Week 2 Snapshot: Precious Little Progress

Patrick Smith

Alex Ovechkin watches. (Photo: Patrick Smith)

The Capitals only played two games this week, and one of those was a blowout 5-1 loss to the Avalanche. As a result our even-strength close-game data has not done much maturing, but there are still a lot of things we can learn about how this team is — or rather, is not– progressing.

The Capitals didn’t score on any of their seven power-play opportunities this week, and their 5v5 production alone wasn’t enough to win either game. While we saw some improvement, particularly on the third line, the Capitals are still struggling. And the precise nature of those struggles is beginning to become more clear.

See week 1’s snapshot.

Forwards

Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Brooks Laich C 5 36.9 0 1 49% 0% 94.4% 94.4 45.3%
Jay Beagle C 3 9.5 0 1 33.3% 0% 80.0% 80.0 68.8%
Marcus Johansson C 5 42.3 1 3 43.3% 4.3% 90.3% 94.7 57.1%
Mikhail Grabovski C 5 40 2 0 52.6% 9.5% 100% 109.5 50%
Nicklas Backstrom C 5 43.3 1 2 41.5% 4.5% 93.5% 98.1 65.8%
Alex Ovechkin L 5 43.7 1 1 43.8% 4.3% 96.7% 101 60.5%
Jason Chimera L 5 36.5 2 5 45.7% 12.5% 75% 87.5 43.8%
Eric Fehr R 5 34.1 0 6 46.5% 0% 66.7% 66.7 42.4%
Joel Ward R 5 35.1 1 4 61% 5.6% 66.7% 72.2 43.8%
Martin Erat R 5 22.5 0 1 56% 0% 85.7% 85.7 53.8%
Tom Wilson R 5 22.1 0 2 51.7% 0% 80% 80 59.1%
Troy Brouwer R 5 37.5 1 2 40.0% 5.9% 91.7% 97.5 51.8%

Defense

Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Alex Urbom D 2 15 0 1 60.9% 0% 85.7% 85.7 53.8%
John Carlson D 5 47.1 0 4 49.2% 0% 83.3% 83.3 46.8%
John Erskine D 4 44.1 0 4 52.5% 0% 81.8% 81.8 34.5%
Karl Alzner D 5 49.2 2 3 42.1% 10.5% 88.9% 99.4 52.9%
Mike Green D 5 52.4 2 3 44.9% 7.7% 90.3% 98 55.2%
Steve Oleksy D 3 26.8 1 2 48.8% 7.7% 84.6% 92.3 53.6%

Observations

  • Sample size warning: these data aren’t that much stronger than last week’s. The Caps played just two games, and the latter was a blowout. There were only 12 minutes of 5v5 play against the Avalanche while the score was close. Limiting the data to close score proves to be a good thing though, as the possession data (SA%) aren’t skewed by the Caps’ 41-shot comeback attempt on Saturday.
  • Mikhail Grabovski is a rock: even possession with even zone starts, positive goal differential and lots of minutes.
  • Alex Ovechkin is a shot machine. He had 25 shot attempts overall this week– 14 of them found the net. That’s fantastic, though the fact that he had negative possession overall worries me. Ovechkin is the only one attempting shots for his line (Backstrom had 4 this week, Johansson just 2), and as a unit they’re stuck in their own zone a lot. Are they no good as two-way players, or is the defense unable to get them a clean breakout?
  • Nate Schmidt played all of 4.4 even-strength minutes before the Avs game got out of hand. He did just fine in the game overall (65% shot attempts, one goal against on five shots allowed), but I’m not adding him to the table yet.
  • John Erskine‘s sample grew by just 10 minutes this week. In those 10 minutes, Ersk surrendered 2 more goals against. Perhaps he shouldn’t be starting so many shifts in the defensive zone. You could look at his decent possession numbers and his on-ice save percentage, a lowly 81.8%, and come to the conclusion that John isn’t at fault and it’s just Washington’s goalies sinking him. I’m not sure that’s valid.
  • Goaltending numbers are bad across the board. Only the top-6 forwards have seen average or above average save percentages when on the ice at even strength in close games. So we have a qualitative judgment to make: is it bad goaltending or bad defense? It’s almost certainly some combination of both, but when the sample is this small we can look at the actual tape (like we did with Erskine this week) and see a compelling yet anecdotal collection of defensive mistakes.
  • Puck possession numbers are similarly bad all over (46.86% as a team), and I suspect the defense is at fault there as well. As Troy Brouwer said on Saturday night, the breakout passes that initiate possession are a problem for this team. The Caps can’t get out of their own zone cleanly, let alone through neutral and into the o-zone to generate shots.
  • Another indicator of defensive troubles is the disparity in ice time among the blueline corps. Mike Green is eating up Canadians tonnes of 5v5 minutes (in addition to his PP duties), whereas bottom-2 guys like Oleksy or Urbom or Carrick hardly get any. Oates seems to know he lacks defensive depth, and I don’t think another AHL call-up would be a big help. McPhee should be working the phones.
  • John Carlson allowed 3 goals against this week during our 5v5 close game sample. The fact that so little hockey was played with a close score is due in part to Carlson letting the other team to run away with it.
  • Alex Urbom might become an offensive contributor. He had five shot attempts versus Carolina and another two versus Colorado. He didn’t show much interest in offense with the Devils though, so this might just be a mirage. Keep an eye on him.
  • How Joel Ward managed to drive 61% of shot attempts in the Caps’ favor while he was on the ice, I will never know. But the Chimera-Fehr-Ward line was much improved overall this week: Fehr and Chimera even scored.
  • Jay Beagle played just 2 minutes of close-score 5v5 hockey this week, so I’m really not putting much stock in those numbers yet.

