Photo: Greg Fiume
The Capitals managed to earn half the points available to them this week, a good reversal from the last month, but not enough to put them back on pace for a postseason just yet. To make matters worse, a slew of injuries now imperil the team’s ability to even maintain their middling performance. Top-four defenceman Mike Green went down with an injury this week (he may or may not return on Sunday), as did top possession center Mikhail Grabovski, whose leg injury has him “a ways away” from returning. Brooks Laich is struggling with an injury of his own that he says is unrelated to his nagging groin problems and will be a game-time decision as well.
Those injuries will result in diminished team play for sure, but they’ll also lead to some new lineups and pairings. Players who haven’t gotten a lot of ice so far are about to get promoted in a Grabo-less, Green-less, Laich-less world. How those players will fare in their bigger roles may go a long way to determining this team’s life after April 13th.
These are the numbers as of a little before noon on Sunday, February 2nd. It’s Groundhog Day! Great movie. Great, great movie. 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.
- Despite two garbage outings against Columbus and Detroit, the Capitals’ year-to-date puck possession (i.e. even-strength shot-attempt percentage) is 49.67%, an all-time high for the snapshot, up from 49.51% last week. Had they not put up such awful performances in those last two games, they might’ve been over 50% by now. That would’ve been nice.
- My favorite part of the week was when Alex Ovechkin was on the ice for five goals against CBJ and then suffered an onslaught of poorly reasoned hit pieces by bad stat writers (curiously, all from Canada). The ludicrously named and poorly logo’d Department of Hockey Analytics at the Toronto Star used a ton of innuendo and a smidgen of bad math to attack first, followed by Ken Campbell of the Hockey News, which used to be a reputable source. I deliberately didn’t respond to both pieces because I knew the defense would look better from an impartial source, which is why I’ll super-size my link to Ben Wendorf of Hockey-Graphs, who did the job perfectly.
- Mikhail Grabovski has driven more shot attempts at the opponent’s net than any other center (SA%). With both he and Laich out, Jay Beagle is likely to occupy the top six. Is Beagle up for it? Hard to say. His low on-ice shooting percentage (Sh%) hints that our first impressions might be unfairly unkind. We shall see.
- Brooks Laich is another interesting case. The team’s possession climbed when Laich went out of the lineup in week 10 (“addition by subtraction“), but Laich appeared to be improving in the last month. Whatever we think of him, the pertinent matter is whether the guy taking his minutes can do better or worse. I don’t think there’s a clear answer, which is why they play the games. Laich is a game-time decision on Sunday.
- On the bright side, Martin Erat is on the top line as of Saturday. There is no stronger #TheBank than this #TheBank: Marty is gonna score soon. Take it to the thing.
- I resisted adding Connor Carrick to the snapshot for as long as I could. I had convinced myself the Caps wouldn’t do this to themselves. While Carrick is a delightful young lad, he’s outclassed in the NHL even when he’s not paired with John Erskine. The Capitals’ defensive roster has been their most glaring weakness this season, and Carrick-Erskine pairing is emblematic of that.
- And it’s going to get a whole lot worse. Mike Green is a game-time decision on Sunday. If he is out, it would be a disaster. Weird, since that’s what a lot of folks wanted. The trade Mike Green crowd called him soft, weak on the puck, bad at defense, inferior to other players, and a bunch of other things that are demonstrably false. If Green cannot play on Sunday or the games following, Carrick-Erskine will get more minutes and various Hershey call-ups will be asked to play big-league defense. Even if you don’t love the way Green plays an odd-man rush, surely you prefer it over how Erskine would do it.
- Something to watch if Green is out: what happens to Dmitry Orlov? With Green, Orlov sports an awesome 56.9% Corsi rate. Without Green, Orlov is a 45.8%. We might be about to find out who Orlov really is (and also be reminded how awesome Mike Green is in the process).
- 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.