What Do the Capitals Need to Do to Be Successful in 2014-2015?
The Washington Capitals were not a part of the 2014 NHL Playoffs. In 2013-2014, the Capitals missed the playoffs by only three points. It is not a huge margin, but there was no “Rocking the Red” in the playoffs.
With a new general manager, new coaches, and some fresh faces on the roster, what can the Capitals do to be successful in 2014-2015? There are many reasons why the Capitals failed as a team last season. So what can the Capitals do as a club to improve their play to get back into the postseason?
Here are five easy things the Capitals can improve for the 2014-2015 season:
This was an unknown statistic that the Capitals were abysmal at last season. The Capitals were ranked 25th in team puck possession in 2013-2014, ranking only higher than Buffalo, Toronto, Edmonton, Colorado, and Calgary. This poor puck possession ranking is a reflection of their abysmal scoring at 5 on 5. They scored 139 goals at 5 on 5 last season, which ranked them 21st in the NHL.
During many games last season, it seemed that if the Capitals powerplay did not score during the game, they were not going to win.
Puck possession is an important statistic to think about. All of the NHL’s elite clubs (Boston, Los Angeles, San Jose, Chicago) all score well in team puck possession. The natural way to think about puck possession is like this: if you have the puck on your stick, you should be able to score goals more often and you should be able to keep more pucks out of your own net.
The Capitals poor score in puck possession last season was caused by poor coaching and scheme and it was also because of a blueline that was not quite up to NHL standards. Good defense-cores help drive puck possession, but the Capitals had many guys in positions they should have not been put in last season. With an improved blueline heading into 2014-2015, the puck possession numbers should creep up for the Washington Capitals.
For many years, Barry Trotz made the most of what he was given in Nashville. Nashville has not been a high scoring team in a while, but Trotz’s defensive style helped give the Predators a solid puck possession score in 2013-2014. The Predators were ranked 14th in the NHL last season in team puck possession. Imagine how many more goals the Capitals would score and imagine how many less goals the Capitals would keep out of their net if they had respectable team puck possession numbers.
One of the saving graces of the Washington Capitals recently has been their lethal powerplay attack. They were ranked 1st in the NHL in 2013-2014, burning teams with their signature “1-3-1” setup.
If the powerplay clicks like it has for the past little while, the Capitals should have no trouble scoring at will with the man advantage. It is hard for an opposing team to cover all the talent the Capitals have on their powerplay. They move the puck very well and they all have quick releases and shots.
Shots Against, Goals Against, and Defensive Play
How many times did you watch the Capitals turn the puck over in their defensive zone, with the ultimate result becoming a goal against? It was a common occurrence and has been for a while. Bad things always seemed to happen when the Capitals defensemen could not clear the puck out of the zone, or when one of the Capitals forwards turned the puck over in the defensive or neutral zones.
The Capitals goalies saw a lot of shots last year. The Capitals gave up the fourth most amount of shots in the NHL, just ahead of Toronto, Ottawa, and Buffalo. On top of that, the Capitals were ranked 21st in goals against. Giving up a ton of shots and goals against will not lead to any kind of success in the regular season or postseason. When goaltenders face close to 40 shots a game every game, they get worn down after a while. A young guy like Braden Holtby will not be able to build any confidence in his game if he has to face 40 shots per game.
Adam Oates did not let his defensemen push the puck up the ice much. As a result, the puck would often get turned over in the neutral and defensive zones.
Barry Trotz should help the Capitals with their defensive zone assignments. The Capitals were very sloppy last year and looked lost on what to do. It became a real fire drill in the defensive zone at times, but Trotz is a defensive zone specialist and should teach the Capitals blueliners how to be tougher to play against.
Goal scoring is at a premium in today’s NHL. While the Capitals were not horrible scoring goals overall, their “goal scoring” is largely inflated due to their potent powerplay.
The Capitals only had three skaters who scored more than 20 goals in 2013-2014: Alex Ovechkin (51), Troy Brouwer (25), and Joel Ward (24). There are some players on the roster that more goal production is needed from: Marcus Johansson (8), Brooks Laich (8), Mike Green (9).
The ability to score lots of goals is there on the Capitals roster. Some of the guys missed some time due to injuries. Hopefully some of the Capitals young guys like Tom Wilson and Evgeny Kuznetsov will receive bigger roles on the team so they can help out with the secondary goal scoring.
A Better Braden Holtby
Braden Holtby is the future of the Washington Capitals in net. He had a less than impressive season last year. He is now under the direction of Mitch Korn, who is one of the best goalie coaches in the NHL.
Holtby will be a big reason if the Capitals perform well or poorly. He only had 23 wins in 48 games last season. He had a high 2.85 GAA and average .915 SV%. Those are numbers that Holtby and the Capitals do not want him to be at and want him to improve on.
Holtby will be backed up by Justin Peters in 2014-2015, but he is still “the #1 guy” in Washington for the time being. Peters will help push Holtby along, but Holtby has to find a way to reinvent his game. If Holtby can get back to the way he played in the spring of 2012, the Capitals will have a lot of success.
Holtby is in a contract year, so he will have something to prove to Capitals management. If he wants big money and long term security, he knows he has to perform well this year.
Thanks for tuning in!
I am from Virginia. I am covering the Washington Capitals for The Hockey Writers. I love to write and I am a huge sports fanatic – especially hockey. Follow me on Twitter: @Canucksfin56