Caps vs. Islanders #fancystats recap

The Caps beat the Islanders, 5-2. The Caps won the 5-on-5 shot attempt battle, 63-55. The Isles are a very good possession team, so this is impressive.

5-on-5 shot attempt chart:


-Joel Ward led the Caps with a +10 on-ice shot attempt differential

-Tom Wilson had the worst shot attempt differential at -8. He was +1 after the first period.

-John Carlson was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (25)

-Brooks Orpik was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (26)

-Brooks Orpik faced the toughest zone starts, starting just 14.29% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Joel Ward faced the easiest zone starts, starting 57.14% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Evgeny Kuznetsov, promoted to the second line tonight, was a +5 in on-ice shot attempts. For what it’s worth, Andre Burakovsky was also a +5

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update: ZS%, +4 in shot attempts

Three Caps Numbers: Thanksgiving Episode

To fit the spirit of the holiday, this episode of Three Caps Numbers takes a look at numbers we should be thankful for. Thanks for reading. Have a great holiday weekend.


Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRBG Photography


This is the Caps 5-on-5 shooting% over the past 2 weeks, the lowest in the NHL. Why should we be thankful for this? Because goals in bunches are coming. This low of a shooting% is not sustainable, it simply cannot and will not continue. Only 2 other teams, San Jose and Edmonton, are below 5.16% over the same period of time. The goals are coming, I promise.


Braden Holtby’s 5-on-5 save% over the past two weeks, which is good for fourth among the 16 goalies to have appeared 4 or more games over that time. Holtby has had a 91.4% or better save% in the past 7 games, with only one of those games (NYI) bein below 92.3%. Holtby is giving this team a chance to win, now they just need to score some 5-on-5 goals to support him.


In November, the Caps have seen a 7.35% improvement in shot attempts with Tom Wilson on the ice as opposed to when he’s off, tops on the team. While I’m still not convinced having him on the top line is optimal for this lineup, they certainly have been driving possession, particularly in the time since he returned from injury. The Caps are shooting 3.8% with Wilson on the ice this month, so look for him to be on the ice for some goals very soon.



Caps vs. Islanders #fancystats recap

The Caps lost to the Islanders in OT, 3-2. The Caps the 5-on-5 shot attempt battle, 57-38. That’s not good at all.

5-on-5 shot attempt chart:


-Tom Wilson led the Caps with a +4 on-ice shot attempt differential. Only two other players weren’t in the negative, Jack Hillen and Alex Ovechkin were even 0

-Troy Brouwer had the worst shot attempt differential at -14.

-Tom Wilson was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (20).

-Karl Alzner was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (23).

-Eric Fehr faced the toughest zone starts, starting 45.45% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Andre Burakovsky faced the easiest zone starts, starting 100% of shifts in the offensive zone. He also appeared to be benched for the last 10 minutes or so of regulation

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update: 87.5% ZS, -4 in shot attempts

Breaking down a Caps breakdown

The Avalanche goal to tie the game at 1 against the Caps on Thursday never should have happened. Here’s a look at the play and why the goal was avoidable.


The play starts as Daniel Briere (#48) carries the puck over the blue line with teammate Nathan MacKinnon (#29) on his left. The Caps seem in good shape, as Mike Green and Nate Schmidt are back and in good possession with Evgeny Kuznetsov arriving to provide backside pressure.


Next, you’ll see Briere throw a saucer pass into space for MacKinnon. MacKinnon has ridiculous speed and good hands, so this is a good decision by Briere. Schmidt goes for the pokecheck, but as you can see, the puck goes between his stick and his body. The puck is now headed into space to one of the best skaters in the league (MacKinnon) who gas nearly half the zone to work with and the defender marking him (Schmidt) leaning the wrong way. Not good, but not necessarily due to any defensive lapse.


