writing has been featured on The Hockey Writers, Last Word On Sports, and local newspapers in his home state of New Mexico. Carl covers the Washington Capitals with accurate reporting and detailed analysis to help readers answer basic and burning questions such as, “Why did the Capitals not win the Stanley Cup (again)?”
Carl greatly enjoys interacting with his audience (except trolls who he refuses to embarrass with a response). Please use the comment section at the bottom of every THW article, and also feel free to chat with and follow him on Twitter. For interview and feature requests, please visit his Muck Rack profile.