Week 5 Snapshot: Line Shuffling, Good and Bad

Greg Fiume

Photo: Greg Fiume

Thanks to Saturday’s win over the Panthers, the Capitals are a .500 team again, but in the past few weeks they’ve played just one team with a winning record: the Vancouver Canucks. The team’s underlying numbers are probably the topic of crisis team meetings in KCI, but there’s lots of good things happening as well.

Washington has the second best penalty kill in the league— going 35 straight man-down situations without giving up a goal until Tomas Fleichmann ruined everything. The power play is also top-5 thanks to the obscene amount of shots they’re generating while a man up. And despite Alex Ovechkin missing two games this week due to injury, the Caps pulled out wins in both.

With Ovi slated to return on Tuesday, it’s not all doom and gloom. Still, let’s do our weekly break down of the numbers.

These are the numbers as of noon on Sunday, November 3rd. My sample doesn’t include any power play or penalty kill situations– only 5 on 5 play in close games to eliminate the effects of blowouts and comebacks. Stats of note are highlighted in pink and discussed below.

See previous snapshots: week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4


Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Brooks Laich C 14 101.4 2 6 38.4% 5.1% 91.3% 96.4 50.4%
Marcus Johansson C 14 104.6 5 7 44.3% 8.8% 90.7% 99.4 54.5%
Mikhail Grabovski C 14 100.1 8 2 43.9% 15.4% 97% 112.4 50%
Nicklas Backstrom C 14 106.3 7 5 46.9% 11.1% 93.2% 104.3 55.4%
Alex Ovechkin L 12 95 5 5 43.7% 8.8% 93.5% 102.3 58.7%
Jason Chimera L 14 93.9 7 7 44.6% 15.2% 87.7% 102.9 42%
Eric Fehr R 14 81.5 2 7 51.4% 5% 81.6% 86.6 44.7%
Joel Ward R 14 90.9 6 7 50% 13% 85.4% 98.5 47.4%
Martin Erat R 14 81.8 3 5 48.4% 8.6% 88.6% 97.2 47.3%
Tom Wilson R 14 56.4 1 2 47.1% 4.3% 92% 96.3 59.6%
Troy Brouwer R 14 97.7 3 4 38% 8.6% 93.7% 102.2 52%


Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Nate Schmidt D 10 84.9 5 2 54.8% 10.6% 95.6% 106.2 53.1%
Alexander Urbom D 8 52.1 3 3 43.6% 12.5% 91.7% 104.2 51.4%
John Carlson D 14 116.5 5 8 39.7% 9.6% 89.7% 99.4 49.7%
Karl Alzner D 14 121.7 7 7 39% 12.7% 91.3% 104 50.6%
Mike Green D 14 132.7 5 6 47.1% 7.9% 92.4% 100.3 50.3%
Steve Oleksy D 12 95.9 7 5 48.4% 13.2% 90.7% 103.9 57.3%


  • Even-strength shot attempts in close games are the best predictor of future success. The Capitals are the fifth worst team in the league in that stat: a lowly 45.25%.
  • Without Ovi in the lineup, Adam Oates shuffled his lines. There promotions (Fehr) and demotions (Johansson), and good stuff to learn all around.
  • Except for Tom Wilson, Eric Fehr is dead last among forwards in ice time within the sample (even strength during close games). His promotion to the top line is kind of a rare thing: you don’t often see grinders get bumped up like that. That gives truth to Adam Oates’ admissions of truly liking Fehr, but having trouble finding ice time for him. This week saw Fehr’s first goals for in our sample. He had three points, all assists, and he fired 7 shots personally. When Ovi comes back to claim the top line’s RW spot, Fehr deserves to stay in the top six.
  • We see a similar story with Martin Erat. Swapping places with Marcus Johansson, Erat saw a bit more ice, and he did splendidly with it. His line surrendered no goals against in our sample, and Erat’s possession (SA%) improved from from 44.9% to 48.4%. Very encouraging.
  • Concurrently, Nick Backstrom saw bit more zone time thanks to his linemates– he ticked up from 45.3% to 46.9% in shot attempt percentage (aka Fenwick % aka SA% aka tilting the ice like a boss).
  • Jason Chimera‘s goal streak came to an end on Saturday night, as the third line (Chimera-Grabo-Ward) went pointless. They still had an amazing week — 3 goals for inside our sample– but we should acknowledge that an unsustainable shooting percentage (Sh%) seemed to be driving it — 15.4% is way above league average at even strength.
  • Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer both crashed below the 40% possession mark (SA%), which pretty much confirms our suspicions that the second line of Laich-Johansson-Brouwer is not viable for scoring. Personally, I think only one of those players should be in the top six… can you guess who?
  • Mike Green, known mostly for being PPQB1, also eats up a ton of 5v5 ice time in close games (TOI). This week went swimmingly well for him: 3 goals for, just one goal against, and a 3.9% increase in SA%.
  • Welcome to the show, Alex Urbom. With John Erskine still on the shelf (which I’m deeply ambivalent about), you now qualify to show up in this post! Urbom’s PDO is above 100, signifying that he’s getting a bit lucky out there.
  • Tom Wilson was on the ice for the first 5v5 goal of his regular-season career. John Carlson’s snapper set up by Michael Latta. That’s noteworthy, as he had gone nearly 100 minutes on the ice at 5v5 without that happening. More on Wilson soon.
  • I guess Aaron Volpatti is a regular Caps player now. I should probably put him on here next week. He’s got 56.6% possession and a 107.1 PDO, so things are looking pretty good for him so far.


