Week 11 Snapshot: No, Really, Mike Green is Good

Eliot J. Schechter

Of course. (Photo: Eliot J. Schechter)

The Capitals have won a point or more in 7 of their last 10 games. How they have done that despite some really funky starts, some holey goaltending, retreating puck possession, and Mike Green’s singularity of awfulness is beyond me.

Wait, no it’s not. Alex Ovechkin went buckwild on special teams, Grubauer did some sturdy work in relief of Holtby, and the defense all of a sudden started scoring. It was an exciting week, if not reassuring.

So in the short term: a great 7 days for the Capitals. They still have second place in the division, and those games were fun to watch. In the longview, some stuff needs fixing ’cause winning like that can’t last forever. And with some big questions about talent evaluation about to pop up– like in the next hour, I think we’re about to learn a lot about what makes the Caps tick.

These are the numbers as of noon on Sunday, December 15th. Ten shopping days until Christmas. My sample is all 5-on-5 play while the score is close. That means within one goal in the first two periods and tied in the third. That way special teams, blowouts, and comebacks don’t color the data. Stats of note are highlighted in powderpuff pink and discussed below.

See previous snapshots: week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, week 5, week 6, week 7, week 8, week 9, week 10

Forwards

Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Brooks Laich C 25 194.5 4 7 40.3% 5.6% 93.8% 99.4 47.6%
Marcus Johansson C 32 260.8 8 12 48.3% 6.6% 91.4% 98 55.3%
Mikhail Grabovski C 32 250.4 13 11 47.3% 10.3% 92.5% 102.8 50.7%
Nicklas Backstrom C 32 272.1 10 11 48.7% 6.7% 93.3% 100 58.5%
Alex Ovechkin L 30 264.2 7 11 49.8% 4.8% 93% 97.8 60.3%
Jason Chimera L 32 240.2 13 15 47.5% 10.2% 89.1% 99.3 44.1%
Eric Fehr R 23 162.1 5 10 51.3% 6.4% 87.8% 94.2 49.7%
Joel Ward R 32 228.8 10 14 50.2% 8.3% 88.4% 96.8 45.9%
Martin Erat R 29 192.9 7 8 49.5% 7.9% 92.5% 100.3 49.5%
Tom Wilson R 32 132.1 5 5 39.5% 10.2% 93.3% 103.5 53.6%
Troy Brouwer R 32 235.7 7 8 41.7% 8% 94.1% 102.2 51.1%
Michael Latta C 16 63.1 3 4 48% 10.7% 87.9% 98.6 48.4%
Aaron Volpatti L 25 106.2 3 4 37.4% 7.3% 93.3% 100.7 48.9%
Jay Beagle C 12 59 1 2 40.0% 4.5% 93.5% 98.1 50.9%

Defense

Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Nate Schmidt D 28 270.8 12 10 51.4% 8.6% 93.1% 101.6 55.3%
Alexander Urbom D 20 145.1 6 8 42.1% 10.3% 91% 101.4 50.8%
John Carlson D 32 308.6 12 18 43.7% 8.5% 90.5% 98.9 49.6%
Karl Alzner D 32 316.8 12 11 44.2% 8.4% 93.9% 102.3 50.6%
Mike Green D 29 310.6 8 11 51.6% 5.1% 93% 98.1 56.6%
Steve Oleksy D 23 187.7 12 8 47% 13% 92% 105 49.7%
Dmitry Orlov D 6 53 0 4 50% 0% 86.2% 86.2 38.8%

