2015-2016 Trends

2015-2016 Capital Trends Game 63

I usually like to get a post in right around 20 games left, so I can properly use the phrase “we’re past the quarter pole in the Caps’ season.” I guess it’s still correct, but it loses some of the luster to me. I didn’t know if I should post today, or Sunday after the next two games. I figured I’d go ahead and give a little reading prior to the Rangers game to those interested. Sunday usually has a few other good pieces, and there will be plenty of articles recapping the next games. So read those, because they’ll be far better than anything I type up.

Before I get into the team data, I was curious and digging around hockey-reference (@hockey_ref), and comparing some of the players widely considered the best goal scorers to ever play the game. Naturally I was hoping to see Ovi compare well to them in his first 11 seasons. Well, I got this (EAG is era-adjusted goals):

1 Alex Ovechkin 0.628 0.736 821 516 605
2 Mario Lemieux 0.841 0.716 669 563 479
3 Brett Hull 0.713 0.699 778 555 544
4 Maurice Richard 0.591 0.690 587 347 405
5 Steven Stamkos 0.548 0.670 556 305 373
6 Wayne Gretzky 0.799 0.640 847 677 542
7 Gordie Howe 0.495 0.632 712 353 450
8 Mike Bossy 0.761 0.613 752 573 461
9 Bobby Hull 0.555 0.610 745 414 455
10 Phil Esposito 0.605 0.594 769 466 457
11 Teemu Selanne 0.544 0.580 801 436 465
12 Jaromir Jagr 0.544 0.579 806 439 467
13 Sidney Crosby 0.476 0.551 689 328 380
14 Evgeni Malkin 0.457 0.532 640 293 341
15 Guy Lafleur 0.578 0.5 794 459 397
16 Steve Yzerman 0.575 0.484 815 469 395

That’s sorted on the era-adjusted goals per games played. Unfortunately, the era-adjustment applies only to the season wide, so this kind of confounds the data, because players skating in a lockout shortened season benefit. So Mario could be higher than Ovi if that were properly considered. Stamkos could potentially make some noise if he increases his shot generation somehow. But this data only captures 8 seasons of Stamkos’s career (because that’s all he has), so he could slow down, or find a renaissance similar to Ovi. However one wants to qualify the data and the conditions, Ovi is special. And don’t let anyone else’s opinion spoil your appreciation for one of the (if not the very) best to ever lace up a pair of skates.

So how has the captain led his team in the last 10 games? Well, let’s take a look.


SAT_bars_Game_63 USAT_bars_Game_63 YTD_possession_game_63 rolling_possession_game_63
The Caps are not setting the world on fire in the ol’ possession game. Their YTD score-adjusted SAT% is the best metric they possess, and it’s on its way down. Mostly in part, thanks to the last 10 games. Granted they had some very good possession teams on the docket. LA, Chicago, Montreal, Pittsburgh are all in the top 10 in score-adjusted SAT%. Of course, I’d love to see the Caps handle those kinds of teams, and even beat them in the possession game, but there’s little to find worth complaining over in this season for the Washington Capitals.


YTD_shots_game_63 YTD_ES_shots_game_63 rolling_shots_game_63 rolling_ES_shots_game_63

The Caps are still outshooting their opposition, and doing so at even strength. This is still good, and encouraging. Although in the last 10 games, a bit of a different pattern has presented itself. Rather than the Caps being outshot because they gain the lead and don’t lose it, they’ve been ceding the lead, and demonstrating their resilience and coming back in all different manners. So the shot differential may be skewed a bit by the Caps having to play from behind a bit.

PDO & Percentages

YTD_percentages_game_63 rolling_percentages_game_63

The PDO has finally started a bit of crash. The Caps aren’t scoring on one out of every 10 shots for the first time in a long time. I’m hopeful the save percentage can rebound a bit more too. It’s been on a steady decline in the YTD data, thanks to an extended period under 92%. I wouldn’t get too concerned over the minor dip though. It could mean the Caps are about to come back to earth in a hurry, or they could be a team that possesses a skill premium to soften the blow.

