The Capitals Have the Flu

Rx

Corey and Katie are both reporting that the Capitals have the flu. Who’s under the weather? Backstrom, Semin, Laich, Carlson, Gordon, and possibly Green.

Maybe Pinizzotto and Andrew Gordon can carpool together on their way down.

UPDATE 1PM: The good folks in the Capitals organization confirm that five players missed practice, and players are told to stay away if they’re feeling ill as a precaution.

Happy Hanukkah! Caps beat Blues 4-1

Semyon Varlamov: intense.

Varlamov takes on all comers. (Photo credit: Tom Gannam)

[Ed. note: Peter has a fever and is kind of loopy. Go easy on him.]

Jaroslav Halak gets scored on (Photo credit: Tom Gannam)

Halak defeated thanks to Brooks Laich. (Photo credit: Tom Gannam)

Tonight the Washington Capitals had their first chance to exact vengeance on Jaroslav Halak since he shut the Caps down in the playoffs. Now suiting up with the St. Louis Blues, Halak is the most foreboding embodiment of the Capitals’ postseason woes besides perhaps the Caps themselves. In an uneven effort, the Caps managed to exorcise- at least partially- those Halak-faced demons. But the big story was Semyon Varlamov, who padded his highlight reel with some improbable, firecracker saves.

Brooks Laich scored a PPG on the Caps second shot of the night, a high puck right up in Halak’s face. Boyd Gordon recorded his first tally of the year by Jedi-mind-tricking Halak to bobble the puck in himself for the second time this year. The Blues woke up with a screened spin-shot from Alexander Steen that Varly never saw coming. In the third period, Knuble and Backstrom swapped roles: near the paint, 19 converted the rebound off 22’s high-slot slapshot. In the final minute, with the Blues net abdicated, Alex Ovechkin gave Nick Backstrom the empty-net goal layup. Caps beat Blues 4-1.

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Nicky calmly celebrates his second period goal while Ovi spazzes out. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Brads bleeds after his first period fight with Troy Bodie. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Brads bleeds. No big. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)

Unquestionably, the Washington Capitals came into tonight’s tilt against Carolina facing adversity for the first time all year. They had lost three consecutive games, two of which pathetically, and had generally looked careless and sloppy throughout each. After Monday’s 5-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils, their jolly Captain faced questions about his leadership after showing a lack of tact during Bruce Boudreau’s press conference with Caps media

The Caps also came into tonight’s game a bit bruised up. They would be forced to pick themselves off the mat without early-season standouts Michal Neuvirth and Mike Green, who were nursing lower-body and upper-body injuries respectively.

So in came the recently-rehabbin’ Semyon Varlamov, Tom Poti, and a reinvigorated Russian Machine.

Tonight, it only took two minutes to realize that our beloved Caps came to play. Alex Ovechkin laid out Chad LaRose with a fiery open ice check. Unequivocally, that hit set the tone of the game.

Nicklas Backstrom then decided to celebrate his birthday in fashion – albeit a day late – scoring in both the first and second periods. Semyon Varlamov made all the big stops when needed and our heroes dug deep and prevailed despite third period momentum-changing tallies by Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal. Thanks to Brooks Laich, the Caps beat Carolina 3-2. LOSING STREAK OVAHHH!

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Zone Starts and Expected Scoring Chances

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Ovechkin is out of sorts. Does anyone know why? (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Semin cooled off, Marcus Johansonn started to heat up, Ovechkin is un-Ovechkin-y, and we saw the Caps get shut out for the first time in almost a year. Quite an up-and-down week. Despite it all, scoring chances are once again preserved for posterity.

I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. As always, you can find the spreadsheet online.

Coach Boudreau used every line combo imaginable this week (except for the much ballyhooed DJ King-Steckel-Ovechkin line), so I thought we would look at expected scoring chance percentage (SC%). Scoring chance percentage is the amount of scoring chances-for (SCF) that go in the Caps favor when a particular player is on the ice. For example, if a skater is on the ice for 6 scoring chances-for and only 4 against his  SC% would be 60% (6 chances for divided by all 10 chances when on ice). If we know how often a player is deployed in the offensive zone, we can calculate their expected scoring chance percentage. Then it is simple subtraction: subtract the actual from the expected and we can see each player’s true efficiency. All numbers are for even strength only.

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Breaking Down The Capitals Line Combinations

Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom share a laugh on the bench.

Neil delivers Caps scoring chances through Nov 14, 2010 (Photo credit: Gerry Thomas)

Despite some terrible second period performances that made me want to use my new iPad as the world’s most expensive frisbee, I still managed to log the scoring chances for the week. I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. As always, you can find the spreadsheet online.

The three of you that actually read these posts may notice a new format. Let me know if you think this is more helpful.

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Semin Snatches the Hat: Caps beat Bolts 6-3

Alex Semin recorded his second hat trick of the year against the streaking Tampa Bay Lightning.

