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Three and Out?

"I think it's been different each game, but now that it has happened a few times I think guys are thinking about it too much and maybe putting a lot of pressure on themselves instead of just playing the way we do the first couple periods. Right now, it is something that might be a little mental, and we have to get over it because we are professionals." - Chris Clark on the team's early season third period struggles

In each of their six games so far this season, the Caps have been either tied or held a lead in the third period, but have just a 2-2-2 record to show for it. If good teams hold third period leads and great teams take them, the Caps at present are, well, something else. They've yet to hold an opponent off the scoresheet in the third period (and have only done so in one second period, as opposed to five of six first periods), and their offense has been somewhat all-or-nothing in those stanzas, scoring two goals in each of three games and just one total in the other three.

Here's a (very early) look at some key stats on a period-by-period basis:

1st Period 2nd Period 3rd Period
Goals For Per Game 1.33 1.17 1.17
Goals Against Per Game 0.17 1.50 1.50
Shots on Goal Per Game 9.5 10.7 9.3
SOG Against Per Game 9.8 11.3 8.8
Save Percentage .983 .868 .830
Power Play Opportunities Per Game 1.83 1.50 1.67
Power Play Goals 2 0 4
Power Play Percentage 18.2 0.0 40.0
Times Shorthanded Per Game 1.50 2.33 1.33
Power Play Goals Against 0 3 3
Penalty Kill Percentage 1.000 78.6 62.5

Those second period numbers ain't so great either, are they?

As for the third periods, it's clear that the Caps haven't gotten great goaltending, defense or penalty killing when they need it most ("Other than that, how'd you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?"), but the numbers have been getting better - in three of the last four games, the Caps have had third-period save percentages of .909 or better (then again, they've only successfully killed three of the six third frame penalties they've faced during that span and haven't held an opponent to single-digit shots in any of those four thirds).

Whether the problems are mental (focus), physical (conditioning), philosophical (in-game coaching adjustments) or some combination of these or other factors, the Caps need to finish better. Much better. It's what great teams do.