Special Teams: Summary

YTD_ST_game_63 rolling_ST_game_63

Special teams are resurging in a big way. Anyone who’s been watching lately can attest to that. But let’s take a deeper look at the individual elements.

Special Teams: Power Play

YTD_PP_Performance_game_63 YTD_PP_Shots_game_63 rolling_PP_Performance_game_63 rolling_PP_Shots_game_63
It’s nice that little lull didn’t last too long, but the Caps still aren’t as good as we’ve seen them. I hope this is a return to form, but I’m not counting on it. So much of the shot generation tends to run through the delivery to the Ovi one timer. And with Carlson out for a while, it would seem like Trotz isn’t married to Niskanen manning the point, since we’ve seen Orlov get significant time running things. So there could be some growing pains as the unit gets into a groove.

In other news, the Caps are getting quite a few more penalties drawn. That is good, but probably not an item to place much faith in. I don’t want to get too worked up over them getting no calls in the playoffs, even though both parts of that sentence are inevitable.

Special Teams: Penalty Kill

YTD_SH_Performance_game_63 YTD_SH_Shots_game_63 rolling_SH_Performance_game_63 rolling_SH_Shots_game_63
This is a very encouraging sign. The Caps aren’t taking many more penalties than they have been over the rest of the season, and when they are penalized they’ve done very well in limiting team’s chances. Keep in mind, that the last 3 teams’ power play units can be considered elite in some manner. Toronto creates a ton of chances, but for whatever reason don’t convert much. Chicago is the second best power play unit behind the Caps, and Pittsburgh has Crosby, Malkin, Letang, and Kessel on their unit. Keep it up Caps.

There’s not much else to report from the other plots I usually present. No major changes in how the Caps are performing based on score, and it’s all but a formality that the Caps haven’t clinched a playoff spot.




2015-2016 Trends

2015-2016 Capital Trends Game 42

So we’re over half the way through the season. The Capitals are the in the midst of a tear through the league right now. Their record dating back to November 20th is 20-2-2. That’s obscene. Things are a bit rosier than where I left off last time. But this team isn’t perfect in a literal sense. So let’s go ahead and visit on all the usual suspects to see just how good this team is.

Playoff Pacing

I considered not including this plot, because it doesn’t serve a purpose. The Caps are winning, we all know that. The Caps are well on their way to the playoffs. One analytical model doesn’t have any simulations in which the Caps miss out on the postseason, after 1 million iterations of their model. The only reason I included this graphic is to illustrate just how stratospheric this team is playing right now. Fun times.

Also this:


SAT_bars_Game_42 USAT_bars_Game_42 YTD_possession_game_42 rolling_possession_game_42

The possession has begun a bit of a resurgence. Thankfully. The recent 10-game rolling data has all eclipsed the 50% mark again, with the score-adjusted SAT% leading the charge. You can see game-by-game that there’s still a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the possession battle. There aren’t many games where it’s clear the Caps outplayed the opponent with the puck.

I’m beginning to be rather curious about how the Caps approach certain situations and if this plays a role in them being dominant in the standings, while not being quite as dominant with possession. Obviously there are other factors – such as an elite goaltender, the best goal scorer in the game, a couple dynamic scoring threat centers, and excellent special teams, that will contribute to wins without the team having to continuously win the possession battle. There’s also the factor that the Caps are quite often leading on the scoreboard. And I’m sure it’s difficult for the team to maintain the same level of intensity and focus throughout the grind of the regular season when things seem to be so well in-hand.

Either way I find the Caps a curious case with how to assess their performance aside from whether they won, got out-shot, or out-attempted. There are plenty of games where the SAT, USAT, SOG don’t seem to tell the story, even if you look at close-score scenarios or you adjust for score through the whole game. This is definitely an element to keep a watchful eye on through the remaining half of the season.


