Tom Wilson - Patrick McDermott

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.

See previous snapshots: week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, week 5

Forwards

Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Brooks Laich C 17 131.4 2 6 37.7% 4.7% 92.5% 97.2 51.8%
Marcus Johansson C 17 136.1 5 7 43.9% 8.2% 91.6% 99.8 56.2%
Mikhail Grabovski C 17 133 9 5 46.5% 12.9% 93.7% 106.5 50.3%
Nicklas Backstrom C 17 143.7 8 5 48.1% 10.7% 94.2% 104.9 54.6%
Alex Ovechkin L 15 133.7 5 5 45.5% 7.4% 94.4% 101.7 58.3%
Jason Chimera L 17 127.5 9 10 47.8% 13.8% 85.7% 99.6 44.3%
Eric Fehr R 14 81.5 2 7 51.4% 5% 81.6% 86.6 44.7%
Joel Ward R 17 120.4 7 9 51.2% 11.1% 85.2% 96.4 49.6%
Martin Erat R 17 114.5 4 5 49.4% 8.7% 91.1% 99.8 49.6%
Tom Wilson R 17 73.8 2 2 50% 6.3% 93.1% 99.4 57.1%
Troy Brouwer R 17 126.3 4 4 38.3% 10% 94.4% 104.4 51.9%
Michael Latta R 7 29.1 2 2 55.9% 13.3% 83.3% 99.7 40.7%

Defense

Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Nate Schmidt D 13 128.3 5 2 55.8% 7.9% 96.6% 104.5 54.6%
Alexander Urbom D 11 80.5 4 4 45.6% 11.8% 90.9% 102.7 50.5%
John Carlson D 17 159 7 10 41% 10.4% 89.8% 100.2 50.2%
Karl Alzner D 17 165.3 9 9 40.5% 12.9% 90.7% 103.6 50.9%
Mike Green D 17 176.3 5 6 49.3% 6.3% 93.4% 99.7 51.3%
Steve Oleksy D 15 125 8 6 48.9% 12.5% 90.5% 103 51.7%

Observations

  • 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 LattaMarcus 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?

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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  • nogoodtrying

    Maybe move Laich to 4C as complementary piece to Wilson, Fehr goes to 2nd line C, move MoJo to W and keep Brouwer? Could replace Volpatti and try Latta on Wing? 4th line was good enough for Erat, who is playing better than Laich, should be good enough for Laich, too.

  • Clint Petty

    Hate to say it, but I’m not laiching Laich on the 2nd line. The numbers above are a great example. Despite the 2nd lines positive offensive zone start %, they are seeing 62% of shots directed at Holtby/Neuvy. I don’t put Brouwer into this conversation despite his similar numbers because of his value on the PP.

    I’d like to see either Fehr on the 2nd or moving Wilson up from the 4th to the 2nd. I think in order to do this, you have to break Oates’ lefty on left and righty on right rules, but he seemed to be juggling lines in the 3rd last night a little too, so I don’t get why that’s a big deal.

    Since the 3rd line is solid, I guess that means Laich on the 4th.

  • Andrew

    Not entirely familiar with all these wonderful stats your putting up, could you put a popover on the column headers with a description of the stat? Thanks!

  • William

    First off: Wonderful work as usual!

    1. As someone who has played organized hockey for 10+ years I can say qualitatively that I have always preferred not juggling lines. Playing with people who you are familiar with and have a degree of chemistry with is an underrated part of managing teams. (I do feel however, that this *chemistry* as I call it, from personal experience, is not all that frequent. At worst, these lines provide an element of familiarity with each other’s games. At best, they have the sedin-esque telepathy which is a product of genetics and immense experience)

    In short: I think keeping lines together is better in the general sense as it promotes camaradery and provides a familiarity that is effective in the offensive zone. There is no statisical evidence to back up my pontifications.

    2. It’s nice to see Carlson’s statistics back up his on-ice eye test. While his undeniable talent sometimes is called into question through defensive errors, I think these are mostly symptoms of being a young defenseman. From my rudimentary analysis of carlson’s game this year, I think the last week for him has been his best both defensively and on the offensive side. Aside from his 3 goals, he has been using his skating ability and joining rushes.

    In short: Carly is a damn good defenseman, stop hating.

    3. As impressive as Schmidt’s stats are, i’m not convinced in the slightest. Perhaps he has looked good on account of being paired with the slumping Mike Green, or perhaps people just misjudge players. I think its the latter. Regardless of others opinions, I think he needs to develop in the AHL for a while. His biggest problem seems to be on the breakout where he struggles to move the puck to forwards on the rush and consistently turns it over to opposing forcheckers. While his defensive game has been decent, his positioning and inexperience leads to lapses in coverage and shots for the opposotion.

    In short: He’s 2nd/3rd line surefire nhl talent in the future but isn’t quite there. He would benefit from playing in the AHL for a while.

