Photo: Patrick McDermott
Like I said the other night, the Washington Capitals never make it easy. They took five points from four games this week, but they hardly had the puck at all. On Friday, the Hurricanes neutralized Alex Ovechkin on the power play, but three other guys scored instead. On Saturday, their possession time was barely one third of the game, and yet they scored four goals during even strength.
This team doesn’t make any sense.
And now, as we near the halfway mark, it looks like we’ve got some full-blown #goaliedrama going on, which is just baffling to me as it seems to miss the entire point of everything we’ve learned from these snapshots. Usually, I reserve this space for skaters only, but we’re making an exception today as we talk about Caps goalies. Let’s get it on.
These are the numbers as of noon on Sunday, December 22nd. Actually more like 10am because I still gotta do some Christmas shopping. Our sample is 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.
- The Caps’ puck possession (i.e. even-strength shot-attempt percentage) continues to plummet. Their Fenwick Close number was 47.65% one week ago. Now it’s 47.11%. It’s hard to win games when the other team has the puck so freaking always, but the Caps found a way to do it this week. They won’t be able to do it forever though, so it’s important they get their even-strength act together. ExtraSkater has a cool chart to illustrate what is happening in our sample; recent games are at far right:
(The super low dip was Pittsburgh, whom the Caps will play again in 20 days!)
- The top line is still hurting for goals during even strength. To be fair, Ovi’s 401st was a nifty 5v5 goal, but it came when the score wasn’t tied in the third, so it’s not in our sample. That line is also suffering from some of the weakest goaltending on the team, and guys not named Alex Ovechkin still are not scoring. I’ll have a deeper look into what’s happening there early this week.
- Mikhail Grabovski was sick with the flu for much of the week, and that might be the reason his possession stats (SA%) improved slightly. Not having to play games that the Capitals spent most of in the defensive zone is good for stats, but the team really coulda used him.
- Eric Fehr is awesome. He’s legitimately driving play and scoring goals. I’m glad Marcus Johansson didn’t miss Saturday due to lower-body injury, but I’m a bit sad we didn’t get to see Fehr and Backstrom and Ovi team up on the top line. At least we can be happy he’s secure in the top six. (Right?)
- John Carlson got blown up this week. He was on the ice for every Devils goal on Saturday and surrendered three goals this week in the close-game sample we use for the snapshot. His possession numbers aren’t very strong, but as the team’s best defenseman (I think) he’s usually facing the opponent’s best forwards. So I guess it’s par for the course on shot attempts, but bad luck on the goals against? I’m open to other interpretations here.
- As he plays more, John Erskine‘s formerly ridiculous possession stats are falling back to earth. Unfortunately, so too are Dmitry Orlov‘s, whose sample doubled this week, resulting in a possession number that was 4.5 points lower than last week. Orlov had three shots on net last Sunday, but went shotless until Saturday night, when he had just one. More. Always more.
- Poor Mike Green, the offensive defenseman, is rocking the second-lowest on-ice shooting percentage (Sh%) among the defense. Every night I find something I don’t like in his game, but his numbers– the ones he can control at least–are solid. Green is a great example of how evaluation is best done with a combination of numbers and adjectives.
- I miss Nate Schmidt.
- Aaron Volpatti is in deep trouble. During 5v5 in close games, just 35.7% of unblocked shot attempts belong to the Caps. Despite that, he’s getting some of the best goaltending on the team– 94.2 Sv%. The shot ratio is almost 2:1 for the other team when he’s on. This can’t last. The Caps are gonna have to make a change; the only question is will it come before or after they start hemorrhaging goals?
- Martin Erat‘s on-ice shooting percentage is 9.3%. Martin Erat’s individual shooting percentage is 0.0%. Thoughts?
- Special goalie bullet! Braden Holtby has seen 870 shots this year and 2517 in his career. He’s a sturdy .915 this season despite a rough 10 days, and he’s a lifetime .920. It’s looking more and more like he’s a legitimately above-average goalie. Philipp Grubauer has seen 184 shots this year and 243 in his career. Despite saving .940 this season, we don’t have a freaking clue if he’s going to be a good goalie yet. The only question should be who comes in when there are back-to-back games. Otherwise, Holtby is The Guy. And when it comes down to it, goaltending isn’t even in the list of Washington’s Top Five problems right now.
- The Capitals’ #1 problem, by a freaking mile, is that they allow 33.2 shots on goal every game. That’s the 4th highest total in the league. The problems are in front of the net, not in it. I get that goalies are interesting because they fluctuate so much, but a little perspective can help us have a goalie discussion without hashtag goalie drama.
- 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.