YTD_shots_game_42 YTD_ES_shots_game_42 rolling_shots_game_42 rolling_ES_shots_game_42

The Caps are continuing to allow more shots on goal than I’d personally like to see. But the overall picture still looks good, and there’s been a good bounce back up in the even strength offense lately. The defense could certainly use its top 2 defenders back though. The shots against numbers are getting comfortable higher than I’m sure the team wants.

PDO & Percentages

YTD_PDO_game_42 rolling_PDO_game_42 YTD_percentages_game_42 rolling_percentages_game_42

Yeah, still waiting on that PDO bender hangover. I expect it to come in the form of a sudden drought of offense. I don’t find the 93% ES Sv% to be too far off the mark for Holtby and even Grubauer. But a 9.8% ES Sh%? Yeah that’s probably quite a bit too high, even with the talent this team has. I’ve said it before, and so have others, but I still believe this team’s true talent is definitely above a 100 PDO, buoyed mostly by Holtby, but also because of the offensive capabilities of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Kuznetsov. I’m looking mostly at the Even Strength data as I make these assumptions. The special teams are a different animal, and it’s quite possible that the percentages the Caps get a man up or a man down aren’t just puck luck.

Special Teams: Summary

YTD_ST_game_42 rolling_ST_game_42

Maybe I should rephrase that last sentence. I hope the percentages the Caps get while up or down a man aren’t just puck luck. Because a crash from a 104.4 Special Teams PDO could hurt.

Special Teams: Power Play


YTD_PP_Performance_game_42 YTD_PP_Shots_game_42 rolling_PP_Performance_game_42 rolling_PP_Shots_game_42

Maybe I’m spoiled, but I always thought the Caps would shoot at a higher percentage on the powerplay than what we’re seeing now. Last year they were over 16% on the season, this year they’re under 15%. Maybe Ovi has a hot streak in him for the second half of the season (he’s shooting 6.3% less effectively than his last two seasons). Or maybe the unit last season was overly deferential to Ovi, thus getting less shots and more deadly one-timers. Or maybe even the Ovi-timer setup isn’t as effective this season. Whatever it is, it’s silly to dwell on. The powerplay doesn’t really seem to need any real work. Except from the refs. The Caps are getting 1 less powerplay opportunity per game than they were getting 11 games ago.

Special Teams: Penalty Kill

YTD_SH_Performance_game_42 YTD_SH_Shots_game_42 rolling_SH_Performance_game_42 rolling_SH_Shots_game_42

If I’m hoping for a positive effect regression for the efficacy of the powerplay, a negative effect regression on the penalty kill is probably just as likely. The 10-game rolling save percentage is rocketing up. Holtby and Grubauer are good, but 93.48% Sv% on the penalty kill is pretty gaudy. That will probably fall soon. Especially if ::adjusts tin foil hat:: the refs continue to conspire against Wilson. I know it’s a silly conspiracy theory, but he got 5 for getting punched in the face against Ottawa. It’s just getting dumb now. So those PKs/game numbers concern me, but I can only just shrug my shoulders at it.

USAT: Score State


The biggest issue I have with the Caps possession is the values in a tied game. I know the Caps have a lot more time spent while leading (over 2x the TOI compared to trailing) and the coefficients used to weight the score states may not be accurate to the Caps in particular, but they also have a lot of time in tied games. They’re not even breaking even in unblocked shot attempts (49.57%) when the score is tied. I’d like to see them tip this particular scale in their favor, over anything else.

SAT: Score State

YTD_SAT_score_game_42 rolling_SAT_score_game_42

Most of what is shown in the unblocked shot attempt data, is reflected in the total shot attempt data. One thing to note: if the Caps do happen to trail, the other team better watch out. They turn into a different team.


I’m trying not to overanalyze. I just want to briefly visit on just about everything I can, to see how the Caps are doing and if anything is on the bubble, ready to burst. Overall, this team is incredible. And I know all anyone cares about this season is what happens in April-June, but let’s enjoy this team now, and not overlook what they’ve managed to accomplish thus far.

