The Awesome Index: Thanksgiving Special


Technically, this is a dinosaur. You are eating dinosaurs.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. The Caps lost in OT last night, but there are still a great many awesome things. There is no better time to take stock of all the awesome things in our weird little universe than today.

Let’s change the format today. Let’s throw the ranking out the window and do it like a grocery list. There’s too much awesome for a top five.

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Happy Thanksgiving, hockey friends!

Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz kicked off the holiday by participating in the Arlington Turkey Trot 5k charity run/walk. Dressed in a turkey t-shirt with “Turkey Trotz” on the back, Trotz and his brood joined thousands of others to raise money for Doorways for Women and Families and Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless.

RMNB Readers and Anne and Lauren W were there. They shared a couple photos and their story.

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The New York Islanders are really good, and the Washington Capitals lost their last game to the Buffalo Sabres. The Caps’ best possession player is sidelined with injury, and the Isles are gonna start a goalie who is 100-percent comfortable going up against his old team.

This would be a big road win if the Caps can pull it off. 7 PM on CSN Plus. Your boy Chris Gordon will be covering the game for RMNB solo.

Team Record Possession PDO Power Play Penalty Kill
Washington Capitals 9-8-3 52.69% 98.22 25.4% 82.0%
New York Islanders 15-6-0 54.53% 100.14 18.8% 76.2%

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Lines aren’t everything. The players a team chooses to ice are more important than the manner in which they get iced. Still, when the beat writers tweet the morning lines, it’s fresh grist for the anguish mill. It’s an infinite stream of content to react to– our of excitement or despair. I’m as guilty of it as anyone else.

Though it’s not as if Barry Trotz has been particularly good at assembling his lines effectively, at least according to the evidence. After twenty games, the Capitals’ best lines have been used irregularly at best. Their most effective trio of forwards hasn’t even skated together since game eight, though Trotz has also found some surprising strength in the team’s depth.

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Photo: Christian Petersen

There are lots of different ways to look at hockey information. The Sunday snapshot is just one of those ways, and it’s far from being comprehensive or fully circumspect. Sometimes the numbers sort of lose their meaning– as if in a vacuum.

Is a 2.14 CorsiRel good or bad? How good or how bad? Is it a percentage or a rate? How does it compare to the rest of the league? What is a CorsiRel anyway?

As a community, we need more and different ways of presenting and intuiting data that can sometimes be untidy and inscrutable.

Here’s one idea. Now that the Capitals have twenty games under their belt, let’s look at Cap forwards in the context of the whole league. No hard numbers here, just big-picture, stack-ranking stuff– a new way of looking at familiar stuff, but with pretty colors this time.

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Twenty Games In: Where We Stand

Rob Carr

Photo: Rob Carr

With about a quarter of the 2014-15 season gone, we’re running a series on RMNB about where the Caps stand and where they’re heading. I’ve already gone into some detail, and I’ll have more analysis and opinion coming in the next few days, but for now let’s take a bird’s eye view.

Forgive me, I’m about to draw some pretty broad conclusions.

The Capitals are mediocre, but keep reading.

At scoring, they’re neither good or bad; they’re just about even. They’ve got a coin flip’s chance at making the playoffs.

But the Caps’ goaltending and shooting are both below average and are both likely to get better. The Caps are outshooting their opponents convincingly, suggesting that they’ll start outscoring their opponents in the future, although the team will continue to get into trouble when protecting a lead.

Special teams look stable. Washington’s power play is second best in the league and looks to remain that way. The penalty kill is in the middle of the league, and projects to stay there as well.

In short, the Capitals’ record is unremarkable, but there are encouraging signs below the surface– and the team has opportunity and motive to get even better.

Lemme break it down.

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Christian Petersen

Photo: Christian Petersen

Editor’s note: The snapshot should be up first thing on Monday morning. Instead, now that the Capitals are twenty games into the season, we’ll be running a series on how they look so far.

Barry Trotz is a huge improvement over Adam Oates. It’s not even close.

But as the season goes on, it’s becoming apparent that Trotz has chosen his favorite players and will place them wherever he wishes in the lineup despite evidence that it’s hurting the team. For all his many, many successes, Trotz is not exercising good evidence-based decision making in his distributing ice time.

Now that we’re twenty games in, this is a good opportunity to understand how Trotz is apportioning time, and how it’s working (or not working). To do that, I’m gonna use a visualization introduced by Tyler Dellow about one year ago that was later adopted a lot of places, including here, back with the top-Heavy Oates!Caps.

It’s not going to be pretty.

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Sabres beat Caps 2-1: Mike Green Hurt, We Are Butthurt


The Sabres aren’t good by any stretch, but the Washington Capitals just couldn’t beat Jhonas Enroth during evens. A little luck and a one weak Caps shift were all the Sabres needed to take the lead in Saturday’s dismal low-scoring affair. Boo.

The Capitals dominated possession in the first period but couldn’t put the biscuit in the basket. They backed off the aggression in the second period, allowing the Sabres to close the gap and even score a weird one off Matt Mouls0n’s stick.

Marcus Johansson drew a penalty on a breakaway in the third. Matt Niskanen scored his first goal in a Caps uniform on the ensuring power play, bouncing off the stick of a Sabres defenseman. Torrey Mitchell, inexplicably, put the Sabres back in the lead with a scrap in the crease with less than 8 minutes left in the game. That was it. Wow.

Sabres beat Caps 2-1.

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Caps vs Sabres Pregame: “Weakest Competition Yet”


Photo: NOAA

When the Washington Capitals play the Buffalo Sabres tonight, they’ll be playing one of the worst teams in memory. You could say the Sabres are the Caps’ “weakest competition yet,” but you’d be doing so at your own peril. First, you should verify your translation, and second, the Sabres have won their last two games.

If the Caps fall into another lull, the Sabres, now cured of snowbound cabin fever, will attack. Instead, the ideal outcome would be the Caps helping Buffalo on their quest for McEichel with a clean, blowout, rego win. 7 PM on CSN. Game on.

Team Record Possession PDO Power Play Penalty Kill
Washington Capitals 9-7-3 55.99% 98.90 24.1% 82.0%
Buffalo Sabres 5-13-2 42.01% 99.28 6.8% 78.2%

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Ovi in the Hero Unit: Caps beat Avs 3-2!

Doug Pensinger

Righteous photo (Photo: Doug Pensinger)

The Washington Capitals are bad with the lead. They demonstrated as much on Thursday night when their conservative play caused two blown one-goal leads. The Colorado Avalanche, who are really bad, genuinely outplayed the Capitals as soon as the Caps took the lead– a continuation of a pattern we’ve seen since week two of the season.

But when the Caps are scrappin’, they’re one of the best in the league. Blowing two leads just made Alex Ovechkin more dangerous on Thursday night. Here’s how it went down.

Ovechkin made some nasty moves in the second period to find Nick Backstrom, which was a weird reversal of roles for the Caps’ first goal. The Avs tied it up promptly after as Nate MacKinnon beat Nate Schmidt and Evgeny Kuznetsov failed to mark the trailing Danny Briere– freaking Danny Briere– who tied it up. No worries though, as Jason Chimera restored the Washington lead with a dart to the top corner.

The Caps played bad hockey in the third period until Tyson Barrie beat a fumbling Capitals defense to tie it. That woke the Caps up. Alex Ovechkin went Rambo style into the Colorado zone, scoring solo on his own rebound during 4-on-4 hockey. The Caps withstood a late attack and took the win in rego.

Caps beat Avs 3-2!

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