First Things First

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

Washington closes out a four-game road trip tonight in Ottawa against the suddenly smoking Senators. Not so long ago, the Sens were reeling. In the midst of an 0-6-1 run that put them on the brink of falling out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference. That seems like quite a while back now. Since that rough stretch of highway, the Sens have picked up points in five straight games (4-0-1). That prosperous stretch has given the Sens a relatively strong hold on seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings. With 21 games remaining, the Sens are closer to fourth place (four points away) than they are to eighth place (five points). Like the Capitals, Ottawa has struggled in the first period of games this season. Washington has been outscored by a combined total of 52-39 in the first period of its 59 games this season while Ottawa has been outgunned 59-39 in the first frame of its 61 games to date in 2011-12. During the life of their current five-game streak with at least a point, the Sens have turned that trend around. They’ve outscored their opponents by a combined 7-2 in their last five games. Only four teams in the league have scored fewer first-period goals than the Caps and the Sens: San Jose (38), Minnesota (38), New York Rangers (35) and Los Angeles (28). Last season, the Caps were 29th in the league in first-period goals with 54. That’s a far cry from their halcyon days of earlier seasons. The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals team of 2009-10 scored 92 first-period goals to lead the league. Think about that for a minute. That team scored 92 first-period goals in 82 games. Since then, the Caps have scored 93 first-period goals in 141 games. In 2008-09, the Caps scored 86 first-period goals, just one behind Boston for the league lead. The 2007-08 Capitals scored 75 first-period goals, tied for fourth in the NHL. Washington is 14-1-1 when leading after the first period this season; that’s the second-best mark in the league in that situation. That’s the good news. The bad news is the Caps have held the lead after the first period just 16 times this season, and that’s the fifth fewest in the NHL. Washington has led after 20 minutes just four times in its 30 road games this season. Going back to 2007-08, the Caps were stronger in this area in years past as well. Washington led 29 times after the first in 2007-08, 36 times in 2008-09, 39 times in 2009-10 and 27 times last season. Washington scored the game’s first goal 43 times in 2007-08, 45 times in 2008-09, 52 times in 2009-10 and down to 35 times in 2010-11. The Caps have scored the game’s first goal 29 times in 59 games this season, and they are 18-6-3 when they do so. With 23 games remaining and each seemingly more crucial than the one that came before it, getting off to better starts would obviously benefit the Caps going forward. “Usually when we win, that’s what we do,” says Caps center Brooks Laich of scoring in the first. “And when we lose, our record is not very good when we don’t score first. “I don’t know if we’re waiting to attack or what’s going on, but we have to shoot more pucks, I think. Get more shots and more chances in the first period and not feel the game out so much.”

next up:

Caps Need To Help Themselves

January 14, 2013

We’re four days and two more Capitals games away from the 2012 NHL trade deadline at 3 p.m. on Monday. Although the Capitals have flatlined for about five weeks now, they’ve also managed to remain within two points of the top spot in the Southeast Division and eighth place in the Eastern Conference


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