Welp, the Washington Capitals got knocked out of the playoffs again, and we’re totally exasperated. Here’s the part of the year where we wonder what went wrong.
Here’s also the part where the scoundrels will try to wrest away the discussion from right-thinking individuals. Before the loudmouths start throwing around sweeping generalizations and platitudes, I’m going to try to get some actual, objective information out there.
What follows is a breakdown of how the Capitals postseason went down– strictly by the numbers.
The Capitals scored 16 goals on the Bruins and 13 on the Rangers. Against the Caps, the Bruins scored 15 and the Rangers scored 15. That’s a razor-sharp goal differential of minus-1.
The Capitals’ 2.07 goals per game average ties them for 10th (NYR has the same) among playoff teams. Their 2.14 goals against per game ranks them 6th among playoff teams.
Compared to their regular season record, the Capitals scored .61 fewer goals per game but also allowed .62 fewer goals against.
The Fenwick stat is a proxy for puck possession (how much your team has control of the puck). It’s the sum of all even-strength shots on net, goals, and misses subtracted by the same total for the opponent. There’s a similar stat called Corsi that includes blocked shots, but I’m using this one instead so I can do blocks separately.
The Capitals had a cumulative Fenwick score of minus-107 across both series. That means they allowed 107 more pucks towards their net than they fired towards the opponent’s. That breaks down to minus-68 against the Boston and minus-39 against New York.
The Caps were 12th out of the 16 playoff teams in Fenwick while the score is close. Two of the teams below the Caps got knocked out in the first round. The only team that outlasted the Caps with worse possession numbers is Phoenix.
The Caps’ two worst possession games were Game Four vs Boston, a minus-35 score in a 2-1 win, and Game Five at New York, a minus-29 score that the Caps lost in a last-minute implosion. Both of those games saw the Caps own the puck less than they did at any point during the regular season.
[EDIT: I had a miscalculation here. I shortchanged Holtby by .01 in an earlier draft. Apologies.]
Braden Holtby earned saved 94% of shots at even strength. That is two-hundredths better than the league average (93%, natch). By the numbers, Holtby saved at even strength exactly two more shots out of a hundred than another NHL goalie would have done.
I can’t tell you how many of those shots were dangerous (i.e. from the scoring chance zone), but your boy Neil Greenberg might have that data.
Braden’s goals-against average is the same as the team’s: 2.14 GA/G. But we should keep in mind that GAA is a team statistic, since the goalie has no control over how many shots he faces in a game– only the portion of those shots that he saves.
Holtby faced more shots than any other goalie in the postseason (459). The only other goalie with 14 games played is Henrik Lundqvist, who faced just 396.
Since you asked, Tim Thomas’s even-strength save percentage was a slightly above average .924, and Lundqvist’s was a stellar .936.
The Capitals went on the man advantage 39 times during the playoffs, scoring 7 times for a 18% conversion rate. That rate was pretty evenly distributed across both Boston and New York. That’s good for 5th best among the 16 playoff teams, but it’s only a fraction of the story.
The Capitals were dead last when it came to power play opportunities per game (2.78). For comparison, the Los Angeles Kings are getting 5.2 per game. Boston got 3.2 per game, and NYR got 4.07.
That fits with the pattern from the regular season, where the Caps saw the 4th fewest power play opportunities (it was actually a virtual three-way tie with Dallas and NYI for 29th place).
Some have concluded that drawn penalties correlates with puck possession. In short, the other team will commit more penalties to remove you from the puck if you control it more often. That is a pretty compelling argument given the Capitals’ meekness on the puck this season.
The Capitals went shorthanded 48 times and allowed 6 goals for an 87.5% penalty kill rate. That ranks them 6th among playoff teams (just two of whom– LAK and PHX– are still playing). That 87.5% is significant improvement on the Caps’ 81.6% kill rate during the regular season.
No playoff team played shorthanded more than the Capitals.
I should point out that the Capitals PK had only 4 goals against on 38 tries until the closing seconds of round two’s Game Five, when the Rangers scored twice on Joel Ward’s high-sticking double minor penalty. Those goals were… costly.
It’s an unsexy stat, but the Capitals won just about 51% of faceoffs through 14 games.
The Capitals won just a single game (Game Five at Boston) in which they lost most faceoffs (45%).
Shooting luck is measured in PDO, which adds up a shooting percentage while a player is on the ice compared to his own goalie’s save percentage, so that the average is 1000. This stat helps reveal hot and cold streaks as artifacts of raw luck rather than some kind of dubious narrative.
For example, Alex Semin had the worst PDO among Capitals forwards with 965. Personally, Semin scored 3 times on 35 shots for a 8.5% (disappointing for Sasha, whose career average is north of 14%). But even worse– Capitals players scored on just 3.33% while he was on ice. That’s bad luck.
Looking at this same metric on the other end of the ice, escape goat Dennis Wideman was on ice for Holtby’s worst goaltending of the series (91%) to “earn” a PDO of 981. That may suggest the reputation (that I helped give him) was undeserved.
The Capitals blocked 326 shots in the postseason– that’s more than the total number of shots that the Caps fired at the enemy net at even strength. That’s an average of about 23 blocked shots per game.
If you care about such things, the Caps outblocked their opponents by a margin of 66— 9 more than Boston, 57 more than New York.
There were a few five-block individual performances from Karl Alzner, Roman Hamrlik, Jay Beagle, and John Carlson, but only one player who recorded 9 blocks in a single game: Jeff Schultz.
Alex Ovechkin was matched by the opponent’s top defenseman 77% of the time. For Boston, that meant Zdeno Chara, who skated with Ovechkin for 4/5ths of the series. New York’s Dan Girardi matched him slightly less at 75%.
When away from Verizon Center during the quarterfinals, Ovechkin spent even more time matched against Chara– a whopping 85%. When Dale Hunter had the final line change at home, Ovechkin saw him less. There was no similar home-away difference during the semifinal round.
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That’s all I’ve got for now. Let me know if you have any questions that the numbers might illuminate. I’ll try my best. Long-term analysis comes next.
Stats came from Behind the Net, Time On Ice, and NHL.com.