Photo: Rob Carr
By Wednesday afternoon, I expect the roster of the Washington Capitals roster to be drastically different.
I’ve been saying some version of that since 2012, but I really mean it this time. With a plural number of players having requested trades, a solid week of blown two-goal leads, and rumors of George McPhee’s contract expiring at the end of the season, you gotta think the Caps are motivated to make changes.
I’m no good at guessing trades and I’m not any kind of insider, but I really do think multi-player trades are coming down the pike. Keeping the playoff streak in tact, negotiating a new contract from a point of strength, striving for results while Ovi is in a renaissance– these all seem like good reasons to be active this week. I’ve got a bunch more of those reasons in this week’s snapshot, which, despite two wins and five points, isn’t all that sunny.
Even though it’s now Monday morning, these are the numbers as of six PM on Sunday, March 2nd. 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.
- Team puck possession (i.e. even-strength shot-attempt percentage when the score is close) dropped this week to 49.70% from 49.76%. I still think the Caps will be a 50+ team by the end of the season. Had they not played spectacularly badly after the first period of Sunday’s mess against the Flyers, they’d certainly have improved on the week. Right now they’re 18th in the league. I’ve got no delusions of them cracking the top 12, but somewhere between 13 and 15 could happen. Maybe? Please?
- Why are the Caps so so bad when they’re leading? There’s a possession drop off of five percentage points when they’re leading compared to when the game is close. SCOAR MOAR GOALS used to be one of my favorite things about this team. Now it is anathema. (For them, not me. I still like it. A lot.)
- The average PDO of the Caps’ positive possession forwards is 99.87. The average PDO of the Caps’ negative possession forwards is 100.48. That’s sloppy math, but here’s the takeaway: the team’s best forwards– like Ovi and his 6.3% on-ice shooting or Erat and his 91% on-ice saving– are getting hosed. On the other hand, there’s Chimera’s 9.6% on-ice shooting and Volpatti’s 94.7% on-ice saving. The result is a muting of the good stuff and a masking of the bad stuff. I wonder if that’s resulted in a reluctance to make the changes this team needs to make.
- Everything happens when Mike Green and Dmitry Orlov are on the ice. In our sample– just 26 minutes of ice time for MG52 over 3 games– the Caps scored 6 goals. It was 5 for Orlov. Whatever happens regarding Orly’s dumb penalty, I’d prefer to see them stick together– even if a trade brings in a new defender or Jack Hillen comes back. Now if you wanna call up Nate Schmidt, I’m all ears…
- Connor Carrick is not cut out for this. He ranks 194th out of 232 defensemen who have played at least 15 games in overall puck possession. And we can’t pin it on John Erskine either. When they’re together, the Caps get about half of the shot attempts. When they’re broken up, Carrick dips to 43.3%. If Big Ersk is pulling you up, you know that ain’t good.
- I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this will be the last snapshot with Martin Erat on it. Though I was disappointed by his shot output (more on that later), I’ve been really pleased with him overall. He lifted some really weak lines in the first few weeks and kept the Chimera-Ward line producing once Grabo moved on to greener pastures. Despite the raw deal Oates gave him, he’ll depart the Capitals (probably) as the team’s best forward at driving play towards the other dude’s net during close games (51.4% shot attempts).
- And now, the saddest graph I could find this week:
- That chart shows how the Caps have tilted the ice when Ovi was on the bench over the last seven seasons. When people say that the Capitals fail or succeed based on Alex Ovechkin’s production, they’re right– but it hasn’t always been that way. After 2010, the team’s depth vanished along with Fedorov and Semin and a bunch of sturdy bottom-six players on good contracts like Gordon, Steckel, Perreault and even– to some extent– my boy Matt Bradley. In recent years, the middle of the Caps payroll has swelled without bringing concomitant performance. Now there are relatively big contracts for middle-six players who are in the red possession-wise, and they’re all playing a meeker style of hockey than what brought this team to prominence in the first place. If you’re in Camp Rebuild, that chart above should nourish you. Let’s see what McPhee does. This is a big week.
- 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.