Week 23 Snapshot: Victory in California!

Don Smith

Check out all the sad faces in the stands (Photo: Don Smith)

Alright, now it’s getting interesting. If you predicted the Caps would go winless in California, you would not have been unreasonable. Those were three tough teams on a big road trip at a crucial juncture in the schedule. Instead of sinking, the Caps took five of six available points and now have a real chance of making the playoffs again.

Sportsclubstats had the Caps at 8.1% last week. Right now they’re at 26.4%. If today’s games go right, the Caps could peek over 30% for the first time since January.

Now we enter into a period of rapt scoreboard watching. From here on out, we’ll be watching Detroit, Toronto, and Lumbus with wide eyes. But that shouldn’t mean the team’s fate is entirely out of its hands. If they can fix their top two lines and stay out of the penalty box, these guys really could pull it off. More on that in this week’s snapshot!

These are the numbers as of noon on Sunday, March 23rd. 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, week 22

Forwards

Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Aaron Volpatti L 40 195.9 3 5 39.3% 4.6% 94.7% 99.4 52.7%
Alex Ovechkin L 68 622.3 19 27 49.8% 5.6% 92.2% 97.8 60.4%
Brooks Laich C 51 397 12 13 46.5% 7.1% 93.3% 100.4 51.6%
Dustin Penner R 10 70.2 0 0 51.1% 0% 100% 100 46.9%
Eric Fehr R 63 504.8 18 20 50.6% 7.1% 91.9% 99 46.3%
Evgeny Kuznetsov C 7 57.3 2 3 46.7% 9.1% 90.6% 99.7 54.4%
Jason Chimera L 72 567.1 30 27 47.2% 10.4% 91.5% 101.9 44.4%
Jay Beagle C 52 322.1 4 7 48% 3.1% 95.1% 98.2 51.4%
Joel Ward R 72 550.2 29 25 48.5% 10.5% 91.5% 102 45.8%
Marcus Johansson C 71 597.8 18 26 48.8% 6.4% 91.7% 98.2 53.5%
Michael Latta C 17 67.6 3 4 48.1% 10.3% 88.2% 98.6 48.5%
Mikhail Grabovski C 50 432.6 20 14 50.5% 8.7% 93.9% 102.5 51.7%
Nicklas Backstrom C 72 646.4 21 31 48.8% 6.4% 91.4% 97.7 57%
Tom Wilson R 72 346.7 9 9 46.2% 7% 94.2% 101.2 56.1%
Troy Brouwer R 72 581.5 17 18 47.7% 7% 93.8% 100.7 48.5%

Defense

Player Pos GP TOI GF GA SA% Sh% Sv% PDO ZS%
Nate Schmidt D 29 283.1 12 10 50.6% 8.5% 93.4% 101.8 55.9%
John Erskine D 35 321.8 13 14 46% 8.7% 91.7% 100.4 47.3%
John Carlson D 72 726.8 22 29 46.7% 6.4% 92.5% 98.9 50.1%
Karl Alzner D 72 725.1 22 24 47.4% 6.6% 93.4% 100 50.2%
Mike Green D 64 732.1 26 27 53.4% 6.9% 92.2% 99.1 55.6%
Connor Carrick D 30 256.4 6 10 43.5% 5.5% 93.3% 98.8 47.2%
Dmitry Orlov D 44 516.2 16 20 55.2% 6.1% 91% 97.1 52.7%
Jack Hillen D 12 109.3 2 6 38.8% 5.4% 92.2% 97.6 50%