Schmidt is in trouble here. This is more a case of getting burned by one of the best skaters in the league than a lapse or poor execution. Yes, he could have pivoted sooner in the second picture, instead of going for the puck, but that’s a decision I can live with. The red arrows are used to point out the guys that are really at fault here.

Mike Green, the right arrow, either needs to have already pivoted to try to help cover up for Schmidt or he needs to be paying very close attention to Briere. Instead, he just kind of hangs out and watches MacKinnon burn Schmidt without paying Briere much mind.

If Green kind of hangs out, Kuznetsov (the arrow on the left) completely and totally hangs out. Give him a beer and a sandwich, at least that way he can have refreshments while being a complete spectator. Kuznetsov should be marking Briere here.

(As an aside, this isn’t any sort of general indictment of Green or Kuznetsov. They were bad on this play, but I’m not suggesting anything broader than that.)


MacKinnon puts a backhander on net and Holtby makes a kick save. Green and Kuznetsov continue to be completely mesmerized by the puck, not seeming to have a care in the world that Briere is in the slot.

Holtby kicks out the rebound to the aforementioned slot (the one that Briere and a couple of spectators in Caps jerseys are occupying). This was pretty bad rebound control by Holtby, but it’s hard to put much blame on him for this goal. I think I remember reading a quote after the game where Holtby said he anticipated MacKinnon trying to go high with the shot, so he was caught off guard by the low shot. This resulted in him not controlling the rebound very well (AKA really badly). This is bound to happen if you let a player like MacKinnon this kind of opportunity.


Mike, Evgeny. Your “oh, crap” reaction here is appreciated, but it’s far too late. Briere, untouched and less than 10 feet out, has the entire right side of the net in which to deposit the puck at his leisure.

This was a bad goal. Schmidt, who I’d argue deserves the least blame of the 4 Caps involved, got burned by MacKinnon because he got caught leaning while going for a pokecheck. Holby could have controlled the rebound better, but those kind of things are going to happen over the course of a hockey game. What can’t happen is two guys being passengers on the play, seemingly mesmerized by the puck. Kuznetsov and Green are to blame for this goal.

By the way, the Caps went on to win 3-2 on an unbelievable goal by Alex Ovechkin.

Caps vs. Sabres #fancystats recap

The Caps lost to the FREAKING SABRES, 2-1. The Caps the 5-on-5 shot attempt battle, 67-39, which is really good. They essentially got Halak’d tonight. Seriously, look at the shot attempt chart.

5-on-5 shot attempt chart:


 -If that isn’t enough #suck for you, the very fancy Mike Green got hurt tonight and didn’t return.

-Tom Wilson led the Caps with a FREAKING +26 on-ice shot attempt differential

-Jason Chimera and Joel Ward had the worst shot attempt differential at -3, somehow managing to lose the shot-attempt battle when they were on the ice. Impressive.

-Tom Wilson was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (34).

-John Carlson was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (18). But he was a +15 for the game.

-Ward and Chimera faced the toughest zone starts, starting just 27.77% of shifts in the offensive zone, which can partially explain their shot attempt differential. Bot come on, it’s the FREAKING SABRES.

-Wilson and Alex Ovechkin faced the easiest zone starts, starting 84.62% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update: Started 61,54 of shifts in the offensive zone, an even 0 in on-ice shot attempts

Caps vs. Avalanche #fancystats recap

The Caps the Avalanche, 3-2 and are now 9-7-3. The 5-on-5 shot attempt battle ended tied, 46-46. The Abs are a weak possession team but absolutely owned the puck in the third to go 50% in the Corsis. The caps got the win but, in the long term, they will need better possession numbers against weak possession teams.

5-on-5 shot attempt chart:


-Tom Wilson, Nick Backstrom, and John Carlson led the Caps with a +6 on-ice shot attempt differential

-Nate Schmidt had the worst shot attempt differential at -14.

-John Carlson was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (22).

-Jay Beagle and Nate Schmidt were on the ice for the most shot attempts against (18).

