Here is the most pleasant early-season surprise and biggest disappointment for the Washington Capitals of the 2023-24 NHL season.
The Washington Capitals missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. And that’s a hard pill for a team like Washington to swallow. Especially considering how many years it had been since they missed the playoffs. Besides, any team with a legendary scorer like Alex Ovechkin is going to feel immensely disappointed when results don’t fall their way.
Washington desperately wanted to avoid a repeat of faith in 2023-24. However, they walked a bit of a tightrope in the offseason. The Caps made moves that could have had massive rewards for their team. But none of these moves were earth-shattering, nor were they incredibly risky.
Things began on the wrong foot for the Caps. Washington struggled early on as they tried to find their strides. Over the season has progressed, though, their fortunes have turned around. They aren’t a Stanley Cup contender by any means, but they are playing a lot better.
With this in mind, let’s assess some aspects of this team. Here is the most pleasant surprise and biggest disappointment for the Washington Capitals early in the 2023-24 NHL season.
Goaltending depth is on display
The Capitals lost starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper earlier in the month. Any time you lose a goalie with a Stanley Cup ring, it can hurt. Especially given the volatility of the goaltending position. Luckily for Washington, Charlie Lindgren and Hunter Shepard have held down the fort.
The team won all three games without Kuemper in the lineup. In fact, they recorded a huge shutout against the Vegas Golden Knights in their most recent game. Lindgren made 35 saves against the defending champions to secure a major victory.
Overall, though, the Capitals’ backup goalies have done their part. They have played six of Washington’s 14 games this season. Lindgren and Shepard have combined for a sparkling .936 save percentage so far. For comparison sake, Lindgren and Kuemper combined for a .905 save percentage last season.
Lindgren, in particular, has stepped up. In 2022-23, the Capitals puck-stopper posted an .899 save percentage through the 31 games he played. Through four games this year, he has an other-worldly .947 mark.
Of course, four games is a small sample size. Furthermore, no one knows whether he and Shepard can continue playing this well when needed. That said, the Capitals have had backups in goal for nearly half of their season so far. And so far, they have helped keep Washington’s head above water.
Capitals’ offense is a disaster
Washington’s goaltending has proven to be a bit of a strong point so far. However, their offense is the exact opposite. No team in the Eastern Conference has a worse goals-for-per-game mark than Washington. The lowly San Jose Sharks are the only team with a lower goals-for-per-game total than the Caps.
Even having the man advantage hasn’t helped matters. In fact, the Capitals have the worst power play in the Eastern Conference. Only the St. Louis Blues have a worse power play in the entire league as of this writing.
This is incredibly disappointing considering the players on the team. Alex Ovechkin is usually one of the best goal-scorers in the league. He’s currently chasing Wayne Gretzky for the all-time mark in goals scored Furthermore, they have others who can chip in points such as John Carlson, Tom Wilson, and Dylan Strome.
Those players have done their part to score points when needed. But more is clearly needed as they continue to push forward this year. If the Capitals have any plans to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, an offensive shot in the arm is necessary for this team.