Observations

  • The needle hardly moved on team puck possession (i.e. even-strength shot-attempt percentage when the score is close), down to 49.31% from 49.37%. Playing against two terrific puck possession teams in San Jose and Los Angeles, it’s pretty darn impressive the Caps held on as much as they did. The Caps controlled between 42 and 45% percent of 5 on 5 shot attempts in those games– and almost half of them when the games were close. Impressive, though I guess my expectations were modest.
  • Those games were all expected losses, so what helped the Caps pull out the Ws (and OTL)? I’d start with Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 49 of 52 during even strength in his two starts. Braden Holtby did fine (92 Sv%) in his start on Saturday night, but I’d say the win over the Sharks is owed to some hot shots. Chris Brown’s NHL debut and Eric Fehr’s “goal” were two of only 17 shots generated by the Caps during 5 on 5 on Saturday, and really Ward didn’t even shoot. The bounces just happened to go the right way and then *poof*, the decades-long losing streak in San Jose disappeared.
  • I suppose there are two ways to look at the ridiculous success of the Jason ChimeraEric FehrJoel Ward line. One is that they’re super lucky, as evidenced by Ward’s and Chimera’s 10-plus on-ice shooting percentages (Sh%). That would imply regression is coming– and it is– but there’s more going on here. Eric Fehr, although not a natural center, is a proven driver of play. If your recollection of the third line this week is them surging in the offensive zone, that may be because Fehr made sure about 56% of shot attempts belonged to his team while he was playing (against some really strong possession teams). The best example was that slapshot he took from south of the faceoff circle before the SJS own goal. Fehr rules, the the third line rules. If the Caps go the distance (distance in this case is defined as the quarterfinals), this line will be why.
  • Meanwhile, in the top six… not so much. There are parts of the Jay Beagle / Alex Ovechkin chemistry that I actually do like: Beagle endeavors to carry the puck in and then find Ovi in the o-zone with regularity. The “regularity” is the problem there. Beagle and Ovechkin are getting swamped in their own zone (low 40s in SA% this week). Seeing as the 2nd line is also struggling (under 40% of shot attempts and four goals against this week), I can’t think of any reason to keep these lines together. Well, except for the whole 5 of 6 standings points thing. Considering how slim Adam Oates’ center pickin’s are right now, I’m guessing we’ll see these lines again next week. If that formulation costs Ovi shot attempts, it might also cost the team a playoff shot.
  • But that’s just even strength. The Caps still destroy on the power play, which is where I’d expect and hope Ovechkin to excel in these finals weeks. But the Caps are gonna have to hold on to the puck more during evens to keep pulling penalties. And on the flip side, it is very, very, very important for the boys to stay out of the penalty box in the last ten games. Caps goaltenders were perfect on the PK in California, but they still faced 29 shots in 20.4 minutes. That’s atrocious. I’m not expecting the Caps to suddenly change whatever is stinking up their PK unit in the final phase of the season, so instead they should aspire to keep it to evens and hope their goalies stay hot.
  • Worried about Jack Hillen. 38.8 shot attempt percentage (SA%). Don’t wanna talk about it. Hoping it was just good Cali teams polluting his sample.
  • Dustin Penner had a really bad game against his old Ducks, on ice for 3 Caps shot attempts and 11 Ducks attempts in under nine minutes on the ice. Since then, he’s gotten more ice and more possession and more results– namely the primary assist on Chris Brown‘s freaking huge goal. Here’s the interesting part: ice time for the fourth line has been increasing. Rookie pariah Tom Wilson saw 3 to 5 extra shifts per game this week, topping out at 10:30 on Saturday. At long last, is Oates finally evolving his attitude regarding the grinders? Let’s hope so.
  • Final note: the Leafs play the Devils today and the Blues on Tuesday. If they lose both, which could totally happen, it’s so freaking on. Buckle up.

Glossary

  • 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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  • Bugs Fire

    Eh, Ward did not score a “goal” against the Sharks. Unless you are saying it does not matter whose name we attach to that gift because Sharks scored that one themselves. Fehr enough.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Naw, you’re right. I’ll correct it. Thanks.

  • Matt Lauer

    The Leafs have been taking a gigantic nosebomb in the standings. I’m thinking that we have the best chance of catching and surpassing them, at least immediately. The play a couple games with Detroit though, so things will be interesting…

  • Stephen Chastain

    Very informative reading, and especially well-written considering the hangovers you are all undoubtedly experiencing.