Glossary

  • 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.
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  • William

    Interesting observations, particularly on the defensive side of the spectrum.
    Its fairly obvious the capitals are weak on the back end. (outside of Carlzner, Green) I’d like to see them trade for a more experienced blue-liner. Can’t do much worse than Olesky and Erskine. The young guys are just not ready, and the capitals need someone to be ready.
    On carlson: I think the goals against on his shifts are mostly to blame on his playing partner. He seems to get the short end of the stick at times when its not his fault.

    As far as the forwards go…What is there to say? Need to create more offensive all-around.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Maybe Oates knew what he was doing with creating that 3rd line but I know I’d still prefer MP in that center spot. I like what I saw from Urbom. Brouwer is exactly on point with problems breaking out of our zone (his line is the worst IMO) and it makes Oates’ neutral zone driven system look like a mess. Defensively I’d love to see us grab a Smid from EDM, or a Klesla from PHX or maybe Ehrhoff from BUF.

  • The Mole

    Some questions, to hopefully generate more discussion or elucidate on some trends:

    Are you planning on showing us cumulative fancystats at any point so we can see a bigger picture down the line (in addition to the weekly 7 day sample)? I’m really pleased with the weekly snapshot idea but want to see it in a wider context down the line.

    I’m not surprised that the Chimera-Fehr-Ward line is gaining traction, but how in the world is John Erskine getting these flow of play numbers? He still in the black in regards to on ice shot attempts but he bleeds goals against. I’m stupified.

  • William

    Whoever it is, we need a guy who can play a lot of minutes and not make mistakes.
    I’m not sure what we would have to give up to get a guy worth having. I’m sure it would be a lot.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Yeah, I’ll absolutely be doing more with the data– especially after game 20.

    For the record though, each snapshot will be cumulative.

    For Ersk, I recommend looking at exactly how Ersk gave up those goals– a lot of them were on initial attempts, not rebounds, when Ersk made some kind of error: an ill-timed hit, not picking up a man, idly watching the puck, etc.

  • Jared

    I’d say swap Laich and Mojo. Laich is a two-way monster, and could potentially help tip the first line towards positive possession. Thoughts on that?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I’m worried that Laich isn’t what he used to be– not sure. I’d rather see Erat on the first line, but I also don’t think Johansson on the top line is among the club’s biggest problems.

  • sean

    Where are the numbers that measure chemistry, heart, grit or the will to win? Playing Billyball in hockey only gets you so far. And so far we only have 3 series wins in 14 years, not exactly an impressive number.

  • William

    I agree-Erat isn’t getting near the minutes he needs to justify his talents or paycheck. I’d like to see him surrounded by more talent; I bet he would be productive.

  • Chris Cerullo

    Am I crazy saying I’d like to see Wilson get a chance with Ovie and Nick? We have to give the kid a chance to succeed right? Edit: Realized he’s right handed and our coach is OCD.

  • Freedoooom

    Pointless stats.

    For one, the Avalanche weren’t playing prevent defense, they were in scramble mode getting dominated through out the game.

    Except for of course when the 2nd line was on, which you claim is good. Its not, its a freaking terrible line, every other line was dominating the offensive zone shift after shift. The Avalanche wouldn’t have had even 20 shots if it weren’t for the 2nd line.

  • Chris

    Clearly the problem was John Erskine…oh wait…

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    That’s not correct.

    The Avs kept pace with the Caps through the first 30 minutes– even with the Caps down two goals, when we’d expect them to be shooting more. They finally did that in the second half.

    When Grabovski was on the ice, 6 out of every 10 shot attempts went towards the Avs net. That’s not “freaking terrible” at all.

    The Avs got more shots on goal against the Caps went Ovechkin was on the ice (9) than when Grabo was (7).

    Sorry, but your memories and impressions of the game aren’t backed up by the facts.

  • brian!

    I love these entries, thank for taking the time to compile everything!

  • Matt Lauer

    The line combinations still mystify me. If I were head coach (still wondering why that hasn’t happened yet), they would be:

    JOB line
    Grabo-Erat-Fehr
    Brouwer-Laich-Chimera (Perrault really, but whatever.)
    Ward-Wilson-Beagle

  • JenniferH

    Since Fehr-Chimera-Ward seem to be clicking, shouldn’t the other lines be re-arranged? Try Grabbo in the the Ovi-Backstrom line maybe, or Erat? Defense is clearly an issue. Getting the puck out of our zone, keeping the puck and shooting the damn puck seem to be the other dang issues. At least from my novice point of view.

    Thanks for doing these snapshots, Peter.

  • Red

    Time to start shuffling the lines. The boys are just not vibing. Our defense has been our biggest weakness but they’re also hindered by our inability to break out of our zone cleanly or at all. D gets tired and they make mistakes. Erat should be on Grabo’s line. Nicky and Mojo seriously need to take more shots, if only to take some heat off Ovi. Lets have a better week.

  • Jared

    I’d like to see Wilson swapped with Ward on 3rd line for a while at least. Swapping Chimmy for Erat and Ward for Wilson would make sense. Fehr’s line has been doing really well, but I would bet that is a lot more because of Fehr than because of Chimmy or Ward.

  • Jared

    Eating my words as Ward has a great game…

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