Observations

  • The Caps’ puck possession (i.e. even-strength shot-attempt percentage) peaked last week and is now dropping. Their Fenwick Close went from 47.86% a week ago down to 47.65% now. The Caps still took points from every game, which implies that they were either a) a bit lucky, b) had some boss goaltending, and/or c) Ovi is insane on special teams. All of the above, right?
  • Eric Fehr is cruising along with the best possession numbers (SA%) among forwards. He’s a solid player, a good fit for the top-6, and this time one month ago, he was riding the pine. After two great games on Nov 1 and 2 in which Fehr had 3 assists and 53% possession, Oates sat Fehr for the better part of month. For me, that raised doubts about the team’s talent evaluation process, which is germane now because…
  • Dmitry Orlov is kicking ass. Kind of. He’s getting a lot of defensive starts (ZS%) but keeping the tilt of the ice neutral (50% SA%), indicating a solid shutdown D-man. His exemplary performance in OT on Friday hinted at a real offensive contribution to come, BUT. Orlov is getting burned on the shooting percentages. He hasn’t been on-ice for a Capitals goal in a close game yet, and the Caps are saving just 86.2% behind him — 4 goals on just 29 shots against. That’s basically just bad luck, but it looks real bad on paper. If John Erskine returns to active service on Sunday at the expense of Orlov’s jersey, that will have been a poor decision. We shall see.
  • You can still take Troy Brouwer to #thebank, but he has hasn’t arrived there yet. It’s coming. He’s got two excellent linemates in Fehr and Grabo, who together control the puck 58% of the time. Brouwer needs to get his tuchas to the net. Patience.
  • Robert Griffin III has been sacked 7 times fewer than Ryan Tannehill, but has four fewer wins.
  • The bloom is off the fourth line. Aaron Volpatti seems to be faring the worst with a red-alert 37.4 SA%. The Caps are bleeding zone time when this line is out. What’s changed? Not quite sure– could be the return of Jay Beagle or it could be that this line just isn’t that strong. Bummer, since the other 3 lines are doing quite well in my opinion, but this one needs to be broken up. Were Brooks Laich healthy, I’d like to see him getting soft 5v5 minutes here and then doing his thing on the PK.
  • You could make an argument that the top line is struggling as well, but for different reasons. Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom are picking up points like crazy, but they’re not doing it during 5v5 in close games. Players not named Ovechkin are still not shooting appreciably any better than you and I could do. But because the woes here are driven by shooting percentage (Sh%) and not possession (SA%), I’d hope Oates will stay the course.
  • For the record, my level of esteem for Marcus Johansson remains at an all-time high. I know. I think it’s weird too.
  • Alex Urbom on waivers: before Christmas or after?
  • Alright, let’s talk Mike Green. His worst game ever was a horror show, but the Caps won anyway. He’s making some atrocious defensive reads, but he’s actually allowing fewer shots on goal per minute than Carlson or Alzner. He’s an excellent power play technician, although he seems to have lost that spot to John Carlson for right now. It’s a complicated story, but when we break it down, Green is still driving play. He’s still a world-class passer. He’s still the best guy to set up Ovi for a one-timer from the Ovi spot. The things going wrong with his game are all fixable, coachable things. Coachable things. He’s gonna turn it around. Tell me I’m wrong.

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.

Thanks to ExtraSkater.com for furnishing these stats.

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  • Jeanne Blue

    Your assessment of Green is interesting. Fortunate for him that turnovers aren’t included in that statistical analysis. Or, maybe he doesn’t make the MOST turnovers, he just makes the WORST turnovers.
    Regardless of that, today we need to save our boos for the Flyers.

  • OVECHKING

    I’ll respect the authors opinion but this is GRADE A example of fancy stats being completely inaccurate in assessing a players contributions to the ability for a team to win.

    Not to mention, these stats are suggesting “Players not named Ovechkin are still not shooting appreciably any better than you and I could do. But because the woes here are driven by shooting percentage (Sh%) and not possession (SA%), I’d hope Oates will stay the course.”

    Once again, completely wrong assertion. Oates has stuck (and BB prior to) with Majo Ovi Nicky and they have ALWAYS struggled at 5on5. Nothing more evident than their playoff performance. Why fancy stats are flawed? They can’t tell you that a line with Ovechkin and Backstrom requires a guy like Kozlov, Clark, Knuble to be successful.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    Thank you for the Green bullet. That is all.

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

    I’m happy to entertain other thoughts, but you gotta share a thought beyond “this is bad.” Some kind of substance would help make it a good conversation with a real back-and-forth.

    I think you’re saying Mojo doesn’t crash the net, and I agree. I’d rather see Fehr up there, but it seems unlikely and the line isn’t bad now anyway.

    For the record, in the playoffs last year, Ovi’s line put 71 shots on net and allowed just 52 on their own. They haven’t “always” struggled. They’re good, just unlucky.

    And those “fancystats” (insofar as basic arithmetic is fancy) CAN tell you that Ovi needs a Knuble-like player to be better. For example, in 2009-2010, Ovechkin got exactly 0.2% more of the goals when he was with Knuble. http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/showplayer.php?pid=527&withagainst=true&season=2009-10&sit=5v5 ZERO POINT TWO PERCENT.

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

    Looking up more stats. Ovi did much worse when he was with Clark than when they were apart.

  • Ben Reed

    Ovi seems to have adopted the crash-the-net role on his line. Marjo is evolving into a tough-in-the-corners type. The “Ovi-needs-his-Knuble” thing might just be outdated, and unnecessary. Linemates change as roles and skillsets change.

    I can’t wait for the shots to start going in.

  • OVECHKING

    You pull up all these stats to justify every excuse in the book as to why a player is struggling then revert to a concluding statement that its just luck? How can Ovechkin – Backstrom and Majo’s luck be so bad that they have yet to PRODUCE (aka GOALS, POINTS) in the playoffs for 2 going on 3 years now in regular season + playoffs?

    Its not luck, its a growing trend that if not addressed, will lead to more playoff exits and continued ineptitude during 5on5 play.

