I know I said see you in 2015, but I’m in the mountains with little to do, so I thought I’d do another post before the Winter Classic. So here on the eve of the Winter Classic, or I guess New Year’s eve if you prefer that denomination, let’s look at how the Washington Capitals are rolling. They have been doing well picking up standings points, but have they been doing so with solid performance in the background? Of this, I am less convinced. And with a powerful opponent in the Blackhawks tomorrow on national broadcast I’d like to know if the Caps are gonna embarrass us as fans.
So first things first, the good news:
The caps are doing well to stay in a playoff position. And have done so against some of the better teams the eastern conference has to offer. This is not something I want to overlook.
But, the possession has taken a dip over the last four games. The Pittsburgh game (seriously, how awesome was that game?) was the only one that had the Caps over 50% in both score-close metrics and score-adjusted possession. And their last game, in Nassau, they had one of their worst possession games of the year. You could look at the opponents in the recent games as an excuse, but if you want to take solace in that, then you should not watch tomorrow’s game. The Blackhawks are an awesome possession team.
Well, guess the Caps are a lucky team now. Hooray (?) It is likely that this will come back down, don’t expect the success to last if they don’t correct some of the other facets to their game. They are a skilled team, and a team that I think can sustain a better than average save percentage (because, Holtby) and therefore a >100 PDO. With guys like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, and others, (and given their performance last year – and simultaneously hoping/expecting a bounce back in the percentages) the Caps should easily be an average shooting team. And that coupled with Holtby’s play should give them the capability to hold a PDO above 100. But let’s take a closer look at the breakdown in the percentages.
It’s almost like Holtby’s early season struggles weren’t indicative of his talent level. Weird, that. Seriously, he’s been a stud and one of, if not the best players on the team the past few games. He’s giving the Caps every chance to win he can. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the even strength save percentage climb more and even stay there.
No shots for anyone! Don’t know what’s up with that, but there are just no shots going around for either the Caps or their opponents. At least during even strength, there seem to be less shots. The data for all situations doesn’t have the same kind of nosedive that the even strength shots are taking. I’ll look at how much of a swing we can see in the penalty kill and power play shot suppression and generation a bit later.
Honestly not much to discuss here, so let’s look at the breakdown between the power play and the penalty kill.
I’ll just comment on the 10-game rolling trends because they highlight what’s going on in the season cumulative data on a more magnified scale in the recent games. At least the Caps are getting a lot more power play opportunities, but they have not been doing much with them. Both the power play shooting percentage and the efficiency have been tanking lately, with a < 15% effective power play that’s shooting < 12%. The shot generation isn’t there much either. It would almost seem as though with Mike Green back as the PP1 quarterback the unit is not as effective with creating shots or goals. But we’ve seen him as the PP1 QB before and during that time the powerplay was humming. So there is certainly something to keep an eye on here. It would seem as though they’ve been forcing more dump ins that carries, and are therefore having trouble getting set up.
Some good things on the penalty kill, and some not so good things. The good things are mostly that they’re not giving up tons of goals against in spurts like they’ve been prone to do. The not so good are in the discipline department and the shot suppression department (the shots on net mores o than the other varieties). In addition to their opponents being penalized more often, the Caps themselves have been on the receiving end of the referees’ whistle, and more than their opponents still. One oddity to note is that even though the shots on goal allowed have spiked recently, the missed shots allowed and blocked shots haven’t been up as much. So their opponents have been peculiarly efficient when shooting the puck (but at least not with putting the puck in the net, just on net).
So the most notable trend lately when looking at the score scenarios, is that the Caps have not been as dominant when trailing as we had seen earlier in the season, but there was a small uptick in the tied performance, until they decided shooting isn’t a recipe for success when playing the Isles. But the season cumulative data is stabilizing, and we can get an idea for what kind of team they are when playing with or without a lead. It would appear that they are really not good when they have a 2+ goal lead, they are on the order of last year (boo) when they have a 1 goal lead, and they are respectable when tied, and a damn decent team when trailing.
It is looking more and more like the Caps are the new Devils. The shot attempts against are coming down fast lately, which is good, but it’s also costing the Caps their shot attempts for. And that’s not great.
I’m not too fond of the way these lines are trending. The point pace is great, but it’s coinciding largely with a rise in the metric that is most volatile and unlikely to sustain. Meanwhile the two metrics that are often repeatable because they are more in line with talent level are coming down.
A solid test is tomorrow, on national television, against a great team. I’d love to see some more Eric Fehr magic. Anything to maybe give him another shot at 1RW, since I’m beginning to think Tommy could use a little time elsewhere in the lineup. Ok for real this time, I’ll see you in 2015.