And never take Ovi for granted. Cherish every game you get to watch him in a Washington sweater.

2015-2016 Trends

2015-2016 Capital Trends Game 27

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.

Playoff Pacing


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.


SAT_bars_Game_27 USAT_bars_Game_27 YTD_possession_game_27 rolling_possession_game_27

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.


YTD_shots_game_27 YTD_ES_shots_game_27 rolling_shots_game_27 rolling_ES_shots_game_27

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

YTD_PDO_game_27 rolling_PDO_game_27 YTD_percentages_game_27 rolling_percentages_game_27

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

YTD_ST_game_27 rolling_ST_game_27

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

YTD_PP_Performance_game_27 YTD_PP_Shots_game_27 rolling_PP_Performance_game_27 rolling_PP_Shots_game_27

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

YTD_SH_Performance_game_27 YTD_SH_Shots_game_27 rolling_SH_Performance_game_27 rolling_SH_Shots_game_27

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

YTD_USAT_score_game_27 rolling_USAT_score_game_27

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

YTD_SAT_score_game_27 rolling_SAT_score_game_27

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

YTD_USATfor_score_game_27 YTD_USATagainst_score_game_27 rolling_USATfor_score_game_27 rolling_USATagainst_score_game_27

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

YTD_SATfor_score_game_27 YTD_SATagainst_score_game_27 rolling_SATfor_score_game_27rolling_SATagainst_score_game_27

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.

2015-2016 Trends

2015-2016 Capital Trends Game 19

So the Caps are just about a quarter of the way through their season and we’ve seen some good and some less than good in both the results and the process. I know the win last night may make most Caps fans happy, but there’s been a few troubling trends over the last several games. I think the Caps can be better than they have been. Of course I’m only basing that assumption off of the games earlier in the season; but I guess we should start to take a look at what’s working and what’s not working.


Playoff Pacing


Not a whole lot of streaking in any particular direction here. However, they have had a casual improvement in their pace since I last looked at their performance (at game 11 – so 8 games ago). This is good on the whole, since it’s not really like they’ve had the benefit of any particular PDO benders, unlike the Rangers who seem to be in a perpetual PDO bender. Thanks Hank.



SAT_bars_Game_19 USAT_bars_Game_19 YTD_possession_game_19 rolling_possession_game_19

Game-by-game, there’s been a very mixed bag in the possession department. Their games against Detroit were notably bad, as was their one game against Boston. Over the last 8 games though, the possession is falling in every metric. It’s a very stark pattern in the 10-game rolling data. They seem to be better when looking at SAT vs USAT in most visuals. I’m curious if there’s much less of a focus on shot blocking, given their current defensive corps. This might be a pattern to keep an eye on with Orpik still out. Here’s another thought I had on the Orpik injury:


YTD_shots_game_19 YTD_ES_shots_game_19 rolling_shots_game_19 rolling_ES_shots_game_19

The Caps had the best shot suppression figures in the league. They still are one of the top teams, but they’re number 2 now, bested by Carolina (wut?). The silver lining is that at least they’re maintaining a very healthy shot differential. While the shots against spiked up, the shots for did as well. A team that manages ~5 more shots per game over their opponent should definitely find themselves in the playoffs. And that’s all we care about right now. Anything grander than that goal would be putting the cart before the horse right now.


PDO & Percentages

YTD_PDO_game_19 YTD_percentages_game_19 rolling_PDO_game_19 rolling_percentages_game_19

The Caps were looking pretty unfortunate over their 10 games leading up to the Dallas game, but since then, they’ve been the recipients of a few good bounces. I can recall a few instances (maybe only 1) where iron saved the Caps from relinquishing another goal. I still fully expect better from Holtby. There’s nothing wrong with what he’s posted so far, but he’s better than this. You don’t get your name into the elite goaltender discussion on accident. The offense for the Caps has me a little less optimistic. Their ratio of high danger scoring chances to shots on goal has seemed to dip. Even if they are hitting a lot of goalposts and having goals overturned, I’d like to see more legitimate scoring chances.