    When you lump in ovechkin with any player their Corsi is going to be good because Ovechkin is just that once in a generation type of guy who will get more shots when he is on the ice vs the opposition. Please look up the Corsi stats for Ovechkin + Beagle + Crabb line of last year for me. I can guarantee if there were no names attached, you’d say that line can be good. Even look up the time Ribs Hendy and Ovi played together. I’m sure you’ll find the same correlation.

    Finally, when I see fancy stats back up a teams overall on ice performance in the big picture AKA winning the cup. I’ll buy into them. However, whats obvious here in Washington is people like Neil Greenberg use them to make up excuses and conclude something that is opposite to the on ice performance of a player. Mike Green has been a terrible defensive dman for his entire career and appears to be getting worse in this year. I bet if you replace Green on Chicago with Keith or the Kings with Doughty, those teams would do worse. Green is not a world class dman, he is the caps version of Marc-Andre Bergeron. A powerplay specialist.

  • OVECHKING

    You want your superstar forward crashing the net when guys like Majo and Backy are shooting the puck? Nice logic there buddy. I’d want my superstar forward who is the best goal scorer in the last 25 years to be shooting the puck and someone who is big with hands around the net.

  • Ben Reed

    Those things – crashing-the-net and shooting – are not mutually exclusive. Evidenced by, you know, the shit that’s actually happening this season.

  • OVECHKING

    The things that are happening this year, as I’ll say for the 100th time, are the same things that have happened before. I really don’t see why anyone is surprised by any of this. When was the last time Ovechkin was a dominant even strength player in the league? You have to go back to the 2010-2011 season when Majo was never in the picture. This is a fact… use all the fancy stats in the world to say other wise but the last 3 years ovechkin and his linemates Majo and Nicky have never worked out. Keeping calling it unlucky (to the people that do)… it makes them look foolish.

  • Barrett

    I still think the Capitals need to make a move for a top defenseman to pair with Mike Green. He’s one of the best puck moving offensive defenseman, much like Brian Campbell, Duncan Keith or Dan Boyle. Those types of players need to have a more defensive minded partner to make up for the risks they tend to make in the offensive zone. I’ve named Dion Phaneuf and Dan Girardi as two players in the last year of their contracts that would be a good fit (theoretically). Anyone have some names of defenseman that would fit the bill and possibly be available?

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

    It’s luck in that instead of shooting 7-9%, they shot 1.4%. In a tiny little sample like the playoffs, you see fluctuations like that– they aren’t good indications of talent.

    Ovi still generates more than a point per game in the playoffs, so I don’t take your meaning there.

    The team’s possession numbers are a better predictor of the team getting an early playoff exit, and on that point we agree.

    Ovi and Crabb only played together for just 30 minutes last year, but they got absolutely trounced— 30.2 Corsi%. Ovi was a 50/50 player the rest of the time. http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/showplayer.php?pid=527&withagainst=true&season=2012-13&sit=5v5 (With Beagle it was still under 40.) It was a god-awful line.

    With Ribeiro it was also really bad.45.9% when they were together (worse than any 2013-14 line except the 4th), but Ovi was 51.4% when away from Ribs.

  • Greg

    Mike Green is the Alex Semin of The Capitals defense and all of his talent and potential don’t make me feel any better when see him on the ice.

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

    It’s not a good stat (bad recording, bad indication of talent), but– surprisingly– Green was credited with just one giveaway in the last week.

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

    I’m awful at evaluating the market, but I will say this: with Schmidt, Green has done really well. I think Schmidt will take a seat today for Ersk, so I’m interested to see how Green fares with a new partner.

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

    Looks like the 4th line is getting the shakeup I asked for:

    The Washington Capitals have recalled center Michal Latta from the Hershey Bears (AHL) and re-assigned defenseman Nate Schmidt to Hershey.

    Good.

  • OVECHKING

    Ovi is a PPG player in the playoffs? Really? Last year he had 2 in 7. Year before 9 in 14 games and 4 in 7 vs rangers (these are all with Majo/Nicky or Brooks Laich)

    You talk about talent, but how do you measure heart and grit which is needed in the playoffs to win? Joel ward was a nobody in the regular season for the Preds why suddenly did he become an elite player for the Preds in the playoffs?

    How come Backstrom is one of the worst if not WORST player in terms of total offensive production in games 5,6,7 of the caps playoff series dating back to montreal?

    Finally, I will admit you can make me look like an idiot with fancy stats, because frankly, I am ignorant towards them. The time I saw Fancy stat guy telling me that Steven Stamkos is a flash in the pan three years was when I gave them up. But I’ll concede to them for the Beagle and Hendricks point I made above.

  • OVECHKING

    YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • OVECHKING

    Sorry for my exhuberant celebration. Anyone see the Hershey game last night? Latta was throwing them! Anytime I get to see this kid play I know its going to be a fun night. To bad Lecavalier has back spasms.

