Week 7 Snapshot: The Gauntlet

shootout Dave Reginek

That one time the Caps went to the shootout (Photo: Dave Reginek)

Straight up: The Capitals have had an easy schedule so far. Granted, they haven’t played the Sabres yet, but their competition hasn’t been so tough through 20 games. The Caps have taken points in 7 of their last 10 and are poised to take the Metropolitan Division lead on Sunday night– but it won’t be easy.

The upcoming week will be a tough one: three strong possession teams with tons of talent. St. Louis has a player on a ludicrous hot streak, Pittsburgh has Crosby, and Montreal as a franchise is so deep inside Washington’s head they could make Pavel Chekov steal the Genesis Device for them.

It’s great that the Caps got points where they could, but here comes the gauntlet.

These are the numbers as of noon on Sunday, November 17th. My sample doesn’t include any power play or penalty kill situations– just 5 on 5 play in close games. That eliminates the effects of blowouts and comebacks and lets us know how games get to be blowouts in the first place. Stats of note are highlighted in a cutesy pink and discussed below.

See previous snapshots: week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, week 5, week 6


Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Brooks Laich C 20 161.9 3 6 38.5% 5.6% 93.6% 99.2 51.3%
Marcus Johansson C 20 163 6 7 44% 8.6% 92.6% 101.1 55.3%
Mikhail Grabovski C 20 159.8 11 7 46.2% 12.4% 92.9% 105.3 49.5%
Nicklas Backstrom C 20 170.9 8 6 47.8% 8.2% 94.7% 103 60%
Alex Ovechkin L 18 160.1 5 6 46.2% 5.5% 94.8% 100.3 64%
Jason Chimera L 20 154.5 10 12 46.2% 12.3% 87% 99.3 44.3%
Eric Fehr R 14 81.5 2 7 51.4% 5% 81.6% 86.6 44.7%
Joel Ward R 20 146 8 11 50.5% 10.3% 85.5% 95.8 48.4%
Martin Erat R 20 138.9 5 6 50.7% 7.2% 92.2% 99.5 56.7%
Tom Wilson R 20 84.8 3 3 49.5% 7.7% 91.9% 99.6 60.6%
Troy Brouwer R 20 153.2 5 4 39.4% 9.4% 95.3% 104.7 51.4%
Michael Latta R 10 38.1 2 3 55.1% 9.1% 83.3% 92.4 50%


Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Nate Schmidt D 16 160.2 6 5 55% 7% 93.7% 100.6 57.6%
Alexander Urbom D 14 106.4 5 5 43.6% 10.4% 92.3% 102.7 51.8%
John Carlson D 20 190.6 8 10 42.9% 9.2% 91.5% 100.7 51%
Karl Alzner D 20 198.4 10 9 41.4% 11.2% 92.6% 103.9 51.4%
Mike Green D 19 194.4 6 9 50.2% 6.1% 91.5% 97.6 56.4%
Steve Oleksy D 18 150.2 9 7 46.7% 11.4% 91.7% 103.1 52.9%


  • The best predictor of future success on the team level is even-strength shot-attempt percentage in close games, i.e. puck possession. That number ticked up ever-s0-slightly this week from 46.15% to 46.31%. That’s still not great. It means the team must rely on good bounces and special teams to win games. At their current clip, the Caps will make the playoffs, but they probably won’t go far. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
  • Here’s how upcoming opponents are doing in the stat above (sometimes called Fenwick Close; SA% in these tables): The Blues are 6th with 53.78% possession. Pittsburgh (although on a slide) is 2nd with 57.19%. The Canadiens are 12th with 51.72%. The Caps are 26th. if they can take control of the puck this week, it’ll be a very very good sign.
  • The Caps won 2 of their last 3 in overtime. 4 of their last 5 went beyond regulation, and 4 of their last 7 went all the way to the shootout. They are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, but 6 of those games were decided by one goal (or by the shootout). A team’s record of winning by one score is not typically reliable or repeatable. The points are great, but that’s not the way you want to win.
  • Frankly, there’s not a whole lot going on in the tables above. All the close games mean that few players were on ice for more opponent goals than Caps goals. No one’s PDO (a signifier of shooting percentages the player can’t reliably control) jumped far– except Brooks Laich, who saw both his on-ice shooting percentage and his goalie’s save percentage tick up about 1% each.
  • I’m keeping Eric Fehr on the snapshot for now. He hasn’t seen action since November 2, but he was solid. When he was playing, the puck was in the offensive zone more (SA% above 50). His possession numbers in close games are better than every forward except 4th line grinders who don’t see a ton of ice. Fehr had three points in his last two games, and he was doing a great job of getting pucks to the shooters (see below), but I wonder if he’s being kept out of the line up because he’s a minus-5 on the season– or because he was on for 7 goals against and just 2 for in close-game situations. I hope not; that’d be foolish.

