Week 12: Everybody, Goalie Panic!

Grubi - Patrick McDermott

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.

See previous snapshots: week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, week 5, week 6, week 7, week 8, week 9, week 10, week 11


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 36 303.1 8 15 47.6% 5.8% 90.7% 96.5 54.4%
Mikhail Grabovski C 34 274.3 14 11 47.8% 10.4% 92.8% 103.2 49.5%
Nicklas Backstrom C 36 318 10 14 47.5% 6.1% 92.6% 98.7 57.4%
Alex Ovechkin L 34 311.1 7 14 48% 4.3% 92.5% 96.8 58.8%
Jason Chimera L 36 282.9 15 16 45.4% 10.6% 90.3% 100.9 43.9%
Eric Fehr R 27 201.2 7 11 50.4% 7.5% 88.9% 96.4 47.8%
Joel Ward R 36 270.4 12 15 48.4% 9% 89.7% 98.7 45.2%
Martin Erat R 33 233 10 10 48.8% 9.3% 92.2% 101.5 48.3%
Tom Wilson R 36 154.6 5 5 39.1% 9.6% 93.6% 103.2 54.2%
Troy Brouwer R 36 271.2 9 9 42.4% 9% 94% 103 49.7%
Michael Latta C 17 67.6 3 4 48.1% 10.3% 88.2% 98.6 48.5%
Aaron Volpatti L 29 128.7 3 4 35.7% 6.8% 94.2% 101 48%
Jay Beagle C 16 88.2 1 2 37.6% 3.4% 95.3% 98.8 50.7%


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 36 358.4 12 21 42.9% 7.7% 90.1% 97.8 48.4%
Karl Alzner D 36 368.6 12 14 43.5% 7.6% 93.1% 100.7 49.1%
Mike Green D 33 366.6 10 12 50.2% 5.4% 93.7% 99.1 55.8%
Steve Oleksy D 27 225.6 14 9 46.1% 14% 92.2% 106.2 49.2%
Dmitry Orlov D 10 108 2 5 45.5% 4.2% 91.2% 95.4 41.5%


Washington Capitals 2013-2014 game-by-game 5v5 close FF

(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.

Thanks to ExtraSkater.com for the stats.

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  • Jack Conness

    I think we all agree Erskine needs to go. I’m not sure what Oates’ thought process is on players. I mean, he thought Orlov wasn’t NHL ready? He has played great so far. Erskine looks awful and Nate Schmidt needs to be back.

    Carlson-Alzer is a bad combo. They gotta break it up. Mike Green looks a touch better, but still not good.

    I’ve always sided with keeping Martin Erat and I think he has played very solid the past couple of weeks. He is getting a bit unlucky with his shots; one will eventually find the net. I keep saying it but seeing him, Grabo, and Fehr on the same line would be sweet. Then the 3rd line could be Chimera-Beagle-Wardo which would be a very solid.

    They have to trade Neuvy soon. Gruby has to stay (I’m not saying as a starter YET but time will tell).

    Lastly, Tom Wilson needs to see more ice time. I realize it would be hard to move him up and move anyone down but I think MoJo could be expendable. I feel like Wilson, who obviously isn’t as quick and smooth as him, could fill his hole. Thoughts?

    And on a side note: Last night, I watched Filip Forsberg play live in person. The dude is a lot bigger than I thought he would be. Huge legs. And he was real quick on the ice. Got around just fine and would get in front of the net. He is more physical than I imagined. I realize this was at an AHL level but he looked very solid.

  • Tommy

    Holtby is the goalie. Neuvirth will back up, and can be a starting goalie in the NHL. Gruby is exciting and will help Hershey have a good year. I personally want to see Holtby play every night, even the nights he has a bad game. He is a good goalie and may develop into a Brodeaur goalie.

  • bmoretim

    This team has no identity, they don’t know how to dictate the game, to the way they want it to be played. I hope they figure it out, like yesterday.

  • Michael Reschly

    You have Erat’s save percentage listed at 101.5.

  • Ross Andrews

    It’s a team game and the Caps don’t have a team identity other than ‘get the puck to Ovi’. When they toy around with the trap, they don’t score. When they play fire wagon hockey, they let in a billion goals every game and never get “good bounces”. It seems like they don’t understand that in order to win consistently, they need to out-work the other team and play a possession game. Whenever they get ahead in the standings they sit back and try to win games on bounces and that will just never work.

  • I’m gonna argue that Carlzner is better together than apart in a couple days.

  • FoolsRushLandHannityIn

    The tying goal was a defenseman sneaking in from 15 ft out. 15 FEET. WTF is Holtby supposed to do about that? Everybody’s bitching about how he played the puck, but no other breakout scheme is working.
    Except for Ward’s line there’s absolutely no forecheck. If the puck is stuck in the opposition’s end it’s not in your own end. Does Oates not trust (which may be rational) the defense to correctly pinch on the forecheck so he’s abandoned it completely?

  • Jack Conness

    Time will tell. We just need Schmidt back and Erskine gone.

  • Michael Reschly

    Volpatti was signed to be the Wagon replacement. How do his numbers compare to Wagon’s from last year?

  • That would be too high.

    Sorry, in a rush today. Fixed!

  • H70

    I feel like the goalie issues would resolve if the possession game could be fixed. It just seems like the caps can never find their groove, which I assume is ultimately Oates fault.

  • Jack Conness

    I agree. I feel like a lot of the blame would fall on Oates. They need to figure it out.

  • William

    I agree with other commenters; Erskine needs to go and go soon. He doesnt provide anything positive on either side of the puck, and his “toughness” does nothing other than provide more pk time for Carlzner. I’m convinced Carlson just had a tough night.

  • Owen Johnson

    Holtby is absolutely the guy. But damn, he is NOT having a December to remember.

  • Definitely worse. Hendy was a 48.2% possession dude last year (not limited by close games). Volpatti is below 40%. It’s a mess.

  • Ben Reed

    Posted this at Japers but I will repeat it here to comment on the hideous possession results from this week.

    What’s so maddening is that, at its core, puck possession is a simple and obvious concept. Whether or not Oates respects the fancystats that reflect possession is sort of beside the point. Here we have a hockey legend that apparently doesn’t understand that HAVING the puck is better than NOT HAVING the puck. He is not dumb – maybe he is just outsmarting himself.

  • Graham Dumas

    Agreed: the jackolantern must go.

  • I like to think that every coach and player appreciate the important of puck possession, but they might dispute ways of measuring it.

    Because you’re right. Having the puck is better than the alternative because duh.

    The problem I guess is effecting possession through talent and systems. In my opinion, it seems Oates puts much of his effort into tactics like the 5-foot breakout rule for D that– as a tiny little portion of “the system”, doesn’t seem a great match for talent like Orlov, Green, and Carlson.

  • Ben Reed

    The tactics don’t seem to correlate to retaining possession of the puck. It seems to emphasize “territory” more. (He uses that term all the time in post-game pressers). It’s readily apparent to me and, I think, most lay observers, that trying to gain territory quickly (5 foot rule, no neutral zone weaving, etc.) isn’t the same as keeping the puck longer. That’s the disconnect with Oates’ system.

    It reminds me of the “kick and run” soccer teams coached by American meathead gym teachers, whose only concept of offense was “move forward as quickly as possible.” They would often be destroyed by skilled possession teams.

    Yes, I’m comparing Oates to a moronic gym coach meathead. He has earned it.

  • Michael Reschly

    Hasn’t the entire 4th line been trending downward all season? Should we conclude that opposing teams have given up on stopping the top line and have started game-planning against the 4th line instead?