Capitals’ Slump Resistance Points to Playoff Potential

The Washington Capitals have lost 11 of their 28 games so far, six of which occurring in overtime or a shootout. The team’s 40 points is currently best in the Metropolitan Division and tied for best in the Eastern Conference and the entire NHL. Their ability to avoid any losing streaks, or point-less streaks, has played a factor in their success so far in 2021-22.

Capitals Handling Losses Well

The Capitals weren’t projected to play as well as they have this season, so they are somewhat of a surprise team. Well, it’s hard to fathom Washington as a true surprise considering the past 15 years and their roster, but they have played above expectations.

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There have been times when lapses have become worrisome for the cautiously optimistic fan base. However, the team seems to bounce back when asked to respond after a poor performance or a tough loss. The team has suffered two losing streaks this season, but no consecutive losses without earning at least a point. Their .714 point percentage is the fourth-best in the NHL.

Non-Losing Streaks

The Capitals went through a three-game skid from Nov. 1-6 which ended their eight-game point streak to start the season. As fans claimed they predicted the inevitable letdown, it wasn’t a far fall at all. Two of the teams they lost to were the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, and then they dropped a bad one to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Related: Capitals’ Defense is Keeping Them Atop the NHL Standings

The game against Florida was a good loss—if there are such things—however. Washington was down three to the Panthers but managed to come back and force overtime to earn the point, losing 5-4.

The Capitals again lost to the Panthers 5-4 on Nov. 30 and dropped their following match with the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout. The team is managing to at least stay in games when they aren’t playing at the level they’re capable of, which bodes well for them moving deeper into the season.

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On the other hand, it doesn’t bode well if they can’t finish a game in extra time. In the regular season, it’s fine because a point is still earned. In the playoffs, an overtime loss just means they get that much closer to booking tee times for the early summer. This has been an issue for Washington. They’ve played in 10 games that had to be settled in extra time and are just 2-8.

The promising news is that those two wins happened in their last two overtime games, both requiring a shootout. On Dec. 6 they defeated the Anaheim Ducks and this past Saturday they beat the Buffalo Sabres. Those two shootout wins sandwiched a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, so Washington could have very well suffered another three-game losing streak during that stretch. Despite sometimes blowing leads, they have also persevered and finished games which are good signs.

Even the Bad Losses Don’t Seem so Bad

Another positive from the Capitals’ defeats this season is how close the games have been. When they lose, the goal differential is only 1.27. When they win, it’s 2.35. Washington is closer to winning the games they lose than losing the games they win.

Related: Tom Wilson: 100-Goal Scorer, Grinder, Winter Olympic Outsider

The worst loss on the season happened at the gloves of the Seattle Kraken in the first-ever matchup between the franchises. Seattle won 5-2 on Nov. 21. The only other game the Capitals have lost by more than one goal was 4-2, which was the aforementioned recent loss to Pittsburgh. Not to worry, they beat the Penguins by five back on Nov. 14.  

Washington has lost to nine of their 20 different opponents this season so far. When given the opportunity for vengeance, they have earned a victory over four of the five. They are 0-1-1 against the Lightning.

OpponentGames PlayedRecordPoints %
Tampa Bay20-1-1.250
Los Angeles11-0-01.000
New Jersey11-0-01.000
New York Rangers11-0-01.000
San Jose11-0-01.000
Capitals’ 2021-22 Opponents

The Capitals have a chance at redemption against the Chicago Blackhawks this Wednesday at Capital One Arena. They see the Flyers on Dec 21 but won’t see Seattle and the Calgary Flames until March when they face them back-to-back.

A loss is still a loss, and though it can be argued that moral victories are just a pitch to boost player confidence and nothing else, a team is still capable of finding positives within defeat. They are trending upward with their play in overtime and they’re avoiding any major slumps. That will be incredibly helpful heading into the postseason if they can sustain such perseverance.

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