Fehr has a controlled entry to gain the offensive zone, keeps the puck away from two players, and hits up Backstrom (via Erat) for the game’s first goal.

Fehr wins a battle along the boards to– again– quickly hit up Backstrom, who has a clear shooting lane.

  • Every active Washington defender is seeing above-average goaltending. Let’s hope that keeps up. Holbeast and Neuvy the Barbarian are going to be very important in these tough games coming up.
  • Karl Alzner started off the season shooting the puck a bunch. He had 11 shots on goal in his first 5 games, so I presumed that the typically low-shooting defender was trying to contribute to the O. That shot rate has since declined. I liked it more before. I still think this is the year for Alzner to shatter his career-best single-season goal record of 2.
  • Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich‘s possession numbers are still under the wuh oh threshold of 40%. They’ve been put on a line with Martin Erat, who typically drives play. The hope is that Erat will bring Laich and Brouwer’s numbers up. The likelihood is that Laich and Brouwer will bring Erat’s numbers down. Given how good the competition is this week, I don’t much care so long as they score once or twice.
  • Mikhail Grabovski, who rules, has seen his unearthly PDO drop. He’s still way above average in on-ice shooting percentage and save percentage. Given that linemate Joel Ward is unlikely to continue his individual shooting percentage of 28.1%, we should expect this number to drop more. Don’t fret though– that doesn’t mean Grabo isn’t awesome; he is.
  • Most Caps players are starting their shifts in the offensive zone more than the DZ. Not Jason Chimera though (44.3 ZS%). I like that the 3rd line is scoring, but I like even more that they’re doing it starting far away from the net, thereby freeing up the top six to take a lot of O-Zone faceoffs.
  • Michael Latta: It’s early, but he looks pretty damn solid so far. And tying the game in the third period ain’t a bad way to start your NHL scoring career.


  • 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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  • Michael Reschly

    I disagree with your description of that color of pink as ‘cutesy’.

    This is what we’re supposed to comment on, right?

  • yes

    and I respect your wrong opinion

  • Michael Reschly

    You are using #FFADB9, which is reasonably close to #FFA6C9, which wikipedia describes as “carnation pink”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variations_of_pink#Carnation_pink

  • Mike Lunsford

    The Star Trek II reference was a nice touch

  • Haha. I’ve heard this one called “powderpuff pink”

  • I try

  • William

    Must be tough for fehr to watch brooks Get all the PT.

  • Michael Reschly

    How heavily should a GM weigh Fenwick/Corsi numbers when making personnel decisions? Would you trade Ovi for someone whose possession numbers are 5% better, but “only” scores 30 goals/season? (What if it were 10? 25 G/season? At what point do the numbers make sense?)

    If you assembled the 18 skaters with the best possession numbers, would it looks like an all-star lineup? A line full of and Chimeras?

  • Barrett

    Peter, what do you think about the NHL possibly moving to 8-10min overtimes split 4v4 the first half and 3v3 the second half? I think this is a joke. The whole point of the shootout is to determine a winner. I’d rather go back to tie games than watch 3v3 hockey. I love the shootout, guys like Matt Hendricks wouldn’t have the sane following or nickname without it. Same for Linus Omark.

    Is the real probleM the shootout, or the points awarded for the win? That seems to be what needs to be modified. Maybe a 3-2-1 point format would push teams to win in overtime.

