Photo: Bill Smith
There are lots of great statistical resources out there, but few of them allow you to see how players progress during the course of a season. To get a better idea of how individual Caps players are doing, I’ll be taking a snapshot of player stats each Sunday.
The data I’m using are all from even strength when the score is close, typically the circumstance that best predicts future success. Most of the stats I’ve selected are on-ice, not just individual performance. You’ll see how the ice tilts judging by unblocked shot attempts (I’ll call it SA%, but some call it Fenwick), actual score outcomes based on goal differential, and shooting/saving percentages to see who is overperforming or not (a la PDO). I’ve also included zone starts, which will tell you if the player is starting lots of favorable shifts near the opponent’s net.
I’ll highlight some cells in peachpuff pink if I think they’re interesting. Discussion and observations are below the tables.
As the season moves on and the sample size grows, the numbers will gain fidelity and may indicate how players and the team are trending. The sample is woefully insufficient right now, but it’s a good way to kick off conversation on what we’re all thinking about: how the Caps are doing at evens. (Hint: not good.)
- Remember: these data come from even-strength only (no power plays or penalty kills) while the score is close (to exclude the effects of protecting a lead). It is too early to make predictions or draw strong conclusions from this data. For example, at even strength when the score is close, Jay Beagle has been on ice for just 11 unblocked shot attempts in either direction: a very tiny sample. Think of this as a starting point; the data will mature over the coming weeks.
- Ice time, on the other hand, is the result of Adam Oates‘ coaching decisions and I think we can get some wisdom from it. So far, we can see that Tom Wilson is not getting played enough to justify his roster slot (barely over 6 minutes per game, under 5 in the sample above). Paired with Wilson is Martin Erat, a $4.5M player initially touted as a winger for the second line. We can either trust that Oates is playing Erat on the fourth line temporarily to ease in a rookie player, or we can despair that Erat is being utterly wasted with low ice-time and weaker teammates. Time will tell us which. Either way: Oates is not rolling his lines.
- It was the power play that allowed the Caps to beat Calgary and keep it close against Chicago and Dallas. These numbers do not describe a good even-strength team at all.
- Poor Jack Hillen.
- Eric Fehr got clobbered at even strength this week. He was on the ice five even-strength goals against and none for the Caps. Overall a strong puck-mover, I worry for Fehr when alongside Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, two players whose talents seem redundant. The third line, as currently constructed, doesn’t pose much offensive threat as far as I can tell.
- Exactly two defenders had favorable even-strength possession when the score was close: John Carlson (duh) and John Erskine (what?!). We kinda knew going into this that the Washington defense was weak, and the data are already bearing that out. I trust these numbers will improve somewhat as the sample grows, but I don’t have an abundance of faith in defensive coach Calle Johansson or the defensive roster (but not you, Karl, John, and Mike; you’re cool).
- I know it was only one game for Steve Oleksy, but ouch. He and his teammates directed just three unblocked shots at the Dallas net compared to eleven going towards their own– in just a 10-minutes sample.
- Despite being a shot machine individually (12 shots and 3 misses at 5v5), Alex Ovechkin‘s line has been out-attempted overall. Marcus Johansson has attempted just one shot in a nearly 30-minute sample. The burden is on Johansson to prove he is not a passenger.
- Bright spot, unsurprisingly: Mikhail Grabovski. No goals against, was on-ice for a unicorn-rare even-strength goal, and he drives possession despite starting most shifts closer to his own team’s net. There’s something to build on.
- GP: Games played
- TOI: Time on ice
- GF: Capitals goals for which the player was on the ice
- GA: Opponent goals for which the player was on the ice
- SA%: Percentage of shot attempts (from both teams) that went towards the opponent’s net, excluding blocked shots
- Sh%: Capitals’ shooting percentage while the player was on the ice
- Sv%: Capitals’ goalie save percentage while the player was on the ice
- PDO: The sum of Sh% and Sv%, a number that regresses closely to 100 in larger samples; a proxy for luck, in a sense– i.e. high ≈ lucky
- ZS%: The share of shifts the player started in the offensive zone, excluding neutral-zone starts; data not limited to close games.