Photo: Nick Wass
For the second week in a row, the Capitals took just two standings points out of a possible six. The Caps are three points behind Philly for the wild-card spot, but Philly has two extra games holstered. Sports Club Stats puts the Caps’ chances of making the playoffs at 8.1%. For them to have a chance, they’d basically have to play like the best team in the league from here on out.
It doesn’t look good.
And then there’s the small matter of California. After Sunday’s date with the Leafs, the Caps go west. The way of Horatio Alger, Davy Crockett, the Donner Party for games against the Ducks, the Kings, and the Sharks. Wuh oh.
I’m trying over here to find a positive spin to put on the numbers, but I’m thinking if you’re looking for solace you might want to look elsewhere. I promise to keep this short and mildly interesting.
These are the numbers as of noon on Sunday, March 16th. 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, week 15, week 16, week 17, week 18, week 19, week 20, week 21
- Team puck possession (i.e. even-strength shot-attempt percentage when the score is close) moved up to 49.37% from 49.10% last week. It’s gonna come down to the wire at the end of the season, but we can safely say this: the Caps were getting outshot for most of the season.
- Katie Carrera has a great piece with Tom Wilson on WaPo today. It’s basically everything you want to hear from him: “If I’m fighting, it’s going to be on my own terms now.” And Oates, who seems perversely proud of making Wilson one of the worst-used first-round rookies I’ve ever seen, has given him 3-4 extra shifts in the last two games– putting him at 9+ minutes on ice instead of just 7. Wilson hasn’t had a single penalty since the blowup in Philly. And yeah, there’s the small matter of the goal on Friday. Let’s see if Wilson still gets some ice time and chances once Evgeny Kuznetsov moves off the fourth line.
- Speaking of Kuzya, his 23 minutes of close-score 5v5 time have generated two Caps goals, zero opponent goals, 18 Caps shot attempts, and just 10 opponent shot attempts (64.3% possession [SA%]). It’s early going, but I like everything I see. I even like how he doesn’t yet know where to be on the offensive-zone cycle, which forced linemates like Jay Beagle to drive to the net instead of grinding forever.
- A lot has been made of the Caps’ penchant for blowing two-goal leads. And for good reason: it’s happened twelve times. What’s behind that is– like all things– complicated. The Caps are middle of the pack in puck possession when they lead by two, so that’s not it. It’s just that a bunch of shots are hitting the net in that situation. Now, when the Caps have a lead of just one goal, that’s a hot mess in possession and saving. Something about the way the Caps play changes big when they’re not tied or trailing. The Caps’ possession score drops steeply from 49.37 in tie games to 44.62 with one-goal lead. They also are second-worst in the league at stopping shots when they have a lead: 87.0 save percentage. Since a high win percentage in one-goal games is hard to keep up, the Caps would do better if they tried to run up the score a bit more. Plus, this “Protect Mode” stuff isn’t just bad tactics, it’s also not fun to watch.
- I was talking about this on the Maple Leafs Hot Stove Hangout yesterday, so let’s check the numbers. During 5v5, Alex Ovechkin has scored on 20 out of 197 shots for a good 10.15 save percentage. During that same time, Alex Ovechkin’s teammates scored on 10 of 287 shots for an atrocious 3.48 save percentage. For context, league average is around 8%. If you get into an argument with an over-served hockey fan during this St Patrick’s holiday (like I did last night), feel free to cite that information when explaining what Ovi’s crummy plus-minus is actually measuring.
- I bet most people want more out of Dustin Penner. I think they’re gonna get it. He’s personally generated 16 shot attempts in almost 82 minutes and tilted the ice in the Caps’ favor 53.8% (SA%) during close games. Then again, D.P. has played under 15 minutes as many times as he’s played over. If McPhee brought Penner in to crash the net on a line with Backstrom and Ovechkin, are we actually gonna see that happen at some point?
- I’m never taking Nate Schmidt off the snapshot. It’s my little protest. Nate’s actually hurt right now, but he’s in my thoughts.
- Finally, Jack Hillen has been added to the list. Yeesh. Alright. Sample size warning? Sure, let’s go with that.
- 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.