Caps Playing Well, Want to Play BetterPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Although they are just one of 10 teams in NHL history to win each of their first seven games of the season, the Washington Capitals still believe they’ve got some upside to their game. “I still think we have a lot of room to improve,” says Caps center Brooks Laich. “That’s the scary thing. We’ve won so far, but I think we’ve maybe played to 30 or 40 percent of our potential. I still there is so much room for improvement with this team. Maybe I’m overconfident or over-proud or overzealous – I don’t know what the word would be – but I still think we can be a lot better and keep winning hockey games.” Each of the Caps’ first four wins of the season came by the slimmest of margins, a single goal. Two were overtime triumph and won was gained by having the upper hand in the post-game skills competition, a ritual the league refers to as a “shootout.” But each of Washington’s last three wins has been of the more comfortable variety, coming by a final margin of at least three goals. Even still, Laich can identify at least one area that’s still in need of some shoring up. “We’re giving up too many shots,” he says. “I think we’re still giving up over 30 shots a game. We want to control the puck and we want to get 35 to 40 shots each night and only give up 16 to maybe 23 shots. If we do that, we’re going to be on the power play, our goalies are going to be making saves and our penalty kill shouldn’t be taxed too much. We should be able to really control the game if we can do that.” Washington has surrendered an average of 32.7 shots on goal per game, the sixth highest total in the league. Giving up fewer than 30 shots a game is a noble and worthy endeavor, but getting down between 16 and 23 shots against per game – as Laich suggests – isn’t likely to happen. Since the lockout, the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings have allowed the fewest shots on goal per game in any of those six single seasons at 23.5. Discipline has been a strong suit for the Capitals in the early going. With 24 minor penalties assessed and an average of 8.1 PIM per game, the Caps are the league’s least penalized team. Washington has been shorthanded for just 36:50 in its seven games to date this season. The Capitals are 28th in the NHL with a total of 37:48 in power play time to date. They’ve been efficient with the extra man, scoring eight times on 31 shots in their 27 manpower advantage opportunities.
Over the last several months, the Capital have divested themselves of several former first-round draft choices in the NHL Entry Draft. They dealt David Steckel to the New Jersey Devils last February, opted not to re-sign unrestricted free agent center Boyd Gordon and unrestricted free agent