Photo: Bruce Bennett
This was the week the Capitals’ playoff hopes effectively died.
Sports Club Stats says the Caps have a 2.7% chance of making the postseason. To help you better understand the probability there, that’s the same as the chances I will NOT go to Chipotle today.
We should not be surprised by this. The Capitals were never good at even strength. In week one we said, “These numbers do not describe a good even-strength team at all.” Almost eighty games later, and that has not changed. The only teams who do worse than the Caps during 5v5 (which is how about 75% of their season has been played), are the following: the Avalanche, Oilers, Leafs, Sabres. That is poor company.
So while this season is a foregone conclusion, the Caps must now decide who they will become in the future: a bottom-five team or not.
These are the numbers as of noon on Sunday, April 6th, when the weather is beautiful but I’m spending all morning crunching numbers and making graphs. The sample is just 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, week 23, week 24
- Team-level puck possession (i.e. even-strength shot-attempt percentage when the score is close) is heading in the wrong direction. After sticking at 49.31% for two weeks, it has stumbled down to 48.86%. The Caps haven’t outshot an opponent– either overall or when the score is close– since the Leafs on March 16th. To do that deliberately, a team must rely on shooting and save percentages to win games– two famously unreliable stats. The Caps’ shooting and goaltending haven’t managed to be good at the same in that span except once: last night’s overtime win over the Islanders, who are also not a great team. Keep that in mind next time you hear a soon-to-be ex-coach ramble on about hockey being all about gaining territory and not necessarily having the puck.
- Alex Ovechkin has been the target of ire this week. I don’t wanna do another rant on how accurately measuring a pro athlete’s “compete” level is both impossible scurrilous, so instead I’m gonna explore how Ovi’s possession has changed throughout the season and take a few guesses as to why.
- Ovi was pretty great through the middle of December, then he dropped hard. His linemates didn’t change, his deployments didn’t change much; I don’t really know what happened there, but Ovi’s drop in effectiveness coincided with a devastating slump for the Caps as well. Ovi bounced back when Adam Oates paired him with Mikhail Grabovski and Eric Fehr, and there was much rejoicing. The original top line was reunited until early February, when the Laich and Grabovski injuries pushed Oates to move Marcus Johansson off Ovechkin’s line. Then, after the Olympics, it got really bad– even before Beagle joined up.
- The lesson: I have no idea. Whoever is coaching next season would probably do well to put the Fehr-Grabo-Ovi line together with 60% of their non-neutral zone starts in the offensive zone. And maybe don’t let anyone go to the Olympics? I don’t know.
- Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s sample size is really small, so don’t freak out, but his shot attempt percentage in close games is below the Uh Oh Line of 40 percent. It’d be wise to change up his scenery now, lest Kuzya spend the last week of his first NHL season hemmed up in his own zone getting scored on a bunch.
- I don’t have much more to say individually. This team has been static for a while now, and there’s not a lot of surprises left. So instead, I’m thinking this is a good time to take stock, gather context, and try to place the Capitals of spring 2014 into a useful perspective.
- The Caps are 25th in puck possession when the score is close.
- The Caps are 21st in shooting percentage (neither hot nor cold).
- The Caps are 18th in saving percentage (same).
- The Caps are 2nd in powerplay conversion and powerplay shot-attempt generation.
- The Caps are 19th in penalty killing and dead last at shorthanded shot suppression.
- The Caps are 26th in regulation/overtime wins.
- The Caps are 1st in shootout wins.
- The Caps are 8th lowest in cap hit of injured players.
- If the Caps field this team and this system next season, they will be one of the worst teams in the league. Have a great Sunday, everybody!
- 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.