Capitals During Wartime: Bruce vs. Dale

[Ed. note: Capitals During Wartime is a series analyzing Washington’s struggles before the 2012 trade deadline. We’ve discussed weakness at center, a poor road record, and negativity among fans so far.] 

In the latest edition of Capitals During Wartime, I mused about how and why we discuss the negative stuff going on with Capitals right now. Concluding, in short, that our foremost responsibility is to the Truth, and not just Good Feelings, I promised not to shy away from D.C.’s ongoing hockey bummers– but also not to drench that analysis in hyperbole.

This article is a statistical rundown of the Washington Capitals through 54 games for the purpose comparing the tenures of Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter head to head. But I will not be offering any commentary. My voice is limited to the selection of statistics below. Any conclusions you make or narratives you perceive are your own. I have included traditional stats, some advanced stats, and some individual curiosities that we’ve discussed recently on the site.

Stat Bruce Dale
 Games  22  32
 Record  12-9-1  16-12-4
 Win %  54.6%  50%
 Road Win %  36.4%  33.3%
 Home Win %  72.7%  64.7%
 Shots per game1  30.6  25.3
 Goals per game  3.2  2.6
 Goals against per game  3.3  2.4
 Even-strength save %  .900  .930
 Shots against / game  29.7  31
 Fenwick  73 -205
 Shot differential2  20 -154
 Goal differential -3  4
 PK opp/game  3.64  3.38
 PK%  80.0%  81.4%
 PP opp/game  3.91  2.69
 PP%  16.3%  21.0%
 Faceoff win %  .497  .508
 Ovi goals per game  0.36  0.52
 Ovi ATOI  18:36  20:51
 JC74 +/-3 +5 -9
 Semin PIMs per game  1.52  0.50
 Knuble shots per game  1.68  0.94
 % without Green  65.0%  93.8%
 % without Backstrom  0%  47%
 Wideman ATOI  23:01  25:24

So obviously there’s some author bias present in the figures I chose to use here. I chose stats that I thought would be illuminating or provocative in comparing the two. The stats are not uniformly flattering of either coach, and the actual efficacy of the coach upon many of these numbers should be debated. But I’m not going to do that for you– because that would be far too depressing.

No, basically this is like what the editor at the The New Frontiersman says to the intern in that last scene from Watchmen: I leave it entirely in your hands. 

What do the numbers tell you?

Thanks to Ian for suggestions and Neil Greenberg for planting the seed. Check out Arctic Ice Hockey’s item on Alex Ovechkin’s possession and conversion under the two coaches for a similar digestion. 

  • Anonymous

    I’d be much more interested to see Hunter’s first 32 games compared to Boudreau’s first 32 games. 

  • The Mole

    I feel that Boudreau was a sacrificial lamb to a certain extent. He’s obviously an amazing coach. The team just never woke up for him this season, and as we can see here 50+ games into the season – the team is slow to wake up for Dale. 

  • Hale

    Maybe you looked at all of Semin’s stats, but all of his are better since about 4 games after Hunter started. I don’t believe that he and Ovi calculatedly got BB fired or any such thing, but I do think that BB and Semin got into a negative spiral due to mixed messages from the timing of some of BB’s actions related to Semin’s penalties. Clearly, the penalties were affecting Semin’s play; he seemed to be hesitant and tentative after taking one in games. Also clear was that some of them were not at all deserved and BB recognized that, even said so. However, I noticed that he picked the times when Semin got an undeserved penalty to “punish” him.  I also think BB was acting contrary to his nature with the newfound accountability route. I remember soon after Hunter got here he talked about talking with Semin about his game and what they wanted from him. Whatever it was, it seemed to have a fairly immediate effect on the types and numbers of penalties. Then the point production started picking up. He has consistently put up points.  His +/- climbed out of the basement to where it is now 3rd highest on the team, FWIW.  In the 21 games under BB he had 16 minor penalties; in the 29 games under Hunter he’s had 7, 2 of which occurred in the first 4 Hunter games. Four of the 7 were stick penalties, 1 boarding, 1 interference, 1 closing hand on puck. No diving penalties, for which he was called 4 times under BB, I think. Hopefully, the overall team stats will pick up for a totally positive picture.

