Sunday, October 07, 2007

Winds of Change

One of the keys to becoming a good team, a playoff-worthy team, is finding balanced scoring throughout your lineup. You can't win on the shoulders of one or two people, no matter how talented or prolific they may be.

Last year the Caps opened the season with a loss to the Rangers and a win at home against the Canes. Through those two games the Caps had 7 goals and the scoring broke down as follows:

Ovechkin - 2 goals
Semin - 4 goals
Clark - 4 assists
Pothier - 4 assists
Beech - 2 assists
Fata - 1 goal, 1 assist

...and that was it.

Look at the difference this year through two games, with only 5 goals scored:

Ovechkin - 1 goal, 1 assist
Erskine - 1 goal, 1 assist
Kozlov - 1 goal, 1 assist
Backstrom - 2 assists
Jurcina - 1 goal
Nylander - 1 goal
Green - 1 assist
Semin - 1 assist

So the Caps have scored fewer goals and yet more people are getting involved, including a significantly improved rate of production from the blue line.

And what about shots on goal? The Caps have peppered opposing goaltenders with 73 shots through two games, and look at the breakdown:

Ovechkin - 12
Kozlov - 9
Pettinger - 8
Nylander - 8
Poti - 6
Semin - 4
Laich - 4
Morrisonn - 3
Jurcina - 3
Pothier - 3
Erskine - 3
Green - 2
Fleischmann - 2
Clark - 2
Gordon - 2
Steckel - 1
Backstrom - 1

Last year five players had no shots through two games, not including the goaltenders. This year only four players have yet to register a shot - Brashear, who has played sparingly in the first two games, Bradley, who has only played one game with limited ice time...and the goalies.

And I'm okay with Johnny and Olie not getting shots on goal.

More good things:
- Only three Caps are a minus through two games. Everyone else is even or a plus player, with the team +/- at 10.
- The Caps have only taken 9 penalties and have killed off all of them.
- 63 shots against at this point last season; 52 against this year. Even better? One goal allowed, for a combined save percentage of .981 for our goaltending tandem.
- Not to take away from the performances put in by both Olie and Johnny, either, but those numbers have more to do with the whole team playing defense and less to do with goaltending.

These are little changes and we should as always heed the caveat that it is early - too early to get overly confident about things like this. There's still work to be done before this team is ready and we've got 80 games to go. But these little changes could give way to bigger change down the line, and at this point that's really all we could ask for.

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