  • DashingDave314

    Where are Wey’s numbers? Too small a sample size?

  • Josh Carey

    Something I noticed last night that amazed me. Ward wasn’t on for a single faceoff in the offensive zone, yet still had 63.6% of shot attempts go the caps way. That’s amazing.

  • DashingDave314

    Patrick Wey deserves a ton of credit. He played very well in all of the California games. It’s almost like having defensemen who can actually play defense is a good idea…

  • Bugs Fire

    I am hoping both Red Wings and Leafs sink, while Columbus stays hot. Three reasons:

    1. This destroys the “Metropolitan division stinks” narrative because they steal the wildcard from Atlantic.
    2. Caps have a much better chance to edge Bruins than Pens. Which is weird because it should be the other way around. But Oates’s record against Boston is 3-2, while against Pens… never mind.
    3. This sets up a theoretical possibility of Capitals using the secret weapon (starts with letter H, but it’s not Holtby) against Habs. One for the ages.

  • DashingDave314
  • DashingDave314

    THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO START AT 0:37.

  • themav80

    Doesn’t matter. Had sex.

    Or something…

  • Diller M

    Who would have thought we would have won of 65% points in Pacific games and only 43% of points in MET games. We need 14 points out of our final 20 to get to 93. That’s wins against NJ, DAL, NYI, CAR, and NSH plus four points out of games against LAK, BOS, TBL, CHI and STL. I can see us gettin another point from LA since they struggle to score and our goalies have been playing well, that leaves three points from 4 games. The key is beating the teams in the MET we’ve been horrible in our division this year and frankly none of the teams are good outside of PIT. I’m not a Philly believer, NYR have been only marginally better than us the whole year. We just haven’t taken care of our business in division, but we have an opportunityx to make up for it now. Here’s hoping for a strong finish and a date with the Pens in the first round!

  • Diller M

    I find it interesting that you believe regression is coming for the third line. I feel like that line is just evening out the shit luck of the first line. So if we expect regression from the third line, can we expect progression from the Ovi line?

  • Diller M

    With our luck those will be three point OT win games. We won’t even get a benefit in the ROW column

  • warriorinside

    I would KILL to see #3 happen.

  • warriorinside

    Thank you for being realistic and using stats in discussions without being a depressive Debbie Downer about it. It’s a breath of fresh air :)

  • Myan

    Even though Orlov didn’t show on the scoresheet, I thought he was terrific during this road trip, especially last night. If he works on the defensive side of his game over the summer, I think we’ll have less tho worry about when it comes to a top 4 D. I may get burned for thinking this, but I do believe that he can be a top defenseman in this league.

  • Myan

    I love the look of dismay on that old Asian couple’s faces. Reminds me of my parents :)

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I agree. He’ll do much better under whoever the head coach is next season. http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130410013734/glee/images/2/2f/Badumtss.gif

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    If he sticks this week, he’ll be on next week’s snapshot.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I’ll have you know I exercised moderation last night.

  • Diller M

    Can we take this to #thebank that Oates is gonzo?

  • Diller M

    Id much rather Halak the Pens. Montreal isn’t going anywhere…

  • DJ Jones

    Unfortunately that’s the key word right there, IF. They see good play from Wey so it’s time to send him back and insert Carrick. Wey should get a shot to stay up. Carrick can just watch the rest of the season from above.

  • Jack Conness

    Hahahahaha BOOM. #roasted

    But seriously Peter, I really did LOL and I hope you are right.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    We cannot, but I think it’d be the right move– regardless of if GMGM is out or not.

    I think it’d be tough to recruit free-agent talent if the head coach is notorious for putting guys in the doghouse and having his players request out. He might be too rigid for the gig.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    From ExtraSkater: http://www.extraskater.com/players/on-ice?min_gp=1&pos=D&team=wsh#player-usage-chart

    51% is pretty good considering the competition and his zone starts, but yeah the sample is EENSY.