-The 4th line (Kuznetsov, Latta, and Fehr) faced the easiest zone starts, starting 100% of shifts in the offensive zone

-The first line (Backstrom, Ovechkin, and Wilson faced the toughest zone starts, starting 58.33 % of shifts in the offensive zone. This is the second straight game that line has faced the toughest zone starts.

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update: 75% ZS, -14 in shot attempts. Tough night. He was directly involved in both Avs goals, too.

All stats from

Three Caps Numbers: Episode Three

Editor’s Note: This is a new column in which we will look at 3 Caps-related numbers or stats with a brief commentary on each number. As always, if you have questions or feedback, feel free to let us know in the comment or on Twitter. Thanks for reading.

Washington Capitals v Detroit Red Wings

Photo from

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Caps vs. Coyotes #fancystats recap

The Caps beat the Coyotes, 2-1 and are now 8-7-3. The Caps lost the 5-on-5 shot attempt battle, 29-32.

5-on-5 shot attempt chart:



-Troy Brouwer led the Caps with a +7 on-ice shot attempt differential

-Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson had the worst shot attempt differential at -8

-Brooks Orpik and John Carlson were on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (15).

-John Carlson was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (17).

-Wilson faced the toughest zone starts, starting just 16.67% of shifts in the offensive zone. A further note on zone starts: It was just one game, so maybe an aberration, but what the heck is up with the first line deployment? Toughest zone starts on the team. Wilson at 16.67%, Ovi 28.57%, Backstrom 33.33%. No one else was below 57.14%. 8 Caps players were 80%+ zone starts. I don’t get that at all.

-Andre Burakovsky, Troy Brouwer, and Marcus Johansson faced the easiest zone starts, starting 87.50% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update:  80% of shifts started in the offensive zone, even 0 in shot attempt differential.

Caps Preview: Week 7

After a disappointing weekend of winless hockey, the Caps are looking to snap their two-game losing streak. Their record stands at 7-7-3 (17 points), good for fifth in the Metropolitan Division. After facing the New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues, the Caps take on three of the League’s weaker teams.

11/18 at Arizona

The Caps last played the Coyotes on Nov. 2 and lost 6-5 in a wildly inconsistent game. The Coyotes haven’t had a magical turnaround since. They’re still pretty bad, with a 8-9-1 record (sixth in the Pacific Division.) Their possession leaves much to be desired (48.4 CF%, 23rd in the NHL).

The ‘Yotes are riding a two-game win streak after a 5-0 blowout of the Canucks and a narrow 2-1 win against the Oilers. Despite being outshot by a 35-23 and 34-28 margin in each contest, the ‘Yotes have enjoyed stellar goaltending from backup Devan Dubnyk. In their previous two wins, their power play and penalty kill clocked in at 25% and 85.7% respectively.

This game should be winnable (we said that last time, too.) First and foremost, the goaltending must be better, and the Caps need to regain their scoring touch. Moving Jay Beagle off the top line would be a good start. Recently, the Caps got a lot of good looks on the power play but couldn’t capitalize. They’ve scored two goals as many games, and both tallies came at even strength despite a handful of man-advantage opportunities. Even their 4-2 win over Columbus isn’t as dominating as the final score would appear. The Caps’ possession is (mostly) there, but it’s just not translating.


11/20 at Colorado

This week, the Caps have a trio of matchups against some of the NHL’s weaker teams. The Avalanche are among these teams. Their 6-8-5 record is stronger than their second-worst CF% numbers would indicate (with a Corsi-for percentage of 43.6%, the only thing stopping them from a league-worst ranking is the Buffalo Sabres.)

Yet the Avs are coming off two strong road wins against the Rangers and Devils. Their power play (17% success rate) is absolutely moribund, but their penalty kill is the NHL’s fourth best. Even with playing a disciplined game, the Avs haven’t allowed a power-play goal in two games (five total opportunities.)

