The Washington Capitals’ league-worst injuries could cost them the playoffs
The injury woes of the Washington Capitals seem to be getting better. John Carlson is back in action this weeki Dmitry Orlov is travel with the team this weekend. Those are two big returning defensemen, but at power forward the Capitals will remain depleted for a while longer.
Overall, Washington is the most injured team in the league, and that will be their biggest obstacle to making the playoffs.
Washington’s injuries, as of Sunday morning, look like this:
- F Beck Malenstynsaid, 6-8 weeks
- F TJ Oshie“indefinite”
- F Tom WilsonACL, expected return around December
- F Connor BrownACL, probably out of season
- F Nicklas Backstromhip resurfacing, chronology unknown
- F Carl Hagelinhip, chronology unknown
- d Dmitry Orlovknee, day by day, can play as soon as tonight
One of my favorite resources is NHL Injury Viz. Maintained by LW3H, the site has a bunch of scoreboards to show how destroyed teams are. There are many ways to look at this, so let’s look at it together.
First, here each team based on the success of the injured player cap (CHIP). The defenders are in red, the forwards in blue.
This calculation is from November 10 in other words that is just before Carlson returned.
In second place is Philadelphia, who are without Ryan Ellis in defense; and Cam Atkinson, Sean Couturier and James van Riemdsyk among the forwards. Atkinson has an upper body injury and is skating but with no schedule to returnJvR has one broken finger and should be back by Christmas. Couturier has underwent multiple back surgeries and it may come back in the spring. Ellis also has a back injury, but yeah he was not expected to play at all this season.
Until Washington’s top two defenders went down, Philadelphia technically has a bigger injury deficit. In this visualization of CHIP progression by game, orange indicates bigger hits from injured players.
But I would argue with a characterization that Washington wasn’t the most injured team. Among the forwards, Washington dropped the top end (Wilson) as well as the backup end (Brown), as well as this substitute for the front-line winger (Malenstyn). In Backstrom, they lost a center who had scored 344 hours of ice time in the last 15 years, and Oshie lost a veteran leader he had until recently resisted the downward pull of the injury. In proportion to the team’s roles, I’d say Washington was the most hindered team in the league, not that it’s a competition.
And besides, I think things are starting to pick up for the Chiefs, and there’s reason for optimism. This chart shows Washington’s CHIP progress over the course of the season, again colored by position.
We’ll see Carlson come off this chart in his next update, and probably Orlov too. Wilson may be just a month away from returning. This brings three main pieces of this team out of IR. And Malenstyn should return to Washington’s very good fourth line before the new year.
But we still don’t have timelines on Oshie, Backstrom or Brown. I hope clarity always elusive to Oshie soon, but I still envision a scenario where all three are available, healthy, and (perhaps the most important) rested for the postseason. The Capitals even making the playoffs is far from guaranteed (53 percent according to Moneypuck, 72 percent according to HockeyViz), as the Metro is now much more competitive than we thought.
And that’s where this final visualization comes in. This compares each team’s injuries with their ability to earn points in the standings. Washington and Philly are on the far right, the furthest apart in terms of injuries. Washington is in the bottom half of the league in scoring.
The Chiefs are now in what I think is theirs it was from the float. We can’t really know how good they would be in a postseason; we don’t even know what their list will be in April. For now we have to put these calculations aside and focus on the only thing that matters: taking points in the standings. This means goalkeepers stealing wins, forcing overtime whenever you can, beating division rivalsi not lose to much inferior teams. Washington’s record in doing so so far is mixed.
The playoffs are far from guaranteed. If Washington wants to pull it off, they will do so despite deep disadvantages. It will be interesting.
Header photo: Alan Dobbins
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