  • Michael Reschly

    Also, about Zone Starts:

    Over the course of a season, does each team see about 50% of their starts in each zone? Do teams with better (win-loss records or CF% or scrabble score of their starting goaltender) have better team ZS%?

  • ACK what a great question.

    No, possession numbers aren’t every thing. Possession numbers are often a product of deployment, linemates, and team strategy. Possession numbers don’t take into account the few, truly elite shooters in the league (Ovi isn’t necessarily one of those, but he is above average), nor does it take into account power play performance– where Ovi rules ass.

    If you assembled the 18 best possession players (taking into account the contextual factors above), you’d have a great team. If you put together the 15 best possession players and the three best shooters, you’d probably win a cup.

  • I DON’T KNOW! I’ll find out.

    Zone starts are a function of a lot of stuff: icing, saves. They’re definitely not 50/50 per game. I’ll get back to you!

  • I’m torn.

    I appreciate the entertainment factor of the shootout, but I don’t think it’s a good indicator of the better team at all. The points awarded definitely skew the standings, but we all sorta agree that standings are arbitrary to some extent– sometimes inferior teams win the Cup. It’s sports!

    That said, 3v3 doesn’t do much better.

    I like the idea of 10-minutes of 4v4 OT before a shootout. Fewer shootouts, more decisions.

    As a fan, I don’t wanna pay $100+ to watch a tie. (I think ties hurt the popularity of soccer stateside.)

  • Michael Reschly

    … I believe you didn’t take the setup about a line full of Chimeras melting the ice with their fire-breath.

  • Barrett

    I agree 100% on the ties. It would piss me off to pay that money and not see a winner, but I like the tie alternative to people wanting unlimited overtime (like playoffs).

    I think an increased 10 minute overtime of 4v4 followed by a shootout is the best scenario. Alter the points for wins/losses to 3 pts for regulation and overtime wins. 2 pts for shootout wins. 1 pt for overtime and shootout loss.

  • sorry– I’m a bit slow today

  • dylan wheatley

    what we need is some jam

  • JenniferH

    You had me at Pavel Chekov.

  • Ralph

    If you look at the 07-08 Red Wings—arguably the best team since 07-08—for example, every single player (save one guy who played two games) was over 50% ZS. http://www.behindthenet.ca/2007/new_5_on_5.php?sort=60&section=zonestart&mingp=&mintoi=&team=DET&pos=

    You can see here, for example, that it can vary quite a bit. http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/teamstats.php?disp=1&db=201112&sit=5v5&sort=OZPCT&sortdir=DESC

  • Ralph

    Using 11-12, min 50 GP and 10 min ESTOI/gm, you’d have:

    D. Sedin, Bergeron, Seguin, Marchand, H. Sedin, Ladd, Hornqvist, Booth, Burrows, Perry, Wellwood, Hall up front (Grabo just missed)

    Brodie, Martinez, Goligoski, Enstrom, Byfuglien, Chara on the blueline.


  • Michael Reschly

    Sweet, thanks. If I weren’t on a mobile if calculate how far over cap that would put a team. I’d also ask how many Corsis can fit inside the cap, but that’s known to be NP-complete.

  • RESmith

    I’m a fan that remembers the time before the 04-05 lockout and shootouts. It wasn’t uncommon for a non-conference team to play for the tie. It was painful to watch..,

  • RESmith

    What is scary is that Brouwer has such bad Fenwick numbers but his “puck luck” (aka PDO) is above the threshold. In other words, despite being “lucky”, he is still underperforming. Does that mean the worst is still yet to come with him?

  • unambiguous YES


  • Alex

    The very first caps game I went to, I saw Kolzig get a shutout. I also
    saw the opposing goalie get a shutout too. Not too exciting…

    I did see Bondra get in a fight though, which was a rare sight to see.

  • Michael Reschly

    11 of the Forwards have a combined cap hit of 59.475 (Wellwood doesn’t have a current contract listed at capgeek).

    6 D combine for 25.7.

    So that’s 17 skaters and 21M over the cap. But if your skaters are that good, you don’t need a goalie, right?