    4. Mikhail Grabovski is my current non-gay hockey love affair. Watching him in toronto I was impressed by his passion and honesty in the locker room, but also his talent on ice. His CORSI numbers are god representations of this. Guy plays not only with skill and intelligence but also with heart, something washington has long been criticized for not having.

    His rant on radio critcizing toronto’s staff I really love. In a world full of Political Correctness here is a guy with genuine honesty.

    I know it will be expensive and maybe will be a bad GM move, but I would like to re-sign him. I really really like Grabovski.

    5. This has been noted several times by twitter-people and facebook-people and real-people but latta has really impressed. To me he is exactly what you want from a fourth line player. He has first off, incredible passion and energy to him! How many people have that kind of energy in daily life? Adding to that is suprising skill and toughness.

    I didn’t think we were getting anything in the trade with erat, fuck was I wrong.

    oh and #FREEDIMA

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

    I’ve got a glossary at the bottom– hopefully that helps!

  • William

    This is an addition to this post, which I left a few key points off.

    6. Marcus Johansson. I noticed Hockeysfuture reduced his rating from 7.5 to 7. Perhaps a meaningless metaphysical speculation I think it was wrong to degrade his rating.

    Mojo has always been a very inconsistent player. At best he is NB19 jr with better skating ability and w/o slick playmaking skills. I, along with many others were happy to see him back at the center position, which is evidently his natural position. His almost certainly best at the 2nd line center slot.

    7. Brooks laich. Yeah the fix the tire dude. It’s difficult to not like laich (haha) personally or professionally. He works hard and is a very genuine person who is ingrained with a sense of morality.
    His hockey talent is hard to gauge however-He seems to be somewhere between talent guy and grinder. To me at this point he seems like a good 3rd line center who can play in the top 6 if needed or play on the 4th with the tough guys.

    I don’t think his performance this year is indicative of his end-game talent. My speculative meter says he will perform better.

    Oh peter, why do you like fehr so much? I don’t see it

  • William

    I too would be interested in seeing wilson playing a top 6 role

  • William

    Kind of comical Toronto buys out Grabo and Signs Clarksons to a terrible deal. typical leafs management. #graboistheman

  • William

    UPDATE: link to grabo rant video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaEijJip90I

  • RESmith

    Agree that the “2nd line” of Laich/Majo/Brouwer is only nominally so. In my mind, the Chimera/Grabovski/Ward is our 2nd since they have been placed together. Agree that Laich/Brouwer and whomever centers them is our worst both in stats and the on ice eye test, but not sure how you break them up without affecting the chemistry on the other lines. Maybe place Laich on the wing with Latta and Wilson, and put Fehr with Majo and Brouwer, (albeit Majo should have line mates who can skate close to his speed to bring out the best of his skills.)

  • Lawrence

    I think this one makes the most sense to me, putting Laich on the 4th line that is. I like him a lot, but man has he been killing plays lately. The thing is, I don’t ever remember Laich being a capable first/second line player, hes always been a third/fourth line reliable grinder. I just don’t see what a lot of people see in him i guess :(.

  • Steve Killmon

    In short: http://youtu.be/IBoSnd78Zn0

    But seriously, Fehrsie is a wagon like Hendricks was, only less fighting and more speed. The guy works hard every shift he’s out. He’s shanked a couple sure things from the low slot this year already, but the point is that he keeps his skates moving and gets to high-percentage areas like that. The more TOI he sees; the more of those start finding their way to the back of the twine.

    He’s also a great penalty-killer. I can’t recall how many shorties he scored last season (at least two, I believe) and how many more he almost scored. He’s a guy who will work all 200 feet a man down, win board battles, and has the speed to get back and continue killing.

  • William

    I agree in part-

    Fehr is one of those odd players who lacks good hands and nhl-caliber skating ability, but always seems to find a way to make a difference. He has good offensive instincts and is good around the net at potting in loose pucks and pucks in the slot. That along with a good shot has proven to be relatively successful in the nhl. My personal aversion to lack of “skill” in a players palette is likely providing a clouding effect on my opinion of him.

    tldr; not talented in the physical sense, but makes up for that through smart play and a good shot.

  • Matt

    Laich and Brouwer need to be broken up. While they are both viable top sixers, you can’t afford to more than one grinder on a scoring line. Also Grabovski needs to leave to third line. I know how great the third line has been, but any team whose third line is their most productive is fundementally flawed. I want to see something like this-
    10-19-8
    90-84-20
    25-21-42

  • OlietheGoalie

    ” If I had Adam Oates’ Snapchat name, he’d be getting a whole lot of scowling selfies from me.”

    Yes… “scowling selfies”. That’s what we call it now.

  • Graham Dumas

    90-84-20 is an interesting line, but what about Fehr?