Photo: Patrick Smith
Adam Oates made much-needed adjustments to lines on Friday morning, resulting in happy outcomes for the second line collectively and Marty Erat personally. The top line, however, is not doing much at even strength, and the third line is getting swamped in their own end. While the Caps have glimpses of hope and a ton of potential, the overall picture remains a bit gloomy. Should the Oates power play ever stop turning underpants into profit, stuff will get dire quick.
But there remains a ton of potential in this roster. There’s a winning team in here somewhere. Let’s explore.
These numbers are current as of noon on Sunday, October 20th. My sample is only 5 on 5 play when the score is close to avoid the effects of blowouts and comeback attempts.
- Only one player is driving play when the score is close: Martin Erat. Everyone else has 50% or lower possession (SA%).You can take that as a sign that Erat is good– and he is– but I’m awfully worried. We’re nearing statistical significance for our sample, and the bigger picture is not good.
- As a team, the Capitals are playing with the puck just 44.36% of the time in close games: that’s 25th in the league. There’s only been one example in recent years of a team that weak making the playoffs: the Toronto Maple Leafs in last year’s lockout-shortened season. Teams with under 45% possession, simply put, are losers. Individuals with SA% numbers that low are usually marginal players or players on bad teams (see the FF% column).
- Troy Brouwer was on the ice for two 5v5 close-score goals (GF) this week. He certainly had a good run in the last three games, though his underlying numbers are unchanged. It seems his success was largely driven by percentages (PDO) that are likely to regress soon.
- No games for John Erskine this week as he continues to struggle with an injury to either his upper body or his lower body. Certainly, something somewhere on his body is not right. It’s definitely a body injury.
- Save percentage (Sv%) is improving pretty much across the board as Braden Holtby starts leveling out after another rough start. Our PDO numbers are still a bit wacky (poor unfairly maligned Eric Fehr), but they’re starting to normalize.
- The top line just does not produce at even strength when the score is close. Alex Ovechkin might be a powerplay prodigy, but at 5v5 in close games, they’re not doing much. Saturday’s game hopefully signals a change in that: the top line attempted 2x more shots than the Jackets.
- Marcus Johansson must have noticed the same thing we did last week. After having just 3 shots on goal through 7 games, Mojo added another 4 in game 8. That’s encouraging.
- Joel Ward‘s shot attempts percentage (SA%) dropped 11.7% since last week– from 60% down into the red in less than 18 minutes of a sample. On the bright side, Ward is getting some real powerplay time and making it count.
- Put Mikhail Grabovski on the ice when the game is close and bad things do not happen: 100% save percentage. Unfortunately for Grabo, his demotion to the third line on Saturday got him thoroughly hosed. He was on the ice for 15 unblocked shot attempts in our sample during the Columbus game; just two of them went towards Sergei Bobrovsky. Grabo’s linemates were Ward, whom we mentioned above, and Jason Chimera, whom we shall be suspiciously side-eyeing from now on.
- Steve Oleksy is looking like quite the studmuffin. Aside from hair flips and curl-and-drags, it behooves us to mention that he’s not starting a lot of shifts in his own end (62.3 ZS%) and his numbers are buoyed by a fair bit of puck luck (103.7 PDO).
- The 8:44 of ice that Tom Wilson got on Saturday was the most of his season so far. He’s about to break into double digits in shots on goal, so maybe one day we’ll be able to write about him doing something that actually affects the game’s score.
- 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.