hugs

The incarnation of the Washington Capitals we’ve seen through the first half of the 2015-16 season has been nothing if not a well-oiled machine, one that’s been expertly constructed from the top down, with the singular purpose of finally getting over the postseason hump. Surely no team is without flaws, and the Caps aren’t necessarily an exception to that rule. But any of those relatively minute shortcomings have been suppressed by their laundry list of overwhelming strengths.

While everything has once again run through the usual suspects at the top of the roster, what makes this version of the Capitals particularly nightmarish to go up against is that there doesn’t really appear to be a particularly glaring weakness to be exploited by a crafty game plan.

Continue Reading

 

This Team, Y’all: Week 12 Snapshot

Photo: Bruce Bennett

This team, y’all.

Whether it be through elite goaltending, top-notch special teams, strong 5v5 play, luck, some sort of Calvinistic predestination, or a of combination of all of the above, the Caps just keep winning. They’ve lost just seven times in regulation through the first 41 games entering Sunday’s tilt against the Ottawa Senators.

The good news is that the 5v5 play continues to come back to life after a prolonged stretch in which the Caps were relying heavily upon MVP-caliber play of Braden Holtby and elite special teams. The bounce back comes at a time when perhaps it’d be understandable if the process and results dipped, as injuries and suspensions have forced the team to call upon their depth recently, particularly on the blue line.

Hockey is fun and this team should be cherished. This group of players won’t be together forever.

Here’s a look at the numbers as of noon on Sunday.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

Caps Beat Isles: Numbers For The Morning After

Washington+Capitals+v+New+York+Islanders+okz1AIc3Qdel

Photo: Bruce Bennett

On Thursday night, The Caps continued trouncing everyone in their path by tossing the Islander aside, 4-1. Nate Schmidt scored a goal. So did some other guys who aren’t as smiley as our guy Nate.

There was a patch of play in late 2015 when the Caps were winning consistently despite getting outplayed. Thursday night was nothing like that, as the Caps were the better team throughout.

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

Inflection Point: Week 11 Snapshot

beagle-chimera

The Capitals have played sixteen games since the beginning of December. In that time, the team added 24 standings points, making them one of the hottest teams in the league, but their 5v5 performance was actually in the league’s bottom third, between Philadelphia and Saturday night’s victors, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Possession doesn’t tell the whole story. Braden Holtby has been spectacular, and Washington’s special teams have been brilliant. Still, there’s reason for alarm: the 5v5 Caps of the last month were better than the 2013-14 Oates!Caps by just 0.4 percent. Without a marked improvement in even-strength play, outcomes will begin to catch up with possession. The only good alternative is for the Caps to begin playing better.

In this week’s snapshot, the Caps have begun to play better.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

The Past Can’t Be Changed: Week 10 Snapshot

Marcus+Johansson+Evgeny+Kuznetsov+Montreal+IkPj5W9MH3Al

Photo: Maddie Meyer

Welcome to the final snapshot of 2015.

To note that Jason Chimera‘s 13.3 percent shooting percentage isn’t likely to last does not take anything away from what the Ice Cheetah has done this season. Pointing this out doesn’t subtract any of the 10 goals he has. The same goes for the Caps as a team. Mentioning that their possession game has been slipping doesn’t take away any of their wins. It doesn’t cost them any points in the standings or make their winning streak any less enjoyable. Instead, the point is that the winning is unlikely to continue with the possession numbers they’ve posted lately.

Truth be told, I think the Caps’ possession will bounce back, and the win on Saturday against Montreal showed signs of that. To go through a dip that is below the team’s talent level, but have the goaltending, special teams, and some luck help rack up the wins isn’t a bad place to be.

The Caps have won a lot of games recently in which they were outplayed. I think it’s unlikely the Caps will be outplayed as much moving forward.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

Asses Not Inside Heads: Week 9 Snapshot

T+J+Oshie+Edmonton+Oilers+v+Washington+Capitals+5zXzVLp-5dzl

Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Friday night’s thrilling comeback win over Tampa Bay propelled the Caps into first place in the NHL standings. Despite the 5v5 process still not being as sound as it was in the first month of the season, the Caps continue to rack up wins at a breakneck pace. There are reasons for that, some of which we’ve touched on in recent snapshot and some of which we’ll get into below.

But first, let’s get this out of the way: This team is fun.

One of the aims of the snapshot is to offer a sober analysis of what the underlying numbers say and where the team is headed. The concerns noted in recent snapshots still stand. But, to go off the snapshot script a bit, this team is simply fun to watch. The skill level in the top-six is dazzling, and rarely does a game go by without some sort of highlight-reel pass or goal.

To think, five years ago this team was mired in a slump, they adopted a boring and crippling trap system, and Bruce Boudreau was cussing about asses being inside of heads. While there are reasons to keep the current optimism guarded, it’s also fun to note how relatively awesome things are right now.

Let’s do the numbers, current as of Sunday before the game against the Rangers.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

Jeremy Roenick’s Astonishing Ignorance

jeremy-roenick-crying

I guess I’m going to write about plus/minus again and why Jeremy Roenick is a bad analyst. Please skip this article if any of the following is true for you:

  • You already know plus/minus isn’t good for player evaluation.
  • You already know Jeremy Roenick is a bad analyst.
  • You don’t like me, my writing, or numbers in general.
  • You’ve got other stuff going on today.

Any of those is a valid reason not to read this, but if you’re still with me, let’s dance.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

holtby

Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

During the course of an 82-game season, every team goes through periods where they just don’t play well. Recently, one of those teams has been the Washington Capitals, who are ranked 20th in score-adjusted possession over the past 30 days.

Luckily for the Caps, they have one of the best goalies on the planet who also happens to be playing the best hockey of his career. Over the past 30 days, Holtby has posted a 95.82 percent save percentage during 5v5 play. This ranks first among the 26 goalies who have played 360-plus minutes during that time.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

Keep On Keepin’ On: Week 8 Snapshot

orlov

Photo: Rob Carr

For a good part of the early season, the Caps were playing like they had discovered the goal cheat in NHL ’94, imported Bo Jackson’s dominance from Tecmo Bowl, and mastered the Madden truck stick. They were dominant. While the team has continued to rack up the points and now sits one point out of the lead in the Eastern Conference with three games in hand, the dominance isn’t there anymore. The process has had some troubling signs of late.

In week 2, we talked about the long road that is an NHL season. The long road has hit some bumps lately, but is it time to be concerned? Are these bumps just an inevitable part of the process of an 82-game season, or are the Caps coming back down to earth a bit and won’t return to their dominant ways? Let’s run the numbers and dig into all of this.

Continue Reading

Tagged with:
 

Worry Not for Alex Ovechkin’s Offense

patrick-mcdermott

Photo: Patrick McDermott

With a hard-nosed drive to the net on Tuesday, Alex Ovechkin ended a three-game goal-less slump in which he took just nine shots. Though Ovechkin recorded assists in two of those three games, that week without a goal, the league leader board, and the general seeming malaise of the Caps power play might have some people anxious about Alex Ovechkin’s production.

There’s no need. He’s fine. He’s better than fine. He’s great.

Continue Reading

Tagged with: