Week 15 Snapshot: Need Points Now

buds Patrick McDermott

Photo: Patrick McDermott

The Washington Capitals had four days off this week, during which the rest of the Metro started raking in standings points. Now the Caps are back in action, and they’re about to play one of the busiest parts of their schedule with nine games in the back half of January. That’s gonna be tough, and it’s only gonna get worse. After the Olympics, in March, the Caps’ opponents are almost all great teams. The end of the regular season will be a meatgrinder, so the team would be wise to grab every point they can now. Starting with Sunday. Starting with Buffalo.

Do the team’s lineup choices reflect a “win now” attitude? I’m leaning towards hell no, dude. With Connor Carrick getting some experimental shifts with John Erskine, a reconstituted Laich-Brouwer singularity, and the Aaron Volpatti > Martin Erat fiasco, there’s a whole lot of inefficiency on this Caps roster. You can interpret that as bitter criticism, but I think of it another way: this team can get better. That’s not so bleak, right?

There wasn’t a whole lot of action this week. The team played just two games– both awfully close– and most players got only around twenty minutes in our sample. Let’s delve.

These are the numbers as of noon on Sunday, January 12th. The sample is restricted to 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, week 12, week 13, week 14


Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Aaron Volpatti L 34 161.5 3 4 37.4% 5.5% 95.2% 100.7 50.4%
Alex Ovechkin L 42 400.9 12 16 49.3% 5.4% 93.1% 98.5 57.7%
Brooks Laich C 30 239.2 7 9 42.8% 7.5% 93.2% 100.8 49.7%
Eric Fehr R 35 288.4 11 13 51.6% 7.4% 91% 98.4 48%
Jason Chimera L 44 367.7 18 20 46.8% 9.6% 90.6% 100.2 45.4%
Jay Beagle C 24 141 2 3 42.2% 4.1% 95.4% 99.5 51.8%
Joel Ward R 44 353.2 16 19 48.9% 8.9% 90.3% 99.2 46.9%
Marcus Johansson C 44 383.7 12 17 49% 6.7% 91.4% 98.2 53.2%
Martin Erat R 39 287.4 11 13 48.9% 8.1% 91.8% 100 49.5%
Michael Latta C 17 67.6 3 4 48.1% 10.3% 88.2% 98.6 48.5%
Mikhail Grabovski C 42 362.8 19 12 50.1% 9.5% 94% 103.6 49.4%
Nicklas Backstrom C 44 405.1 13 17 49.7% 6.1% 92.5% 98.6 56.2%
Tom Wilson R 44 200.5 7 6 40.8% 10.1% 94.1% 104.2 56.2%
Troy Brouwer R 44 352.2 11 11 46.8% 7.7% 94% 101.7 49.2%


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%
John Erskine D 19 192.6 8 10 49% 8.9% 89.7% 98.6 51.1%
John Carlson D 44 457.4 15 24 44.4% 7% 91% 98 49.3%
Karl Alzner D 44 465.9 15 17 44.5% 7.2% 93.3% 100.5 49.6%
Mike Green D 41 484.3 15 16 52.2% 6% 93.5% 99.4 54.2%
Steve Oleksy D 33 293.8 18 11 47.5% 13% 92.8% 105.7 52.2%
Dmitry Orlov D 18 228.6 6 8 53.2% 5% 93% 98 44.3%


  • The Caps’ team possession (i.e. even-strength shot-attempt percentage) improved ever so slightly this week, up from 48.69% to 48.84%. Both the Tampa game and the Toronto game were pretty even in shot attempts. With any luck, Sunday’s game against Buffalo will be a 40-shot blowout.
  • The biggest change this week was Adam Oates’ forward lines, which I guess I’ll just plop right here:

Laich – Backstrom – Brouwer
Fehr – Grabovski – Ovechkin
Chimera – Johansson – Ward
Volpatti – Beagle – Wilson

  • The thing that probably jumps out is the re-pairing of Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer on what is apparently the top line. We have gone on endlessly about their weakness together, so I consider this whole thing– in addition to massively unwise– a test of Nick Backstrom‘s mettle. Backstrom was underwater in Tampa, but had a pretty strong showing in Toronto. To figure it out, I guess we’ll need to see more, though I wish we didn’t have to.
  • The “second” line of Eric Fehr, Mikhail Grabovski, and Alex Ovechkin works. No one is surprised by this. That’s maybe the best scorer (and most shooter, very shooting) flanked by two chronically underrated players who also happen to be the team’s best possession players (SA%). Fehr scored twice in Tampa, and Ovi took a gorgeous pass from Grabovski to score against the Leafs. Word on the street is the Caps are trying to extend Grabo, so there’s nothing not to love here. Must the Laich-Backstrom-Brouwer line exist in order to have this one? I don’t think so.
  • I’m not gonna put him in the table yet, but youngster Connor Carrick had an okay week. His possession numbers are pretty bad (40.7% SA%), which don’t augur well for his tryout in the bigs, and he made a few goofs, kind of what you’d expect from a rookie D-man. Then again, Carrick shared the ice with John Erskine, who apart from facepunching is not helping his team. 49% of shots belong to the Caps during close games (SA%) while Erskine is on the ice, better than the rest of the team, so I’m kind of baffled as how that happens. Anyone got any ideas? Ideas other than “fancystats are teh flawed!” please.
  • If Martin Erat gets traded, my guess is it’ll happen soon– like this week– or not until after the Olympics. It shouldn’t happen at all, as Erat has proven a fantastic assist man who drives almost half of all shots in the Caps’ favor during close games. And yet, he’s out and Volpatti is in. The blame for that should fall squarely on the coach’s shoulders.
  • Aaron Volpatti‘s possession stats improved this week, since it’s kind of hard to get fewer than 37.4% of shot attempts. Volpatti has jumped all the way up to 5th worst among the 370 forwards with at least 24 games. Take that, Colton Orr and John Scott! In an office somewhere at Kettler, Adam Oates sat at his desk and decided, “Yes. I want that guy to wear my team’s jersey. Martin Erat, to the nachos with you!” The mind boggles.
  • One last note: the Toronto game didn’t make any damn sense. Jay Beagle was fantastic, forcing 12 shot attempts up against the Leafs’ 3. Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin got swamped with just 13 shot attempts to the opponents’ 22. Same story on D, where Carrick had 56% of shot attempts and Carlson had just 36.7%. I guess that serves to remind us how tiny samples can be wacky. Or maybe there’s something extraordinarily weird about Toronto. Let’s go with both.


  • 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.

Tagged with:
  • A_Shoe

    Re: Erskine’s possession numbers, maybe his facepunching causes a rift in spacetime, rendering fancystats irrelevant?

  • A_Shoe

    That’s the only explanation I’ve got.

  • Dan

    Can we talk about why Nate Schmidt isn’t playing? I thought he played great in the Fall–and certainly better than some of the Caps’ current blueliners.

  • Pat

    Id guess that Erat is sitting because of a trade in the works. Rumors are we may be getting a defenseman from Phoenix (id guess Klesla)

  • Ben Reed

    First, I love these snapshots.

    On Erskine’s possession numbers: he is well protected. He has the lowest D Zone start percentage of regular D-men (only Carrick and Hillen have lower), and he faces relatively easy competition (only Carrick, Hillen and Oleksy (by .3%) face easier competition).

  • Diller M

    Erskine is a great example of the flaws in relying soli on shot attempts as a measure of success. He turns the puck over, blows assignments then gets easy minutes which boost his numbers. It also makes me wonder if AO (johannsen?) selectively use these stats to support erskine while not using them to blow up latch/brower.

  • Owen Johnson

    “Take that, Colton Orr”

  • Diller M

    That’s what is being reported, I’d sure like a late round pick as well

  • Because he can play in Hershey without being lost.

  • That was yesterday… and in that time George McPhee was not born. No one is going to take Klesa off their hands, almost just like no one is going to take Erat off ours.

  • This three Goalie bullshit needs to stop.

    I don’t think that pertains to the above post, but I wanted to get it off my chest.

  • Pat

    What? Klesla is an UFA after this year and cleared wavers earlier this year. He clearly is expendable to them.

  • RESmith

    Yes. I am with you on both the Erat > Volpatti and why do we have endure the Laich Brouwer buddy pairing again. Yes, Erat doesn’t fit in as 4th line player, but that is easily resolved by placing him on Backstrom’s and moving Laich to the defensive/grind role on the 4th where he is a closer fit.

  • I’ll have more on that soon. Schmidt rules.

  • I agree. That would be the dumbest trade. You might as well just make it work with Erat if that’s all that you’re basically getting back: cap space.

  • Klesa was put on waivers earlier in the year, why would anyone want him?

  • teh flawed!

    No, they’re not flawed. They’re just not comprehensive. And we don’t pretend they are.