Special Teams: Summary

YTD_ST_game_19 rolling_ST_game_19

The special teams are looking not so special lately. And I think I know the culprit…


Special Teams: Power Play

 YTD_PP_Performance_game_19 YTD_PP_Shots_game_19 rolling_PP_Performance_game_19 rolling_PP_Shots_game_19

Yep. The Caps power play has not seemed very powerful. I had high hopes for this year’s variation with Oshie in the slot, but they’ve barely been sputtering along. They’re getting their chances and drawing enough penalties, but they’re not shooting very efficiently. I would like to see more shots in general, but that doesn’t seem to be fluctuating too much one way or the other, they’re just not finding the back of the net. Carlson and Ovi need to put in some reps on that feed. It’s just not working. Ovechkin with 1 power play goal in 19 games is not something I would have imagined in any scenario.


Special Teams: Penalty Kill

 YTD_SH_Performance_game_19 YTD_SH_Shots_game_19 rolling_SH_Performance_game_19 rolling_SH_Shots_game_19

There’s not much to dislike here. The Caps’ PK unit has been keeping shots down, and they’ve been staying out of the box. Even with the dip in save percentage in the rolling data (an artifact of the small sample size of PK opportunities – seriously look at that green line dive), the PK is definitely something I’ve been pleased with. Now if only they could keep this up, while righting the power play. Everything would be sunshine and roses.



This is still a very good hockey team. The power play should be fixable. Ovechkin will start to put some in the net while up a man. The team has managed to avoid some of their older troubling habits, and they haven’t been turtling when leading (granted – they haven’t been leading much in their recent games). However, they’ve allowed their slow start habit to persist. Hopefully, last night’s game is an omen of that pattern reversing.

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and the Caps are firmly in playoff position. That’s a good position to be in, historically speaking.

2015-2016 Trends

2015-2016 Capital Trends Game 11

Sorry it’s taken me 11 games to write up a post, but I didn’t want to have just noisy, turbulent data to present without some form of a pattern forming, so we at least have an idea of who this year’s Caps are.

A couple quick notes:

  • I’m trying to move away from the legacy names for the possession proxy measurements. I’m going to start using the names denoted by NHL.com’s wonderful enhanced stat site, simply because they’re more intuitive. So Corsi is now SAT or shot attempts, and Fenwick is now USAT or unblocked shot attempts. These will usually be expressed as percentages of the total, as I’ve done in the past. If expressed as a rate or raw number, it will be USATF for unblocked shot attempts for, or SATA for shot attempts against, instead of FF or CA.
  • I’ve also changed the algorithm for adjusting these shot attempt metrics. I’m using Micah Blake McCurdy’s (@IneffectiveMath) algorithm that he published. And he was generous enough to provide the coefficients he’s currently employing in all the visuals on his site. So these numbers now reflect a weighting based on score state and venue (home vs away). This provides a stronger correlation historically than any other commonly used methods.

Now onto the Caps…

The team is quite a bit different from last year’s version. But you already knew that. However, there doesn’t seem to be any form of an adjustment period for the system this time. That’s actually quite impressive given the amount of turnover this team saw over the summer. There are a couple individuals whom you’d expect to have some growing pains. Guys like Backstrom and Orpik who had offseason surgery, and therefore didn’t have any real practice. Then there’s Dmitry Orlov, who hadn’t played a professional game in like 18 months. Mix those elements with the uncertainty of how newcomers Oshie and Williams would fit in, and couple that with how the younger guys would progress, or how other players would be thrust into more responsibility, and it’s not difficult to place a lot of uncertainty with how this team would perform out of the gate. So we should all take that into consideration whenever we weigh in on the shortcomings we’ve witnessed so far, whether individual or teamwide.

I made that sound like there are a lot of shortcomings for this team. But there really aren’t, as we’ll see. But this is just to hopefully help balance any negative feelings we have still in our consciousness after that Rangers game. Here we go!

