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Some Numbers Behind the Numbers

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As dazzling as the Caps' top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin has been so far this young season, there are troubling numbers behind the scoring totals, namely in the number of shots against that the Caps are allowing when the trio is on the ice. The raw numbers are bad (with opponents averaging 31.1 shots on goal per sixty minutes of 5-on-5 hockey while Ovechkin is on the ice, 34.8 against Semin and 35.6 against Backstrom), but what stands out even more is the shot differential (shots on goal for minus those against) for each: -5.5, -8.9 and -8.1, from left wing to right.

These early numbers are in stark contrast to last season, in which Backstrom's 27.1 shots against per sixty was the trio's high-water mark and his +4.9 differential was the lowest of the three, with Semin's +9.9 leading the way. In other words, through five games (obviously a tiny sample size), the five-aside shot differential between the Caps and their opponents while Alex Semin is on the ice is 18 shots per sixty minutes worse than it was a season ago, with Backstrom and Ovechkin's numbers not far behind.

Of course, hockey's about out-scoring your opponent, and the Caps' top line has a combined plus-12 rating thus far and the three Young Guns sit atop the League's even strength points table. But behind those impressive positive stats are some numbers that need to change in a hurry... or perhaps it will be the line combination that will need to change.

One last note: a quick look at these stats applied to the team's defensemen reveals that the Caps have just one blueliner who doesn't have a negative shot differential so far this season - the oft-scratched Jeff Schultz.