  • haha


  • I’ve been saying Erat on the top one since his acquisition… what could have been.

  • Diller M

    Leave erskine’s mom out of this

  • Caps would probably retain some of Erat’s salary on top.

    Whatever happens, it’s gonna be a huge disappointment.

  • Diller M

    Maybe they think it’s a strategy to prevent game planning against the goalie?

  • Owen Johnson

    Well CLEARLY we don’t have enough 3rd pairing/AHL D-men in the organization. I mean all we have are Orlov, Oleksy, Erskine, Carrick, Wey, Strachan, Schilling, Kundratek and Hillen. We need MOAR!

  • Diller M

    The stats aren’t flawed, the over dependence is flawed if that is how decisions are made. Equally flawed would be ignoring the stats all together ( see black hole reunited)

  • Diller M

    If it gets erskine off the ice I’m in

  • His salary is much lower than his cap hit, so I don’t think that would be necessary. http://www.capgeek.com/player/1043

  • Pat

    What else are we going to get for Erat? He does not want to be here. He has made that very clear numerous times. Klesla would be a massive upgrade over Erskine and Id expect that a middle round pick would be added on top.

  • Thanks, Ben!

  • What makes you think Erskine is riding the pine if we’d get a new 3rd pairing guy? Besides it’s a moot point, Klesa was nixed anyway because McPhee wanted something better.

  • Dan

    Great – looking forward to it. And agreed: Schmidt rules.

  • Roy Schue

    Have to play Nuevy, up his trade value so they can get something for him.

  • I’m not pissed about Neuvy getting an occasional start.

  • Pat

    Erat has so little value on the market. He has a bad contract and is underperforming. We are not going to acquire any solid players trading Erat alone. Might as well clear cap space and get a decent replacement for Erskine. Again, Erat does not want to be here. Its like a doomed marriage, you cant just “make it work” its not that easy.

  • Michael Reschly

    Being someone who has never heard of Kelsa, can you explain in a sentence or two why no one would want him? Too old? Slow? Bad contract? Not any good?

  • Here’s an old buzzword you might be familiar with, he’s “enigmatic”.

  • Michael Reschly

    a 40-goal scorer?

  • Erat has more value than you think, look at other players of his position who are presumedly available. He’s easily the most attractive of the bunch only making 4MM, Cammalleri for example, makes 6MM.

  • You could probably expect 2 to 3 goals a year from him, He’s suffered a few injuries as well, I think bad luck seems to follow him.

  • Owen Johnson


  • Pat

    Erat has another year on his contract, Cammalleri does not. Thats going to scare a lot of teams away. Erat also makes 4.5M.

  • Pat

    Because Klesla shoots left. Since Oates is obsessed with handedness he would replace Erskine.

  • Not being a rental doesn’t always mean teams are apprehensive about taking on a contract especially if it’s not that high. Wideman, and Erat were acquired by the Caps with time left on their deals.

  • Klesa is a duster, he’s a kin to Urbom minus the youth.

  • Pat

    Yes but Erat had far more value last year when he was traded to the Caps. Im not saying Erat cant be traded, but we are not going to get the return we want.

  • Caps fans seem to be pretty unreasonable with their desires in trade returns. I’d be fine with a draft pick, 3-5 rounder.

    Ideally I say throw in a few good pieces and get Oliver Ekman-Larrson… that would never happen though.

  • RESmith

    Klesla was 2nd or 3rd overall pick taken by Columbus close to a decade ago. Not a Patrik Stefan level of a bust , but close. Was supposed to be a highly skilled, fast skating defensively oriented defenseman in the Jay Bouwmeester mold, but has struggled with his defensive reads and struggled to stay in the top six even on a weaker team like Columbus. Phoenix took a chance on him & got the same results.

  • Pat

    Ah man OEL would be amazing. Unfortunately he is pretty much impossible to acquire with that great contract. Oh well, we can dream.

  • I’d have to assume that would be a first rounder, a top prospect (Wilson or Barber) and a current player.

  • Pat

    I don’t think they pick up the phone for anything that doesn’t include #19 or #8. Arguably a top 5 defenseman in the league at the age of 22, with a great contract. We would have severely overpay.

  • Marky Narc

    How is he defensively, though? I’m OK with a player who doesn’t score many goals as long as he prevents them going the other way.

  • H70

    The only thing I can guess is that Oates is a spiteful a-hole. His roster “management” and mishandling of Erat and Holtby is just horrendous. I would not be surprised to hear more trade requests made.