The Caps will be facing a team with four days of rest time. But they can’t use a fresh opponent as an excuse for slow starts or lazy penalties. The Caps need to focus on shutting down the Avs’ many offensive talents, from Matt Duchene to Erik Johnson to Tyson Barrie to Nathan Mackinnon…and preferably with an improved “shutdown pair.” And let’s not forget Varly, who has a .918 SV%.


11/22 vs. Buffalo

The Caps and Sabres met three time last season, and the Sabres won each contest by a one-goal margin each time. Fortunately, Ryan Miller is now playing for the Canucks, so if the Caps can outshoot the NHL’s worst possession team (37.2 CF%), there’s no excuse not to win.

The Sabres have suffered through a number of blowout losses (three in this month alone), but dished out their first beatdown Saturday night against the Leafs. Shot totals were 35-34 Sabres, whose six goals came from five different players. Such offensive output is rare from the Sabres, who scored seven goals in four games at the start of November. Their power play is unsurprisingly in last place, at an incomprehensible 7%.

All signs point to the Caps winning this game, especially as Trotz adjusts lines to overcome the lack of offense. Without a brick wall to stop every shot, the Sabres look to be a conquerable opponent. With that being said, it’s possible that our old friend Neuvy might get the start–and his numbers look pretty solid (.918 SV% and 2.96 GAA.)

The worst shift of the Caps season: What went wrong?

This wasn’t the best weekend of hockey for the Caps. They dropped both games and didn’t look particularly great in either one. There was one shift in particular against New Jersey that was especially bad, quite possibly the worst shift of the Caps season.

At the 2:29 mark of the second period, the Devils brought the puck into the Caps zone. The puck wouldn’t leave the zone for another 1:11, in which time the Devils piled up 10 shots attempts.

J.P. noticed it. I noticed it. We all noticed it. It was possibly the worst shift of the season for the Caps and it somehow didn’t end up in the back of their net.  There were two bad decisions that during the 1:11 in the Caps zone that prolonged the terrible shift.


Above is 3 seconds after the Devils entered the zone, already with one shot attempt. The puck comes around the boards to Troy Brouwer whose momentum is carrying him towards the goal line. Brouwer’s best decision here, given his momentum, not having the puck completely corralled, and the pressure coming from his right, would be to poke the puck behind the net where Matt Niskanen could gather the puck in. Given the direction of the momentum of the two Devils’ skaters down low in the zone, Niskanen would have more time than Brouwer to fully gain control of the puck. Worst case scenario, Niskanen could bang the puck around the boards.

Instead, Brouwer tries to take the puck behind the goal line himself and is stripped of the puck, as you can see below.


The Caps did not regain possession for another 53 seconds, during which time the Devils generated 6 shot attempts. Despite the fact that he had a better option, the turnover by Brouwer wasn’t especially egregious, but it sure was costly in terms of shot attempts and time in the defensive zone.

53 seconds later Niskanen, who is exhausted, gets the puck behind the net.


Plenty of time to get the puck out, right? Wrong. Niskanen struggles to get control of the puck and then seems bewildered, probably from exhaustion, when he does get the puck cleanly on his stick. As a result, the above turns into the picture below.


So while a bouncing puck and exhaustion make it understandable that Niskanen muffled the clearing attempt (these kind of things happen over the course of 82 games), his approach was questionable from the time he got the puck. He seems intent on pushing the puck along to Andre Burakovsky, but given the impending and then eventual pressure of the Devils’ forechecker, the safer and smarter play would have been to throw the puck behind the net, where Karl Alzner would have had approximately all day to get the breakout started and the Caps headed towards a much needed line change.

Andre Burakovsky could have been more helpful to Niskanen but chose to remain on the half-wall, likely because he was in need of oxygen and water.

13 seconds and 3 additional shot attempts later, a rebound goes to the high slot, where Marcus Johansson gathers in the puck and exits the zone, thus bringing to an end the worst shift of the Caps season.


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