    (That’s all situations, not just close games.)

  • VeggieTart

    Why they don’t send Carrick back to Hershey is beyond me.

  • RESmith

    I’ve been really impressed with Orlov’s play since he came back from the suspension. He seems to a bit more patient and staying in lanes which has allowed him to break up a lot of the plays he was getting burned on in the past. It was also a good move moving him off the pairing with Mike Green since it now gives the Caps a player on each of the defensive pairings who who can skate and really move the puck out of the zone. Nothing against Carrick, but his decision making hasn’t caught up his skill set yet and he seemed to be a little overwhelmed when pinned in the defensive zone for any length of time.

  • RESmith

    I know it is not one of the stats you post here but it still amazes me that a team coached by Adam Oates is so poor on faceoffs. When he was a player, he was perennially among the league leaders and back in 2001(?) (I think) when the Caps where the top faceoff team in the league, all of the players credited him for their improvement in this area. But as a coach it is not happening. It is not the only factor, but I’m sure it contributes to our puck possession numbers being so low.
    Having Grabovski out (54.1%; top among our centers) doesn’t help either.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    I really loved walking out of the Shark Tank with my head held high. Especially loved shutting the tool sitting behind me up. Incessant rants about Ovi being fat, etc. not sure why men get so brave when separated by plexi-glass. Takes a special kind of Kuz to do that. (The other kind. Not Evgeny.)

  • Rhino40

    I’m just curious as to which alternate universe that guy was from where Ovi would be considered “fat”.
    Perhaps it’s that magical desert planet where everyone wears white drawstring pants, speaks French, and has a BMI of
    3.001?

  • Jonah

    I think part of the explanation for WARDO-chimmer high scoring percentage is that their goals are typically rebounds. I know as a player I had a game where I had 3 shots all game and every single one went in because I was camped out in the slot all knuble-like. Other possibility is the “these guys are the friggin bomb” theory.

  • Shaun Phillips

    Quitter!

  • Shaun Phillips

    Makes me wonder if he’s one of those guys that just had the natural talent and can’t explain it to others (Gretzky, Jordan, etc). Not exactly the kind of thing you want in your coach…

  • Shaun Phillips

    But those 29 shots against on the PK were all from the outside so they don’t count, right?

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I think you’re right. They spend a whole lot of time wrangling loose pucks in dangerous areas– the result of some smart and hard work in the o-zone. I love it.

  • Myan

    I’ve been really impressed with Orlov’s decision making since his suspension and especially since the back to back vs Pittsburgh. He was arguably at fault for 2 goals during those 2 games because he was over aggressive. Since Pittsburgh, he’s made better decisions with the puck in the neutral zone. Whenever he he’s been in doubt, he would get the puck in deep instead of trying to make one more move and risking a turnover. He steps up into the offensive zone at the appropriate time and I really love that he’s been moving his feet and getting the rotation going at the top. It’s a beautiful thing to see. When he takes those high risk-low percentage plays out of his game, he really contributes great things to our offense.

  • RESmith

    I couldn’t agree more. Over the past few few games I have felt he has been as an equal to Green in his ability to move the puck up the ice and a lot has of that has to do with patience and letting the play come to him.

  • RESmith

    But that is the thing. When he was player, many of his teammates credited him with helping them become better in the faceoff circle. Jeff Halpern said it was Oates who helped learn it when he, Kono and Dahlen were considered the best shutdown line in the league one year. Yet, apparently, as a coach now, it hasn’t been something he felt important enough to pass along.

  • Shaun Phillips

    That’s even more worrisome to me that either a) he hasn’t identified this as a problem area that needs addressing or b) hasn’t made the time to coach it.

  • Shaun Phillips

    Go to the dirty areas, get rewarded. Always my favorite spot on the ice too. Camped in front of the net, leaning heavy on the stick.

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