“The Pittsburgh Penguins are proud to select, out of nowhere, a guy you will never hear from again.” (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)
After the Pittsburgh Penguins collapsed against the New York Rangers, some readers suggested that the Caps should hire Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero, both of the Pittsburgh Penguins, should they get fired from their current jobs. In regards to Shero at least, we’re a bit leery.
Head coach Adam Oates of the Washington Capitals is. That sentence is still correct in the present tense. I’m astonished.
This is not another article listing the problems with Adam Oates, or even the problems with George McPhee. This is an article, the last in a series, describing the Capitals on a week-to-week basis using quantified analysis. If at any point the following article reads like a hitpiece against Caps coaching or management, that’s only because the math totally hates them. It’s not me, I swear.
Also, I think Dmitry Orlov is gonna be real good someday. Let’s do the numbers one more time!
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.
This photo of Beagle and Ovi celebrating a goal is from 2012. (Photo: Molly Riley)
As reported by Adam Vingan, Alex Ovechkin failed to get a single even-strength point in March. He finished the month in grand style by getting outshot* 15 to 5 against the Nashville Predators. Ovechkin is still the favorite to win the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals scored during the regular season, but when that happens it won’t be because of what’s happening during even-strength play. Ovi’s struggles with puck possession mirror those of the Capitals overall, but what’s happened in the last two weeks is particularly noteworthy.
Since March 16th, Ovechkin has shared the top line with Jay Beagle. Usually a fourth liner, Beagle’s promotion up the ranks has been surprising, though not totally unexpected. Injuries to Mikhail Grabovski and Brooks Laich depleted Adam Oates’ options at the center position. The big road trip in California gave Oates another reason to boost Beagle: splitting up Backstrom and Ovechkin should have created two scoring lines that would have made match-ups harder for home teams.
It didn’t turn out that way. Possession and production among the top six has been scant, and the Ovechkin-Beagle pairing has been the worst of all.
With eight games left to play, the Capitals are two points out of a wild card spot. Columbus (reminder: apparently now they’re good a team) and Detroit have 82 points to Washington’s 80. In the final two weeks of the regular season, the Caps must close the gap.
They’re not going to do it playing like they have been. According to Sports Club Stats, the Caps have a one-in-four chance of making the playoffs right now. That’s a fun coincidence, because they also have just one forward line out of four that doesn’t look like hot garbage.
In this week’s snapshot, we take another look at the Caps’ chances of making the playoffs and suggest one painfully obvious way to improve them. (Hint: it’s in the headline.)
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!
A Boston writer named Michael Hurley wrote an article about how Alex Ovechkin‘s plus-minus rating is really bad and therefore Alex Ovechkin is really bad. I’m going to link to it here because that’s the responsible thing to do, but please don’t read it. Hurley, who actually gets paid for this dreck, goes through some half-hearted apologia for plus-minus (“As everyone knows, plus-minus is a greatly flawed stat”), and then he uses it as the centerpiece of his argument (“Still, it’s not completely meaningless, as some would like you to believe.”)
So, real quick, I’m just gonna bust out a couple reasons why a) Alex Ovechkin’s plus-minus is low, b) plus-minus is not an indicator of talent, and c) Michael Hurley’s column is bad and he should feel bad.