  • Hassettpm

    “I also think BB was acting contrary to his nature with the newfound accountability route. ”

    Totes agree, and I think Boose himself said something to that effect to Katie a few weeks back.

  • Peter

    You really don’t.

    BB went an epic 37-17-7, came back from the basement to win the SE division. It was amazing.

    But it was with a very different team and not valuable for comparison.

  • brian!

    “You’ve got to be true to yourself,” Boudreau told Katie Carrera in Anaheim earlier this month. “I found that I was getting away from that this year. People were saying, ‘Do this,’ and ‘Do that.’ I wasn’t doing what I believed was the right thing.” 

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  • Alex

    Watchmen is amazing

  • Peter

    isn’t it though?

  • Peter

    Alright, I’ll try to stir the pot a little bit.

    My observations:

    Shots are down and goals are down. The offense is weaker.

    But goals against are also down. Yay for Dale? Naw, ’cause that’s just jumping back from some awful goaltending before. Shots against are up and Fenwick are down, so the defense is observably worse– but the goaltending is better.

    Special teams have improved across the board, which have accounted for a number of wins under Dale.

    So too have Ovechkin’s and Semin’s individual numbers.

    But Knuble has been erased as an offensive force and John Carlson, formerly one of the best players on the team, has seen his numbers erode.

  • Hale

    And I think that was evident. I can say being a parent, it’s hard to change disciplinary methods after you’ve done it a certain way for awhile. There’s a lot of resistance that’s just instinctual, not premeditated.

    Couple of other things to note about Semin, it’s Feb. 10 and he’s only missed 4 games, one of those a healthy scratch. I hope I’m not jinxing him! Also, per Greenberg’s scoring chances, he continues to lead in the differential.

    I do have to wonder how this season would have gone from the beginning if the coaching change had been made at the end of last season. I understand why McPhee held on, it seemed fair to me at the time, but if there was the chance in his mind he would make the change after the season started, then it would have been fairer to the team (fans?) to do it sooner.

  • A-town down

    The numbers are skewed slightly. Gabby wasn’t fired for his stats, he was fired for the hole his team fell into, and there seemed no possible way of getting back. If you look at Gabby’s all time numbers, he rivals any top coach. 

    However, if you want to compare Dale to Gabby, You need to start the statistics after the 7 game streak, when we started sinking into the slump. I think Dale’s will be much better, and the comparison will be more fair.

    Also, offensive is weaker, but not by failure. Dale said the first week, that he does not care about getting 30+ shots on net every game. He’d rather have us take shots that mattered, and had a good chance for a rebound, or developing into a scoring opportunity. 

    A more meaningful comparison would be noting the stark differences in their strategies. That’s another reason why I think he had to go. Gabby’s overhaul defensive strategy was so outdated, I think from the 1960’s? Yet, he kept pushing it….Also, he wanted to cycle every line as frequent as possible to keep us fresh, Ovi getting 11 mins certain games? Something that never really made sense to me.

    You wrote an article on the waste of Rechlicz. Yeah he was waste, but more importantly, he was a stick. A wake up call to a lot of forwards. Hendy (2o+ minutes??) and Joel have been hauling a lot more as of late. Hendy has been a beast and so clutch.  As for Carlson playing less, I would have to agree with Dale. Last month he has given up way way way to many pucks in the d-zone from weak pressure that ended up in goals, or almost. Until he wakes up, let others take up the slack.

    I know we still don’t look it, but when we get into the playoff’s, I honestly think we’ll have a chance.

  • Yv

    Caps became offensively challenged team with DH, but it looks like, lately they start playing run-and-gun Boudreski-style of hockey. There are some hope that  they will evolve in that direction. However, how long and how far it’ll continue w/o Nicky is a big problem.

  • Peter

    Thanks, Brian!

  • Peter

    Well said.

  • Peter

    I think Boudreau was fired for the performances reflected in the stats, so I have to disagree (with qualification) with your first statement.

    I don’t think it’d be fair or accurate to cherry pick certain games from BB’s tenure to exclude, so all of his games are here.

    Your next point– about the diminishment of the offense being deliberate– is accurate, but no less troubling. Shooting –> winning. And the Caps aren’t limiting shots against either (which is also part of DH’s plan), so basically they have failed to implement a system that isn’t a good idea anyway.

    I think your point about Rechlicz causing Ward and Hendy to pick it up is a post hoc fallacy.

    I agree with you about JC74, but I don’t see what encourages you about the playoffs.

  • Peter

    Yeah I’ve been marking when they score goals on the rush vs grinding. It’s not like DH is against scoring on the rush (that’d be ridiculous), but it does feel like a little mutiny against the dump’n’grind style he preaches.

  • A-town down

    Cherry-picked? Hunsty was handed a team that was a burning carcass. To compare those numbers to before the collapse occurred is idiotic.

  • Peter

    Well that doesn’t make any sense, and your tone isn’t really constructive, so I’ll just pretend you enjoyed the article and thanked me profusely.

    You’re welcome you’re welcome you’re too kind no no no I don’t need any flowers aww that’s so sweet. It’s all for you! The fans!

  • A-town down

    Also, in response your comment, “Caps aren’t limiting shots against either (which is also part of DH’s plan), so basically they have failed to implement a system that isn’t a good idea anyway.”  is highly mistaken.

    You’re missing the point of DH D strat. You see the shots against numbers not being much different, which taken by itself is true. However, the GAA from Bruce to DH is down one goal. 
    DH isn’t just limiting shots. That’s impossible. He’s limiting scoring opportunities, and forcing the other team to make weaker shots. 

    And as for Rehlicz as a stick being ad halloc fallacy, I don’t know what else you would call that move. To see if he could make it with the caps? He wasn’t even given a chance, played less than 5 mins…and why even bother sign him a half a mil one year contract?

    And I think we are becoming a power house of team, instead of a team that depended on the top lines to make goals, so that when they didn’t we would lose. That’s why I think we have a damn good chance. You think we had a better chance before? Really? 

  • A-town down

    I wasn’t calling you an idiot, but you have to admit, for someone to expect  a rapid transformation from the wreck we were to an unstoppable winning machine is…what…ingenious? 

  • Peter

    You’re wrong about the GAA drop off. That was just a reversal from awful goaltending under BB to typically superb goaltending under DH.

    You can appeal to Neil Greenberg for scoring chance differentials under Bruce vs Dale, but I think those numbers will bear out as well.

  • Peter

    Rapid transformation? It’s been more than 30 games and the team had been getting objectively worse until last week.

    I wasn’t setting expectations either.

    And I’m not sure you’ve got the word “ingenious” nailed down yet.

  •  I think that there’s some truth to the fact that the goaltending has gotten better.  You have two goalies that are starters, who are used to being the number one guy. When they both were going in-and-out with Bruce, neither guy really got very comfortable.  Vokoun has started 50-60 games for the last 5 years.  Neuvirth has never technically been a back-up since beyond junior. 

    I also think the shot discrepancy  is somewhat less of a big deal, because I agree with A-town down, that these shots are of less quality and around the perimeter. The defense is much more committed as well.  With Bruce, Ovechkin and other wingers were hovering around the blueline waiting to break out.  Now they are more committed and coming down as far as the circles. Blocking shots too!

    The key is finding a balance.  Huntsy needs to open these guys up a little bit more and let them play to their strengths.  It’s good that they’re learning how to cycle and score off rebounds.  This team has always needed to learn how to do this.  But there needs to be a little bit more give on management’s side.  We’ve figured out how to keep the puck out of our nets much better. Now let’s scoar moar goals.

  • Peter

    But there is no evidence to lead you to think scoring chances are down.

  • I miss Neil’s shot plot chart.

  • A-town down

    Thank you, Ian! I thought I was taking crazy pills.

    Evidence is apparent in the game, Peter. I think you need to start watching them, again.

    We are finally getting good chemistry going, knowing where each other are on the ice, and knowing where we’re going to be on the ice. The moment we lose the sync is when we get scored against. However, that is happening a lot less as of late, and is constantly getting better. 

    I don’t have the numbers but if my memory serves me, we were minus 18 when dale took over. Now we’re even. If Caps we’re a stock, I’d be going all in right now.

    D is making strides, but we’re not there, yet. People need to go. I know this is upsetting to some, but I’ll put money that Neuvy is gone by the summer. We have  Holtby, and Grabauer, who are doing really well. Neuvy hasn’t been dependable, and I feel the only reason we play him, besides giving Vokes a rest, is to boost his trade value. Teams are in need of goalies and his contract ends this year. 

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