Playoff Pacing

The Caps are off to a strong start. I know, you don’t make the playoffs in October, but you can miss them. We can also say that the Caps have mostly only beaten mediocre teams, which may be mostly true. But, let’s also remember that in previous seasons, the Caps could usually be counted on to drop quite a few games to “inferior” opponents.



SAT_bars_Game_11 USAT_bars_Game_11


I’m going to mostly focus on the score adjusted SAT data. As this has become the norm in the analytics community for assessing teamwide performance now. So in that department, the Caps are looking good. They’re on the right side of 0 in all games but their first two, and they have a couple truly dominant performances. Those aren’t all wins, and wins are ultimately what matters, but this is an encouraging sign. They’re above 55% for their season cumulative SASAT (score adjusted shot attempts). That’s championship caliber territory.

PDO & Percentages

YTD_PDO_game_11 YTD_percentages_game_11

They were riding some pretty high PDO earlier, but that’s come back down. There’s a bit of mixed fortune in that though. Fortunately, we should expect Holtby to increase his save percentage drastically. He’s well below his historical averages right now. We have no reason to expect that to continue. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but his .905 even strength save percentage is notably lower than his .930 cumulative even strength save percentage coming into this season. I expect to see him bounce back. And to start making some more of those impressive saves we’re used to. His high danger save percentage is about 10 percentage points lower than what he usually achieves.

The other side of that equation is the shooting percentage though. The Caps are shooting at a pretty high level. I want to believe it’s sustainable. They have a lot of elite offensive talent. And they also seem to be a team that has a proportionately higher percentage of their events in the high danger category.
They operate more frequently in the…
Danger zone.

To prove this point, although I feel the sunglass emoji does that for me, let’s take a look at a chart from war-on-ice:


Here, we’re mostly looking at the y vs x axes. The x axis is how many shots on goal a team generates per 60 minutes. The y axis is the rate at which a team generates high danger scoring chances. The bubble color is shaded based on teamwide on-ice shooting percentage. If you imagine a linear regression line to this data, you’d expect teams that lie below the line to shoot with less efficiency (and be colored red), while teams above it would shoot with greater efficiency (and be colored blue). Washington is to the right and below Philly, and to the left and below Dallas. So they should be pretty clearly above the imaginary line. I’d expect San Jose to progress towards a blue bubble if they continue their current trends, same goes for Philly. Maybe Montreal is getting a little lucky, again. But for the Caps, I’d expect them to shoot above league average if they keep up their scoring chance generation. Whether, they continue to shoot so high above league average, is probably a little less likely.

Special Teams: Summary


Special Teams: Power Play

YTD_PP_Performance_game_11 YTD_PP_Shots_game_11

As you’d expect given their current skid, just about everything is coming down a bit for the Caps. The shot generation is only decreasing slightly, so that’s encouraging. Maybe they’ve just hit a bit of an unlucky spell, because they’re still generating shots well. Or maybe John Western Union Carlson needs to stop telegraphing his passes to Ovi so clearly. I know there’s been plenty of teeth gnashing over the Caps’ powerplay and a lot of analysis has been done based on who’s on the point, without any real definitive answer. But I may start to look at Ovi individually, and see if his shot generation is suffering on account of RAHJC.

Special Teams: Penalty Kill

YTD_SH_Performance_game_11 YTD_SH_Shots_game_11

Things are still a bit noisy here. Although, it’s comforting to see the frequency at which the Caps are heading to the penalty box is on the downswing. The shot suppression is a little concerning. But the shots getting through to the net are still below 2/minute, which is good.

That’s all I have for now. And I think that’s plenty. In future installments, I’ll look at individual score states. So we can see if the Caps have a killer instinct, or if they’re turtling, or any other fun metaphors. For the time being, the Caps are looking swell, and most of the data backs up the eye test. But as a word of caution: the Caps also looked really good in most departments last year too. So we’ll see if they can keep up the good work.