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Unleashing the Fury... 20 Minutes at a Time

An ability to score in bunches has made the Caps one of the NHL's most explosive offensive teams

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret that the Caps have struggled in some key areas this year - but offensive production generally hasn't been one of them. In fact, they've scored 107 goals so far this year, good enough for sixth-most in the NHL and second in the East behind only Pittsburgh - a goals-per-game rate of just under 3, seventh-best in the League. It's not all that surprising, of course, considering that the lineup includes the League's best goal-scorer and one of the best power plays.

What perhaps is surprising is how much of this prolific scoring has come in bursts, within the 20-minute confines of a single period.

It's a trend that started all the way back in the second game of the season, when they put together a three-goal second period en route to a comeback shootout victory over the Calgary Flames. Including that outburst, they've had at least three goals in a single period an amazing fourteen times, with the latest one taking place Saturday night against the Devils:

Date Opp Result Period Goals Scored
12/21/2013 NJD OTL 2nd 3
12/20/2013 CAR W 2nd 3
12/15/2013 PHI SOW 3rd 3
12/10/2013 TBL SOW 2nd 3
12/8/2013 NYR W 2nd 3
12/7/2013 NSH W 1st 3
11/27/2013 OTT L 1st 3
11/17/2013 STL W 1st 3
11/9/2013 PHX SOL 2nd 3
11/5/2013 NYI W 2nd 5
11/1/2013 PHI W 2nd 5
10/22/2013 WPG SOW 2nd 3
10/14/2013 EDM W 2nd 3
10/3/2013 CGY SOW 2nd 3

Considering they've only played 36 games total, that means they've scored at least three times in a single period roughly once every 2.5 games so far this year. How good is that? Well, just check out how it stacks up against the rest of the NHL:

Team GP 3-Goal Periods Team GP 3-Goal Periods
CHI 38 14 BOS 36 5
WSH 36 14 PHX 35 5
STL 35 12 NYI 37 5
ANA 38 10 TOR 38 5
L.A 37 9 PHI 36 5
WPG 38 9 COL 35 5
DAL 35 8 OTT 38 4
CAR 36 7 DET 38 4
EDM 38 7 T.B 36 3
S.J 36 7 N.J 37 3
VAN 39 7 CGY 36 2
PIT 38 7 FLA 37 1
CBJ 36 7 NYR 37 1
NSH 36 6 MIN 38 1
MTL 38 6 BUF 36 0

Given how lopsided the two conferences appear to be so far this season, it's nice to see the Caps up among the top Western Conference teams in this department - doubling up the next-highest out of the East, with three fellow Metropolitan Division dwellers tied at seven three-goal bursts apiece.

A few more stats and facts about the single-period offense:

  • The Caps are one of just four teams (along with Chicago, Dallas and Philadelphia) to score five goals in a single period this season... and they are the only one of the four to have done it twice.
  • Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson have combined for 18 of the 46 goals scored in the 14 periods, and combined for a whopping 50 points. And while Ovechkin paces the trio (and everyone else) in goals with 13, it's Backstrom who leads the way in total points, his 20 edging out Ovechkin's 17.
  • Ovechkin has scored two of the three (or four or five) goals in a single period 5 times - but hasn't scored a single-period hat trick. Yet.
  • Only twice have the Caps scored at least three goals in a period without the top trio picking up at least a point - first on December 8 against the Rangers and again on Saturday night.
  • Despite the top-line dominance, the Caps have actually seen some pretty balanced contributions throughout the lineup:

    Player G A Pts
    Nicklas Backstrom 2 18 20
    Alex Ovechkin 13 4 17
    Marcus Johansson 3 10 13
    Joel Ward 5 6 11
    Mikhail Grabovski 4 6 10
    Troy Brouwer 5 5 10
    Jason Chimera 3 5 8
    Mike Green 1 7 8
    Eric Fehr 1 4 5
  • Troy Brouwer leads the way among the rest of the pack with points in nine of the 14 periods (although unsurprisingly all but two of his ten points were collected on the power play). Hot on his heels are Mike Green, Mikhail Grabovski and Joel Ward, who have points in 8 of the 14.
  • Of the 46 goals scored over the 14 periods, 29 of them came at even strength, 16 of them on the power play... and one picked up on a penalty shot (love you, Grabo).
  • While the Caps have scored three or more goals in a single period 14 times, they've only given up three in a period five times - and all five games also featured a three-goal period for the Caps.
  • The Caps have picked up at least one power-play goal in ten of the 14 multi-goal periods; only twice have all three been scored on the power play, both in the last two weeks. No other team in the League has done that even once.

As nice as it is to know this team is capable of scoring in bunches, of course, it's not all sunshine and rainbows (as if anything ever is).

For one thing, these bursts of offense have been the most concentrated in the second period, with ten of the fourteen occurrences in the middle twenty minutes (the late-game rally against the Flyers a week ago serving as the only time they've scored more than twice in the third period). They trail only Chicago in second period goals, and yet are among the worst when it comes to first period tallies - which means they often need these strong second periods to overcome whatever happened in the first. As has been the case in other areas of their game, the inconsistency is showing through here, with the team too often reliant on a strong period or two to make up for lackluster play the rest of the time.

And while some of the time these strong periods have erased deficits and fueled a furious comeback, they've also taken the lead on a few occasions only to let it (and the game) slip away. Saturday against the Devils was just the most recent of the four times this has happened; they've gone on to win just one of them, an early match against Winnipeg that was more of a seesaw game than a true comeback.

That said, those three losses represent the only three losses the Caps have posted this season when scoring at least three goals in a period - which is good, because scoring that many goals should, on most nights, give a team a good chance of winning. And for the Caps (at least so far) it has.

[h/t to Muneeb Alam for the masterful data-mining assistance.]