Finally. Inevitably. (Photo: Patrick McDermott)
Riding a four-game win streak (now a five-game point streak), the Capitals made no adjustments to their lineup this week. That’s not surprising, and it seems apparent now that Adam Oates is nothing like the tinkerer Bruce Boudreau was when it came to fiddling with lines and pairings. That’s not a value judgment– just an observation.
We’re now 17 games into the season– a little over one fifth– and the Capitals are sitting three points out of the division lead. I probably don’t need to tell you that the Caps’ success so far has been driven by special teams (#1 power play, #2 penalty kill). At even strength, things seem to be improving, though you shall be the judge as to how much.
Let’s do the numbers.
These are the numbers as of noon on Sunday, November 10th. 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.
- The team’s overall shot-attempt percentage in close games improved modestly from 45.25% to 46.15%. Small steps, but at least they’re heading in the right direction. Keeping it close in Minny and Phoenix, two positive-possession teams, is encouraging, though it’s apparent that the lead protection the Caps employed late on Saturday was a bad idea.
- With the exception of Michael Latta, Marcus Johansson, and Brooks Laich, every player saw his possession score (SA%) improve this week. The second line is the only one not to benefit from the big reshuffle two weeks ago. I maintain that that line is not viable, and I’d like to hear your thoughts as to where each player should go.
- The third line (Chimera-Grabo-Ward) is seeing improvement in how they tilt the ice, but they still got burned for 3 goals-against this week. I think that might be because they’re getting some of the weakest goaltending (Sv%) on the team. Holtby and Neuvirth had a good week, but they were their least good when the third was on. That happens sometimes in small samples– no big deal.
- More on the second and third lines: Mikhail Grabovski had 32.9 minutes of 5v5 ice time (TOI) in close games this week. Marcus Johansson had 31.5. Are we sure the Grabo line isn’t the second line and Mojo’s isn’t the third?
- John Carlson saw a lot of action this week. In our sample (five-on-five, close games) he was on ice for two goals-for and two goals-against. The goalkeeping behind him is still the weakest among the active D corps, which he shouldn’t be blamed for, so I think it’s fair to say Carly has been pretty good– especially now that he’s contributing to the offense.
- Nate Schmidt committed a dumb penalty and coughed up the puck a few times on Saturday night, but his underlying numbers are pretty solid and he actually has the best possession stats among the D– though that might just be because he didn’t play in that first week of the season, which was pretty rough. So, yeah, I’ll still keen on the guy.
- Jason Chimera has the highest on-ice shooting percentage of any Caps forward (Sh%). His individual shooting percentage is 17.9%– about double his career average of 8.9%. Seeing as players have very limited control over those percentages, we should expect both to fall soon. I guess what I mean to say is: congrats on the new contract, Jason!
- I don’t get why Eric Fehr didn’t play this week. There. I said it. If I had Adam Oates’ Snapchat name, he’d be getting a whole lot of scowling selfies from me.
- Lucky dog of the week goes to Tom Wilson, naturally. Wilson’s PDO (a combination of his on-ice Sh% and Sv% to reflect how lucky or unlucky shots have been) jumped up 3.1 this week. His PDO had been a team-low 96.3; now it’s just a just-about average 99.4. (Actually Fehr and Erskine have lower PDOs, but they’re not active right now. In Fehr’s case, his low PDO might be the reason why he’s not playing, which would be unfortunate.)
- Welcome to the snapshot, Michael Latta. I’ve got no idea what to make of this guy. Fedor warned us not to think of Latta as a non-factor in the Forsberg-Erat trade, and so far it seems he was right. Latta gets crummy deployments and drives possession anyway. Watch this space.
- The Caps have tried to call up Dmitry Orlov three times. He missed the first due to pink eye (which is hilarious to awful people like me), saw no ice in his second, and none so far in his third. Seeing as the Caps finally lost a game on Saturday, do you think Orly gets a sweater in Denver tonight?
- 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.