The Constant Changing Of The Linemates


The Caps blew out Tampa Bay 6 to nothing, and– just when we thought sitting Fleischmann was the answer the lines were clicking– we got more change. Admit it: you thought line combos were chosen using random ping pong ball selection. How else can you explain the constant Changing Of The Linemates?

This week we’ll take a quick look at how the top 6 line combos and blueline pairings are doing at even strength and how the goalies are doing overall, with respect to scoring chances. In the following weeks (as I get more comfortable with SQL) I will add goals scored for and against. For now it’s just scoring chances. I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. As always, you can find the spreadsheet online.

SCF = Scoring chances for
SCA = Scoring chances against

Top Six Forwards

Line Combo 5v5 SCF 5v5 SCA 5v5 SC%
Ovi-Backstrom-Knuble 39 25 0.609
Ovi-Backstrom-Semin 41 33 0.554
Laich-Flash-Semin 20 12 0.625
Knuble-Semin-Flash 18 14 0.563
Laich-MJ90-Semin 7 3 0.700

The Cadillac of Caps top lines (Knuble-Backstrom-Ovechkin) is probably the cause of all the shuffling, but they get the job done when it comes to scoring chances, putting a little more than 6 out of every 10 in the Caps’ favor when the unit is on the ice. Swapping out Semin for Knuble lowers the scoring chance percentage, but there is no doubt it ratchets up the goals-for tallies. The Laich-MJ90-Semin line saw some nice chemistry during the 6-0 blowout of Tampa Bay. Maybe we’ll get a chance to see it again.

Defensive Pairings

Defense Pairing 5v5 SCF 5v5 SCA 5v5 SC%
Green-Schultz 69 68 0.504
Carlzner 57 46 0.553
Erskine – Sloan 22 21 0.512
Poti-Erskine 8 10 0.444

You expect the reigning Plus/Minus leader in the NHL and the two-time Norris candidate to get things done on the defensive side, but Carlzner is stealing the show. Not only are they used by Coach Boudreau as his shutdown pair for the opposition’s top line, but they are making sure the scoring chances stay on the Caps’ side of the ledger.


Player 5v5 Sv% PK Sv% Ttl Sv%
Semyon Varlamov 0.925 0.636 0.882
Michal Neuvirth 0.831 0.787 0.825
Braden Holtby 0.722 0.818 0.755

Semyon Varlamov seems to have healed his groin, putting the NHL back on notice as to why he changed his sweater number from 40 to 1.

His 5v5 scoring chance save percentage is stellar at .925 and his overall SC save% of .882 is well above the Mendoza line of .850. I had said earlier this year that Neuvirth deserved to be the number one goalie to start the season, now I think it is a dead heat.

  • is it sad that I only know what the Mendoza line is, due to the original Beverly Hills 90210?

  • You think it’s a dead heat when Varly’s started five games to Neuvirth’s 15+?

    I’m taking a ‘wait and see’ on that to see if Varlamov’s groin is fully healed before I decide he’s in any kind of a heat with Neuvirth for anything.

  • Sean

    I realize it was a short-term experiment, but any chance you have the stats on the Laich-Nicky-Ovie line?

  • nimes

    Your numbers don’t add up, and besides you are comparing apples to oranges.

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