  • 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.
Tagged with:
  • My lines if Ovi returns on Tuesday:

    Erat – Backstrom – Ovechkin
    Johansson – Grabovski – Fehr
    Chimera – Laich – Brouwer
    who cares about the 4th line

    ugh that sucks to put Ward on the 4th line though.


  • Owen Johnson

    I say don’t break up the 3rd line at all.

  • Then make them the 2nd line!

  • Chris Cerullo

    I see potential for a trade for a defenseman due to the problem of the extra forward in the top 9.

  • No better time to trade Jason Chimera than right now

  • Graham Dumas

    Howsabout this:

    Erat – Backstrom – OV
    Brouwer* – MoJo – Fehr
    Chimera – Grabo** – Ward
    Wilson – Laich – Etc.

    * I know this goes against Oates’s system, but come on, it’s not really working that well right now.
    ** Just b/c this line is working so well right now

  • Graham Dumas

    Honest Question: does anyone else feel that the trouble in creating solid lines (and therefore solid offensive performance in general) stems from poor forward-management by McPhee? Which is to say, do we have too many potential top-six forwards, without enough 3rd-line guys? (4th-liners we seem to have in spades.)

  • Also, yes: Ovi is still listed as an LW

  • Steve

    Brouwer would be my choice. Probably has more trade value due to last year’s boxcars. Also a bigger salary to remove from the books.

  • Graham Dumas

    Deleting and re-posting, sorry.

    Erat – Backstrom – OV
    Brouwer* – MoJo – Fehr
    (Chimer – Grabo – Ward)**

    * I know this cuts against the system, but it’s not really working too well right now. Also, I’d like to see a few more games out of Brouwer with new linemates before demoting him.
    ** b/c this line works well as a third, even though I recognize Grabo isn’t a third-line kind of guy.

    Other thoughts: stop torturing Wilson because of some sort of sunk-cost fallacy. We burned a year on his contract; that was dumb. But that doesn’t mean we should ruin him for his entire career by turning him into a goon-enforcer. Back to the OHL!

  • Sean Mac

    I wouldn’t mind seeing MoJo or Laich moved. Center depth is fairly good, and reliable/settled wingers are hard to come-by. Laich doesn’t seem to be the player he was under BB…maybe that’s just me though.

  • BDG

    If NHL sportswriters can vote him as an NHL all star selection at the end of the year, you are more than welcome to list him there as well. However, I generally think you guys know more about hockey than most sportswriters including the fool who gave Emery the third star on Friday night.

  • BDG

    Meant to say “as an all star selection at left wing”.

  • VeggieTart

    The Chimera-Grabo-Ward line has been doing really well; don’t break them up. I love the idea of an Erat-Backstrom-Ovechkin line. Brouwer hasn’t had a good season, but I agree with MoJo and Fehr on the 2nd line. Is there any way we can keep Latta up here? I really like that kid.

  • Fedor

    Erat – Backstrom – Ovechkin
    Laich – Johansson – Fehr
    Chimera – Grabovski – Wardo
    Sorry Brouwer.

  • Matt


    Still no Fehr though. You’re right, this is hard.

  • dylan wheatley

    i posted this on chris’ article but:


    almost 4 rollable lines

  • Graham Dumas

    I just really don’t think it’s a great idea to split OV and Backstrom up; they work really well together, and on a fairly consistent basis. Also, I’m not sure Laich deserves 2nd line play right now.

  • bggb

    Yup. I really want to see Erat on the top line.

  • Glenn Havinoviski

    Don’t mess with the third line – Grabovski, Chimera and Ward are workhorses, they’ll do the Knuble thing, and Chimera (John Walton calls him the “Ice Cheetah”) is still a great weapon. Should Grabovski be on the 2nd line? Sure, but right now you have a line that is playing consistently and with passion. Hopefully Erat doesn’t stay hurt for too long. I do think Fehr deserves a shot in the top 6.