On July 1st, the Caps signed Justin Williams, inking the top-six forward to a 2-year, $6.5 million deal. Peter included Williams’ HERO chart in an earlier post, but here it is again in case you need a refresher.
Over the past three seasons, Williams has clearly been a top-six forward. While he’s soon to be 34, so concerns about him slowing down are valid, it’s reasonable to assume Williams will at least be a serviceable top-six forward for the next two seasons. This is a boost to a Caps forward corps that needed an upgrade.
Have you finished running around the block and telling your neighbors that the Caps traded for T.J. Oshie? Now that you’re back inside, let’s talk about this. I’m sure we’ll have plenty more on Oshie and Justin Williams in the coming days, but here’s a wide-angle look at the newest member of the Caps.
I have a bad habit of nitpicking the public statements of NHL general managers. I have a ton of respect for their talents, and I think their jobs are very difficult, but they’re also kind of terrible at articulating themselves– or maybe they’re just bad at saying things that are supported by facts.
Case in point: Capitals GM Brian MacLellan touting the playoff performance of Tim Gleason.
Sporting event broadcasts come filled with narratives. This isn’t narratives in the baseless and meaningless “hot take” sense, but narratives as actual storytelling, which sometimes just happen to be baseless and meaningless. During the playoffs, narratives are thrown into high gear. Everyone likes a good story in their sports, and more eyes are on the sport during playoff time, so it makes sense to try to reel in the casual viewer with a good story.
But these stories, a.k.a. narratives, shouldn’t be told at the expense of facts. Some fact-less narratives are easy to detect. When an announcer basically makes it sound as if the Caps were the laughingstock of the NHL and Alex Ovechkin was a player not playing to his potential before Barry Trotz came around, the false narrative alarm should ring. After all, the Caps have been a playoff team, and at times a serious Cup contender, for much of the Ovechkin era, and Ovechkin himself has led the league in goals five times and won three MVP awards.
On the other hand, there are some narratives that aren’t as easy to evaluate for truthiness. Below are a couple narratives that have continued to pop up this series, whether it be on TV or in conversations with friends about the games. Being that the eye test can often lie to me, I wanted to take a deeper look.
Despite what the national media might tell you, Braden Holtby has been a very good goalie since entering the NHL, and not just since Mitch Korn became his goalie coach. Given the opportunity this season, and freed from the curse of Adam Oates, and yes, under the master tutelage of Korn, Holtby has firmly planted himself among the best goalies in the league. And now, in the 2015 playoffs, Holtby is having himself a spring for the ages so far. (No, I don’t believe in jinxes.)
People don’t seem to be grasping exactly how good Holtby has been. This is exactly how good Holtby has been.
The Caps enter game four trailing the Islanders 2-1. Given that the Caps season doesn’t end if they lose game four, this game is not a must win. If someone tells you this game is a “must win”, please tell them they are factually incorrect. A loss would reduce their chances of winning the series though.
But, before the puck drops for game four, here’s a look back at the first three games, courtesy of usage charts from War on Ice.
Earlier, we looked at how the Caps stack up against the Isles in terms of possession, as well as how they can best stop John Tavares. Next up is goaltending and special teams. Let’s get right into it.
Braden Holtby is a better goalie than Jaroslav Halak. What this means is that there’s no possible way Halak could steal this series for the Isles. But, Caps fans know all too well that any goalie, such as Halak, can get red hot in a seven-game series and carry his team to victory. Nonetheless, going into the series, the Caps have the edge in goal.
Peter was willing to let me bore all you with a ton of plots again, so buckle up for the season-sized comparison. I’m going to look at a lot of the same plots/data I ran last time RMNB had me on, but this time I’ll include the Isles’ data with the Caps’. I’ll try to keep things consistent, where the Caps’ data will be the navy blue and red traces, while the Isles will be royal blue and orange.
As Pat wrote earlier, how the Washington Capitals line up against the New York Islanders will factor largely in which team escapes the first round. Generating a little more offense and shutting down John Tavares during 5v5 are key.
With that in mind, I thought we’d revisit a fun visualization of how the Caps are most and least effective. I promise it’s pretty.