  • Freedoooom

    What did Alzner do to deserve no criticism?

    He was completely at fault for the Barkov goal, he didn’t get open, he in fact backed up and went to stand in front of the net, and then had terrible gap control and allowed Barkov the inside.

  • OVECHKING

    You are really going to blame alzner for a goal where Green had the puck and ample time and decided to rifle a clear off the glass which got intercepted and Barkov scored? That’s all Green fault. Don’t even include alzner. He was probably dumbfounded and in deep thought (causing him to lose concentration on the current play) at how Oates /coaching staff allow Green to keep coming back out shift after shift.

  • Matt

    sure, and alex smith wouldnt be playing if he had all the turnovers green has had…

  • Ben Reed

    I’m not even sure what you’re trying to say anymore. What are “the same things that have happened before” that are happening now? Ovi is doing arguably better at ES now than in his last “dominant” season of 2010-2011, when he had 25 ES goals and 17 ES assists. He has 15 ES goals and 1 ES assist through 32 games this season, well on his way to surpassing that prior ES goal total. His assist totals arent there, perhaps because his teammates are shooting unssutainably poorly, or perhaps because he has taken up the role of net-crasher, or some combination of both.

    I don’t know what you’d prefer exactly.

  • OVECHKING

    Alex Semin was one of the more responsible capitals in the top 6 F group in terms of defensive awareness. In fact under hunter, I’d say he was the caps best two way forward. Bad analogy. Semin could have helped this team, just not at his caphit.

  • Joey Doukmetzian

    The Washington Capitals have moved Mike Green to the right wing and pushed Troy Brouwer down to the the 3rd line for today’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

    haha just kidding :(

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    “I am ignorant towards [advanced statistics]”

    Then why are you continuing to comment and ramble when you’re not advancing the conversation?

    “how do you measure heart and grit”

    If heart mattered in the game more than skill and other things, a guy like Quentin Laing would have played 20 years in the NHL. Unfortunately, he did not.

  • OVECHKING

    Exactly, YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD!! “His assist totals are not there”? Why? because of his linemates… who is on his line? MARCUS JOHANSON!!!

  • OVECHKING

    That’s my point, his linemates are the issue. And if you look at the 2 season prior to this one, its the same trend as what you have this year if not worse.

  • Ben Reed

    Who gives a shit if it’s Ovi scoring instead of his linemates, if the same amount of goals are being scored?

  • OVECHKING

    I am debating the point that Green is a good player. He is not elite. You don’t need fancy stats to progress a debate about how good a player is. Just look at him compared to other elite dman in the game.

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

    Ovi has 1.05 points per game in 58 playoffs games. Number one among any Caps player with more than 40 playoffs games.

    If grit and heart help the game make sense to you, that’s fine. Random variance explains it even better and with better help in predicting the future.

    BTW, nothing I’ve said is remotely fancy. It’s just using shots instead of goals because they’re more helpful in guessing how players and teams will do in the future.

  • OVECHKING

    Now you’re falling off track. what has happened in the playoffs the last two years? Has ovi kept scoring? No. If he is a singular threat on the first line… that’s very easy to defend.

  • OVECHKING

    Why do you keep looking at the total production for Ovi and no the last two years where he has played with his current linemates? That’s twisting stats to prove a false point.

  • dylan wheatley

    from my eye green’s playing pretty good d, he just keeps getting burned on bad luck bounces and mis-read passes.

  • Ben Reed

    If we’re talking about playoff performance, citing ’07-’11 is not going to help your case.

  • dylan wheatley

    when i say “pretty good d” i mean as good as anybody on the team, save maybe Alzner

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

    I think you think I’m arguing something that I’m not arguing.

  • hoho

    Where is Grabovski vs flyers?

  • eses

    Beagle is playing instead of him?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    Grabovski has the flu! No worries there.

  • Dave

    A flaw in the shot attempt stats is that players are not punished for going into the penalty box. You should add all the shot attempts to a player’s stats when he’d in the box and the team is short handed, since those power play shot attempts are a direct result of the player’s mistake.

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

    That would make the stat worse. The flaw isn’t in the stat, it’s in thinking the stat is all-encompassing.

  • KG

    re: Semin…. uhhhhh, what?

  • Neeners84

    My theory is that he is playing with an injury. Appears to be overprotecting himself from hits/avoiding contact, lots of ” lazy” stick penalties, keeps getting caught out of position. Something’s not right.

  • M Taylor

    Who currently has the highest first assist total on Ovi’s goals? Has it changed from Marcus in the past month or so? Seems like another puck feeder, since the Backstrom/Ovi combo has been so well studied, covered and executed, has helped this team more than hurt it.

  • Tyler

    No one bit the bait on the RG3 stat, lols

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

    I am bitter