In the dying seconds of Monday’s game against the Golden Knights, the Capitals struggled to put any sustained pressure on Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner as the seconds ticked away.
But it wasn’t the process that worried the Capitals. The results haven’t been there for the team the entire month as a 1-0 loss at Capital One Arena dropped the team to 23-11-9 on the year. And a large reason for the dip in play has been because their offense hasn’t been up to snuff of late.
The Capitals are now 3-5-2 in the month of January as a tough offensive month continued against the Golden Knights, leaving them searching for answers.
“We just got to get that confidence back, we’ve got to start scoring goals, getting secondary scoring, our power play has gotta get going,” Conor Sheary said. “When all those things click we’re a dangerous team. It seems right now it’s not going that way. I think we’ll find it, I think we all have confidence in that. Hopefully next game is when it starts.”
In January, the Capitals have tallied eight points but are 30th in the league with 2.3 goals per game, ahead of just the Kraken and the Flyers. Their defense and goaltending haven’t been the lone issues, as it’s smack in the middle of the league at 16th with 3.2 goals allowed per game.
But, the power play hasn’t been much better as the team’s 10.7% mark in January places them 29th in the league, ahead of only the Kraken, Blue Jackets and Coyotes. On the season, they are 30th in the NHL at 14.2%.
The Capitals had five power-play chances against the Golden Knights, including nearly a full two-minute five-on-three, but came away empty-handed. They had a few quality chances and put eight power-play shots on Lehner, but were turned aside on all eight tries.
“That seems like the theme a little bit, good looks and no goal,” Tom Wilson said. “So, at the end of the day, one of us just has to put it in the net. That's our job, that's why we're out there. We've been generating a lot of good looks on the power play, just they're not going in so we've got to find a way to bear down and put it in the back of the net.”
The numbers to back up the Capitals' reasoning are there, too.
This month, according to Natural Stat Trick, they rank 11th in shot attempt percentage (52.54%), 10th in shots for percentage (52.27%), 15th in expected goals percentage (51.81%) and 13th in high-danger chances for percentage (51.52%).
Meaning, the looks they’re getting aren’t necessarily bad chances, they’ve just not been able to capitalize on them. Their 6.61% shooting percentage this month puts them 25th in the league.
“We focus more on the process and how we’re playing the game and, for me, there’s things that we’re doing that I think will lead to success,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “If we were getting outplayed, if we were playing poorly, if we weren’t ready, those are things that you worry about maybe a lull or things that you’re concerned about. I think if the guys stay with it on the power play, I think if they stay with it 5-on-5, eventually goals will drop.”
Still, the matter of fact is that the Capitals aren’t scoring enough at five-on-five and their power play hasn’t been worth much of anything (for a myriad of reasons) this season.
And at some point, no matter what types of looks they're getting at even strength and on the power play, they’ve got to find a way to get those shots to find the back of the net.
“I can't really put my finger on it, per se, but it's got a lot of different guys moving around, moving in, moving out, but we're pretty confident with whatever group we're going out on the ice with,” Wilson said. “We've just got to find a way to get back to generating a little more offensively.”