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Less is More for the Washington Capitals

The Washington Capitals often find themselves being outshot by their opponents. The Capitals have been outshot in 16 of their 33 games so far this year. Two of these games resulted in losses, four in overtime or shootout losses and ten in wins.

The lack of shots does not translate to a lack of goals though. Washington has scored an average of 3.4 goals per game this season. They have rounded up an impressive average shooting percentage of 13.2%. This statistic means that 13.2% of all of the shots that Capitals players take will end up in the net. Washington is among the best in the league in terms of shooting percentage this year.

So how do the Capitals manage this? And why do they keep winning if they don’t dominate their opponents by shooting?

Offensive Strategy

To put things simply, the Capitals have a great offense.  There are four solid offensive lines and a defense with a love of scoring. Everyone on the roster is capable of scoring or assisting on a consistent basis.

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One important part of the Washington offense is that the lines are well balanced. Each line has players with good passing abilities and others with good shooting abilities. Some players bring both aspects. The ability to put out lines that work well together and play to each other’s strengths is important in winning hockey games. It does not matter how many star players you have if they cannot effectively communicate and make smart plays.

The passing ability for Washington comes into play heavily for their offense. Washington prefers to control the puck in the offensive zone for extended periods of time and look for open players in the high slot or coming from the tops of the circle down towards the net. The team uses a number of seemingly set plays to create quality goal-scoring opportunities on fewer shots.

Defensive Strategy

Defensive aspects of the game are just as important to Washington’s success as their offense. Washington has an excellent breakout that allows them to leave the defensive zone quickly and begin to set up offensive plays. The Capitals’ veteran defense understands how to play effectively and limit opponent’s goals.

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Hitting is also an important part of the defensive game for Washington. Players like Tom Wilson, Brendan Dillon, Garnet Hathaway and TJ Oshie frequently employ aggressive and physical aspects to their game.

In addition, goaltending has been important for Washington this season. Netminders Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov have been vital to the Capitals this season. They stop the majority of their opponent’s shots and allow the team to focus on offense.

Individual Player Statistics

To get a better understanding of shooting percentages, let’s take a look at some shot statistics for Washington players this season.

Through the 28 games he has played this season, Alexander Ovechkin has amassed 118 shots on goal. He has scored 17 times. This ratio gives him a 14.4% shooting percentage, right on track with the team average. However, most of the team does not take nearly as many shots as Ovechkin.

Nicklas Backstrom, for example, has only taken 57 shots on goal in his 32 games this season. Backstrom has tallied 13 goals. This gives him a 22.8% shooting accuracy. Backstrom is currently tied for fourth in the  NHL for shooting percentage.

Daniel Sprong, Tom Wilson, Nic Dowd, Jakub Vrana, Lars Eller and Connor Sheary all have percentages above 15. The accuracy of the shots taken by the Washington Capitals has allowed them to be an offensive threat so far this season and will continue to propel them towards success.

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