Puck commemorating Steve Kolbe's 1000th game as the radio voice of the Capitals

Puck commemorating Steve Kolbe's 1000th game as the radio voice of the Capitals. (Photo credit: Wes Johnson)

Alex Semin’s raspberry of hatful determination. (Photo credit: Nick Wass)

You know that video game where you fight Dr. Wily, and you think you’ve got him beat, but then he gets some kind of high-tech armor with lasers and rockets and WiFi and megagigabytes. Turns out Wily is way harder when he’s all upgraded. Well, here comes the Tampa Bay Cyber-Lightning, Mark II. Our southeast conference rivals gave the Washington Capitals a hard time last year, and they only got better over the summer.

For naught.

The Capitals, led by curio Alex Semin, had a slow start. As if predestined, they surrendered the first goal of the night to Tampa’s Teddy Purcell. Tom Poti and Mike Knuble each notched goals in the second. The third period found Ryan Malone tying the game on the power play, almost taunting the Capitals to step it up. And step it up they did. Alex Semin recorded back-to-back goals with matching assists from line partners Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. Steven Stamkos returned fire with a frighteningly smart goal, but Ovechkin would strike soon after. An empty net goal in the final half minute earned Semin the hat trick and finalized the question. A crushing win by the home team, their sixth in a row: Caps beat Bolts 6-3.

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Caps Scoring Chances thru Nov 7, 2010

Boyd Gordon (Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)
Boyd Gordon leads in scoring chance percentage. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Another week in the books, and I have three questions:

  1. Is there a hidden value to having Sloan on the ice?
  2. Will we see more Uno Seis in our face or on the bench?
  3. Who’s with me on a”Vote for Boyd” campaign?

Luckily, these questions are easily answered because I log scoring chances every game. I use a specific definition of what I consider a scoring chance based on shot quality data and log everyone who is on the ice at the time using the script from Vic Ferrari. As always, you can find the spreadsheet online.

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Game Over Strikes Again: Caps beat Flyers 3-2 (OT)

Game Over, Mike Green. Caps beat the Flyers in OT 3-2.

Braden Holtby, in his first career NHL start, makes one of his 23 saves on the night. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Braden Holtby, in his first career NHL start, makes one of his 23 saves on the night. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

Game Over. (Photo credit: Luis M. Alvarez)

Traditionally, Sunday games have been trouble for the Washington Capitals.  The crowd might be docile, the ice sloppy, the players hungover; doesn’t matter. Quoting Ovechkin: “It was a five o’clock game. Usually you take a nap at this time.”

Tonight’s bout with Eastern Conference-rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, was remarkable enough to wake the players from their expected slumber. The Flyers, riding a five-game winning streak and leading the league in penalties, brought the smash-mouth brand of  hockey that we expected and did not permit the Caps to play lazy.

Flyer Nikolay Zherdev beat the Caps’ new goalie, Braden Holtby, on a two-on-one to open up the game. Eric Fehr responded with a low-probability/high-awesomesauce snipe from a wide angle. Ville Leino (who it turns out is a person and not a cozy Italian hamlet) got improbably lucky off a deflection to put the Flyers up 2-1. Alex Semin tied the game up on a power-play sweep-in, and there the scored remained until the end of regulation. The specter of a Sean O’Donnell boarding penalty chased the Flyers into OT, which Mike Green turned into an OTGWG. It wasn’t the raucous glove-dropper we were expecting, but a W is a W: Caps beat Flyers 3-2 (OT).

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Caps (and Braden Holtby) beat Bruins (finally) 5-3

Alex Semin scoars, Tim Thomas stone-faced.

Flawless! Holtby's four saves and first NHL victory gets him the hardhat. (Photo by @cnichols14)

Flawless! Holtby's four saves and first NHL victory gets him the hardhat. (Photo by @cnichols14)

Tim Thomas: impenetrable (Photo credit: Nick Wass)

You’d think the Capitals, after suffering two consecutive beatdowns at the hands of the Boston Bruins, would have the good sense not to face them again. In spite of that, the NHL overlords decreed that they should meet again on this fifth of November.

After a quiet first period, marked only by a  Tyler Sloan goal (whaaaa?), the Caps provided an explosive second period– quickly becoming the team’s signature period– to lead 3-0. The Bruins then excused superlative goalie Tim Thomas in favor of Tuukka Rask and scored three unanswered goals themselves, earning Michal Neuvirth the hook. Enter Braden Holtby and cue John Carlson, provider of the GWG– a perfect slapshot immediately after the faceoff. With the Boston net vacated, Alex Ovechkin tasted blood in the water and sealed the deal. Caps beat Bruins, thankfully, 5-3.

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Caps Scoring Chances thru Oct 31, 2010

Boyd Gordon

The Capitals are undefeated in games in which Boyd Gordon plays. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)

Another week has passed, and we saw Alex Ovechkin get his first power play goals, Perreault make a case to be sent back down to Hershey, and the duo of Erskine and Sloan have such a good game that NHL.com decided it would rather shut down its whole server than to acknowledge it.

With 13% of the season in the books, here is my weekly recap of the Caps scoring chances.

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