It’s time for the inaugural Capital Trends post for the 2014-2015 season for the Washington Capitals. We’re twelve games into the season and the results are conflicted with my general opinion of the on-ice product. The Capitals haven’t set the league on fire in the standings. But they have been in the fancy stats world. This is why you may see such a disparity in the power rankings done across the internet. From 23 (out of 30) to 7, the Washington Capitals have good underlying numbers, but not good standings points. If they were playing in the CORSI Hockey League they’d probably be top 5 in all power rankings. But much to Mr. Simmons’ delight, that’s not a real thing.
So I wish I had a plot that fully captures just how bad of a coach Adam Oates was. But you’d have like 30 different lines on the plot all telling you the same thing, this year’s version of the Washington Capitals is far superior to last year’s. Many of the early returns of the coaching change and upgrade on defense have been very promising. At least that’s what I’m telling myself even if the standings don’t necessarily reflect it just yet. Things are promising enough that I find myself rather optimistic for this season, even if I rage quit on a game here and there. And even though the team is only on pace for 75 points and another season of missing the playoffs, I’m not angry. Frustrated, maybe. Disappointed, surely. But let’s get to the data.
This first take won’t include any playoff pacing, or rolling game data since the season is still young. Which should also serve as encouragement to step off that ledge fellow Caps fans.
Without ExtraSkater around, I kind of missed the game-by-game bargraph of Fenwick Close differential. So I made it, and added a different dimension.
The score-adjusted differential is just the score-adjusted percentage multiplied by the number of events that qualify. The score-adjusted percentage formula can be found here, I used Tulsky’s values for average percentages and time on ice. It’s definitely not correct in the sense that it’s actually adjusting for league averages, but I’m not collecting league-wide data, and it’s better than nothing. But you’ll notice, the Caps have had the puck a lot more than last season.
It’s pretty crazy to look back at how woeful the Caps were as a possession team last year and then to look at this plot and to see them above 55% (a really good number) in almost every way I can think of to measure possession using shot attempt proxies. The score-adjusted Fenwick gets dragged down by the Caps’ tendencies when holding a lead as you’ll see later.
Well the shooting percentage is looking good. Maybe a bit of a dip in even strength shooting %. But good god, that save percentage. I’m gonna go on record and say that is unsustainably bad. Holtby is far better than he’s playing. And the team is still adjusting to new systems and teammates. I’m holding out hope that Holtby will rebound nicely. But I can’t tell you when that will happen unfortunately.
Here’s another graph that shows Adam Oates had a pretty awful system in place. The shots against are way down from last year. And the Caps are outshooting their opponents by a large margin, currently by about 5.5.
The special teams aren’t anything really worth commenting. They’re doing better than the rest of the league overall with an STI > 100. The special teams PDO is pretty high though at 1027, but with the best shot in the league manning the left faceoff circle, that doesn’t seem unreasonable.
The shots allowed while shorthanded were starting to spike a bit, especially at the Coyotes game, but they brought it back down with a better effort against Calgary. Either way, these numbers are better than the historically bad numbers from last season. Woof.
Now I wanted to take a deeper look into why they may be losing. Surely it can’t be just that the goaltending is atrocious (it has been though). I wanted to look at how the team is performing in different score scenarios to see if there’s a discernible pattern there.
I was really hoping to glean something out of these. Especially since the team has held a lead in each of the games they’ve lost. But there’s really nothing to note here. They shoot the puck more than half the time in all represented scenarios, except when they’re up by 2 or more. There hasn’t even really been any noticeably bad trends the past five games, other than their tied-score performance coming down to a dreadful 55% (!). I guess that means I’m all aboard the goaltending-will-right-itself train, until it doesn’t.