Monday, November 18, 2013

2014 First Quarter Grades

This is a sort of wrap-up of each quarter of the season as they come and arrive. Check out my version for the end of 2013 to get more info.

The Caps have had a pretty good first quarter of the year. We are currently atop the Metropolitan Division and have played and hung with/beat many tough teams. However, is it enough? Let's see the grades.

Grade: 90% (A-)
The Caps are only 20th in the league in goals allowed per game, but they are 5th in the league in team save percentage. That can only mean one thing: the goaltending is good, the defense is terrible (more on that below). Despite a rocky start to the season, Holtby and Neuvirth have been fantastic as of late, peaking currently at the 46-save masterpiece by Holtby against St. Louis yesterday. Both goaltenders once again came in with high expectations, and they seem to have all but met them thus far.
Top Performer: Braden Holtby
I really don't need to do any analysis for this.

Grade: 68% (D)
The Caps defense has been absolutely pathetic, especially at even strength. Although people like Carlson and Alzner are doing well, and Nate Schmidt, Steve Oleksy, and Alex Urbom are not doing bad either, the Caps are allowing way too many shots on goal. Against St. Louis, the Caps allowed 47 shots. Although there were not very many quality scoring opportunities, that is still way too many shots. Whenever the save percentage is so high and the GA/game is so high as well, that says something about the poor effort from the D.
Top Performer: Karl Alzner
John Carlson is the tempting choice, but the Caps D would have been even worse without Alzner. He has turned into the top shutdown defenseman for Washington, and currently leads the Caps in plus/minus. He also has chipped in with four assists. Although the defense must get better, Alzner has been a bright spot in an otherwise sad group.

Grade: 90% (A-)
The Caps offense has been firing on all cylinders; well, not all, but most of them. The second line still has to improve, but the MoJo-Backy-OV line has been fantastic, and the 'third line' of Chimera-Grabo-Wardo is arguably our most dangerous. The fourth line, led by Michael Latta and Tom Wilson, has also been pretty good for one of the top offenses in the league.
Top Performer: Nick Backstrom
I was sorely tempted to put Ovechkin here, and no doubt he is deserving, but Backstrom is in the midst of a sensational season. He has been able to put up points with and without Ovechkin, and is tied with him for the team lead in points. He is only behind Joe Thornton (and ahead of Sidney Crosby) in assists so far, and has shown that he should be in the discussion for the Top 5 centers in the league.

All in all, the Caps have had a solid start to the season. Although the defense needs work, the offense and goaltending has been very good, and has carried the Caps through the first quarter of the season. Hopefully this success will translate into an even better rest of the year.

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