Alright, here we are at the halfway mark of the season. The Caps are firmly in playoff position currently, and if they were to clean up a few areas of their game, they could even make some noise in the playoffs. They may need to clean up a few ares of their game though if they want to hold their playoff spot. The Rangers, Blue Jackets, Panthers, and Bruins are all making things look uneasy, despite the Caps’ current hot streak.
First though, how the hell does Nicklas Backstrom have 0 all star game appearances? I would love to hear the argument made that he is not one of the best 10 centers in the league. I may not really care about the game or the result or even who is really selected. I just feel bad for Nicky, even though I’m sure he doesn’t care.
Well, that’s nice. Haven’t seen that kind of point pace in quite some time. They’ve been giving themselves some breathing room, but as I mentioned above, the Eastern Conference has a lot of teams playing really well right now. Things will be competitive once the Caps’ cool down.
The Caps are settling into what looks like their long term possession percentage, around 52.5% in just about all metrics. This is clearly leaps and bounds better than the goat rodeo of the last two seasons, but not quite as great as we all may have hoped. Or even as great as they could do with a few minor changes. Things like keeping Nate Schmidt in the lineup, and Burakovsky, and even Latta. Chimera could probably use some nacho time. And Latta and Wilson seem to have good chemistry on the ice (off the ice too if you watched the road to the winter classic). Simple things like lineup tweaks, and altering deployment patterns could make this team dangerous.
A side note about the possession data: I noticed a bug in my code that I haven’t corrected yet. I never realized NHL’s play by play data doesn’t differentiate between even strength and empty net data. So some of the data can be goosed a bit by empty net data when the leading team is just trying to weather an offensive onslaught from the trailing team.
Man this PDO bender is great…for now. It will come back down, understand that now. And try to not overreact when the Caps hit a small skid. But let’s take a look at what might be more likely to crash first.
It upsets me to say it, but I’m thinking Holtby might cool off a bit. He’s been playing phenomenally, and he’s definitely a good, if not great, goalie. But I’m not sure if he’ll continue to stop 19 out of every 20 even strength shots. At least not over the course of the rest of the season. He may have a few more nice stretches and move his season cumulative numbers up, but in the 10-game rolling data will probably see a bit of a drop next post. Especially if he doesn’t get some rest here soon.
The graphs above illustrate a serious problem, and how a PDO bender like the Caps are on currently can mask this problem. The Caps really need to start shooting more. If things continue like this, the Caps will be back to a team that is outshot regularly. And teams that are outshot regularly don’t often see the playoffs, and if they do, they don’t see success.
I don’t really have anything to add to the special teams plots above. Nice to see them continue their good performance in high leverage situations. And they’re not doing so with lucky bounces.
Well, they’re starting to correct their little power play skid, but they’re not doing so by creating lots of shots. In fact something is contributing to a troublesome trend that is persisting for several games. They’re also starting to get less calls. I really don’t know what’s causing this. I really don’t believe it’s the return of Mike Green to the PP1 QB spot. We’ve all seen how deadly that unit can be. So either, teams are starting to figure out the Caps’ systems, or Forsythe, or someone else behind the bench has instructed the boys in red to do something different.
Not sure I like what’s going on with the penalty kill either. The shots allowed are continuing to stay well above what they were 11-12 games ago. And if they continue to allow 21 shots per 20 minutes of shorthanded ice time, vs the 15 they were allowing prior, they’ll be permitting the opponent a little less than 3 shots more per game if continue to give them 4.5 opportunities per game. I’d like to see the Caps limit the parade to the penalty box a bit, and to revert whatever change they made due to what I’m guessing was an overreaction to a few bad shorthanded performances.
Feel free to look over the above plots and draw your own conclusions. I’m wary to since I haven’t corrected the inclusion of empty net data.
And finally, the point pace trace is pretty, but I’d rather see that coincide with improving, or at least consistent possession scores. Oh well, I need to continue to remind myself just how horrid this team looked last year in some of these same stats. It’s hard to though, because I’m starting to think I involuntarily tried to black those games out of my memory.
Well that’s all for now. Until next time (when I’ll have hopefully corrected the empty net bug).