I figured this would be a good point to visit all aspects of the Caps’ recent performance. There’s been a few uninspiring games lately, and last night’s game was just about the worst I’ve seen this season. Therefore, I’m sure most of the Caps’ fan base is in some form of panic after our expectations have been rightfully raised given the torrid start this team has pieced together.
Well, I don’t necessarily have good news. Things do look a little bleak. I’m not particularly pessimistic because of the trends, but because of the trends given the opponents. I’d actually be happier to see bad patterns with teams unlikely to make the playoffs. When the patterns coincide with the opposition being some of the better teams in the league, then it makes you wonder if the Caps really are as good as their record indicates. Were they just beating up on weaker competition in the beginning of the season?
I know that sounds a little backwards, but I’d be more willing to assume it’s a fluke if the Caps were turning in bad performances because of mental blunders or lack of preparation. But when it’s becoming a consistent pattern that the Caps can’t compete as well with the better teams in the league, well then it doesn’t make April and May sound too fun.
On to the data.
This obviously isn’t a cause for concern. The Caps have given themselves room for error, by picking up points consistently, and by not dropping more than 2 games in a row…yet. Every little drop in the pace, is followed by an immediate uptick. That is encouraging. At least it can imply some level of resiliency in this team.
Maybe I’m making too much out of the 10-game possession trends, because they do seem to buck bad games with a good game, when you look at the game-by-game possession marks. Edmonton was a bad game, and they followed that up with a respectable performance against the Jets. Montreal was a horrid game, and they followed that up with another good game against the Jets. If only we were playing Winnipeg again tomorrow…
Either way, over the past 10 games, the only way this team is above 50% possession, is if you adjust for score and look at unblocked shot attempts (Fenwick). I’d prefer to not have to qualify their recent performance to find a good result.
This is one of the more troubling trends. The Caps were heralded earlier in the season for their defense. They were one of the top teams in limiting shots against. This, however, has not continued. Things may look a bit better at all situations, but at even strength – Caps fans should maybe be a bit worried. However you want to filter what you’re looking at, the Caps are letting more shots happen in their own end. And the 10-game rolling data is going in all the wrong directions at even strength. Shots for are coming down, shots against are going up (and fast).
PDO & Percentages
The Caps are still getting bounces. Maybe not last night, but overall they still are getting good conversion on goals, and elite goaltending. The performance last night may not be elite, but we know Grubi isn’t this team’s #1 netminder. And I don’t particularly fault him for any of the goals he let in. He was solid when he needed to be. A deflection, a laser, and a beautifully played 2-on-1, aren’t shots every goaltender will stop with ease.
The Caps could still find themselves with an streak of bad luck somewhere in the season, and if it coincides with play that is similar to the stretch we’ve seen recently, then there is cause for concern.
Special Teams: Summary
This is the one area where things look good. Before last night, the Caps had the best STI, and I believe they had the highest Bowman index (sum of their rank in PP and PK) in the league at 9 (3 PP + 6 PK). Actually, after a quick check they’re still near the best in the league with an STI of 107.9 (2nd best to Boston’s 108.5), and a Bowman index of 10 (3 PP + 7 PK), which is still best. I may be selling the Bruins short, but I doubt they’ll continue to convert on 29.9% of power plays.
Special Teams: Power Play
These are all encouraging. Ovi has finally started to get a few PP goals, and the Caps are slinging a lot of rubber at the opponent’s net when up a skater. The Caps still draw a lot of penalties, and they are getting more than 1 SOG per minute of PP time.
Their shooting percentage is lower than we’ve seen in previous years, and we’re not seeing as much movement as I personally expected (after the coaching staff mentioned it as an additional wrinkle in their approach in several reports). I’m nit-picking here. There’s not a lot to fault with the current PP results.
Special Teams: Penalty Kill
The results here are still pretty good. The only blemishes are the parade to the penalty box last night, and the upticks in the shots against during the two games prior. However, when you look at the scale, you see that the total is still under 1 SOG allowed per minute shorthanded time. They’re staying out of the box (last night not included), limiting shots, and getting elite goaltending. There’s reason for optimism surrounding the penalty kill, for once.
USAT: Score State
Given the troubling trends in possession, I thought it was warranted to look at what’s happening based on the score in the Caps’ games.
It would appear the largest contributor to the dip, is how the Caps are doing when tied. The down 2 is interesting, simply because it had essentially no data for 10 games, up until last night of course. Even if the Caps aren’t controlling the puck as well as we’d all like, they’re at least not turtling with a lead, and they’re not finding themselves trailing by a large margin very often.
SAT: Score State
If all shot attempts (Corsi) is more your speed, the Caps are holding similar patterns. Lately, they haven’t been turtling much, and they’ve been consistently ramping it up quite a bit when trailing. However, when tied, they aren’t the same team as we saw earlier. If it’s because they’re facing tougher teams lately, this doesn’t make the Caps sound like a cup contender a lot of experts have pegged them as.
USAT Rates: Score State
So is it the Caps are just not creating as much offense, or is it that the shots against are rising? Well as was the case with the shots on goal, the unblocked shot attempts follow. The problem when looking at the score state data, is that it’s not just when the Caps are leading that they’re content with allowing more rubber towards Holtby. When they’re tied, things are bad, real bad. Even when trailing last night, the Caps turned in a really uninspired performance.
SAT Rates: Score State
When looking at all shot attempts, there are a couple different trends to note. The Caps have been allowing a lot more shot attempts in the recent stretch of games, whether they’re tied, up 1, or down 1. They’re not making this sacrifice on account of more offense either. Things in the O zone have been pretty stagnant.
So now that you’ve read and looked at way too many plots and pixels, do you feel better? No? Me neither.
The Caps need to figure out what’s going on in their own zone. I don’t know if Orpik brought something to the locker room, and in its absence, it’s caused the rest of the defensemen to forget that peppering your goalie with pucks is generally not a good tactic. I know this trend started before Brooksie got injured, but some part of me is very curious. Things certainly felt more stable before he got injured. Maybe the forward lines were just less prone to turnovers, or they’ve just been failing to execute. I can’t recall too many extended offensive shifts, where the Caps controlled the puck in the opposition’s end of the ice, and cycled the puck recently.
I know there’s a lot to still like about this team. And maybe these past 12 or so games are just a blip on the radar, but I can’t help but be concerned when this team has cup aspirations. We’ll revisit these visuals again in a few games. Hopefully, I’ll have some better news.