Another week in the books, and I have three questions:
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.
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).
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.
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.
Michal Neuvirth robs Eric Staal. (Photo credit: Gregg Forwerck)
The Washington Capitals began their transcontinental road trip in style. Undisputed #1 goalie, Michal Neuvirth, delivered a flawless hour in net to shut the Carolina Hurricanes out at their first home game of the year. While a bothersome number of Caps (Varlamov, Poti, Johansson, Gordon) missed the game, the remaining players sported great performances. Matt Hendricks converted a nasty supine pass from David Steckel to score the only goal the Caps needed. Nicklas Backstrom recovered a rebound from Mike Knuble to score the second goal, and deposited the third in an empty net.
But it’s Mikey Neuvirth’s first NHL shut-out that captures our imagination tonight. Neuvi stopped 29 shots, half of dozen or more in spectacular fashion. Despite noble efforts, Eric Staal and Joe Corvo simply could not best the Czech prodigy. Caps beat Canes 3-0.
The Capitals’ awful, awful, very bad, no good week came to an unexpectedly pleasant finish on Saturday night. Alex Semin’s hat trick and Tomas Fleischmann’s OTGWGFTW capped off a miserable stint for the team. Two deflating losses to the Bruins provide an excellent case study in the Caps’ problems: aside from a soaring PK squad and a competent netminder, the Caps are struggling.
That’s why we assembled the Russian Machine Brain Trust, formed to fight the foes no single hero could withstand. We put on our tweedy jackets, pack our pipes full of snuff, put some Mingus on the hifi, and did some armchair GMing. What follows is our panicked odyssey through the Capitals roster, our premature prognostications, our malevolent molestations, and one cheap crack about John Erskine’s facial hair.
Perreault’s debut yields two assists & a +7 scoring differential. (Photo credit: Clydeorama)
What a week. We saw the PK streak come to an end at 25, the Caps roster looks like a scene from M*A*S*H and even the owner called the team average. Then Atlanta got InSEMINated so my fervor for logging the chances of each and every game has been renewed.
My definition as to what I consider a scoring chance is narrow by design – I am only looking to log quality scoring chances, not every shot directed at net. I look for a shot taken in the wedge shape pattern whose point is at the goal, extending outward through the faceoff dots and around the top of the circles. There is some great work being done on the topic of shot quality and as you’ll see in the diagram below, which has the latest 2009-10 Shot Quality data from Ken Krzywicki (including how shot type is not as significant as shot angle – neat stuff), there is a method to my madness.
Matt Hendricks makes sure Gregory Campbell remembers to never mess with #8 again. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)
In the first of their two games with the Boston Bruins, the Capitals continued to express the manifold problems plaguing the team in this still-new season. With an inert offense, a struggling defense, and an impotent power play, it’s no wonder that the Bruins left Verizon Center with a 3-1 win. At least the Caps can trumpet their flawless penalty kill unit.
David Krecji, Milian Lucic, and Matt Hunwick scored Boston’s goals tonight. Washington answered with only one, Ikea-bred rookie Marcus Johansson’s first as an NHL player. Of the Capitals 36 shots on net, it seemed most of which were targeted squarely at the bulk of Boston goalie Tim Thomas. We’ve been told that the goals will come, and we’re still waiting. Bruins beat Caps 3-1.
Have any of you ever wanted to watch some of your favorite NHL players sweat it out on camera? Well if you have, then this “This or That” segment produced by Caps365 is for you. Almost the entire Caps roster is asked a simple question: Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson? However, for some, this becomes a question of: Does dominance on the playing field trump who you are as a person?
The responses are hilarious. A few of the guys respond in complete defiance (Varly), some blush (Alzner) and some respond in uncomfortable laughter (Laich).
So who would you choose: Tiger or Phil? Whose answer did you like the best? And what is John Erskine so happy about?
Readers of the blog know I put a lot of stock into numbers to help put context around which players are performing and which aren’t. Corsi is one of my favorites because it is a good proxy for territorial possession in a game. To get a player’s Corsi rating, simply add up all the goals, shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots of that player- both for and against- when he is on the ice. If it is positive, that player helps create scoring chances, and if it is negative – well, the opposite happens. Or, simply go to Behind the Net, and let them do the work for you.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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