Category Archives: NHL

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.

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

Read the rest of this entry

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.)

Caps vs. Devils #fancystats recap

The Caps lost to the Devils 1-0 and now have a record of 7-6-3. Here’s a look at some #fancystats from the game. First the 5-on-5 shot attempt chart, followed by some more 5-on-5 numbers.

L vs. NJD Shot Chart

-The Caps lost the shot attempt battle, 36-34. In close-game situations (within 1 in the 1st 2 periods, tied in the 3rd), the Caps lost the shot attempt battle again, 33-26.

-Brooks Orpik had the best on-ice shot attempt differential at +5 (whoa)

-Karl Alzner had the worst shot attempt differential at -10.

-Mike Green was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (15).

-Alzner was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (18).

-Jay Beagle and Alex Ovechkin had the easiest zone starts, starting 88.89% of their shifts in the offensive zone.

-Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, and Jason Chimera had the toughest zone starts, starting 0% of their shifts in the offensive zone.

L vs. NJD Shift Chart

Caps Preview: Week 6

The Caps didn’t suffer a regulation loss in Week 5 and enter Week 6 with a record of 6-5-3, which is good for 4th in the Metropolitan (that name still sucks) Division.

The Caps are facing some tough possession forwards this week, particularly over the weekend, which could spell trouble for the Caps’ “shutdown D.” Here’s a look at the 3 games for the week.

Orpik_5 copy

Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRGB Photography

11/11 vs. Columbus

The Blue Jackets have lost 8 in row and find themselves in the basement of the Metro (it sucks less when we call it that) Division with a record of 4-9-1. The Jackets have been decimated by injuries. This is a game the Caps should win. Columbus is ranked 24th in the league in unblocked shot attempts at 5-on-5, as just 47.89% of said attempts go in their favor.

The Blue Jackets combined shooting% and save% is 29th in the league, which indicates they have not been getting many breaks. Combine that with their poor play and it’s easy to see why they find themselves in the cellar. So, if the Jackets get a couple lucky bounces that results in some goals, start sacrificing something to the PDO gods during the game (PDO is the name of the stat that combines shooting% and save%) to try to get some bounces going in the Caps’ favor.

One player to watch is Ryan Johanson. The 22 year old ranks 12th in the league with 16 points despite missing most of training camp because of a contract dispute. He’s a stud.

11/14 vs. New Jersey

The Devils are currently 6-6-2, one point behind the Caps in the Metro. The Devils have been a so-so possession team, ranking 20th in the league with 49.42% of unblocked 5-on-5 shot attempts going in their favor. In terms of puck luck, the Devils combined shooting% and save% is 6th best in the league at 101.47. That’s not necessarily unsustainable, but they have received more bounces than the average team in the league, so they may have some bad bounces in their future. Hopefully Friday will be that day.

The Caps trounced the Devils 6-2 in their only meeting so far this season. As you already know, the Devils have a guy named Jagr who used to play for the Caps. He currently leads them with 9 points. He’s also the best relative possession forward in the entire NHL. He could, quite possibly, eat alive the Caps “shutdown” D pair of Orpik and Carlson.

11/15 at St. Louis

Facing one of the better teams in the NHL on the back end of a back-to-back isn’t ideal. If the Caps come out flat or get dead legs late in the game, the Blues will pounce. Their 53.78% of unblocked shot attempts is 6th best in the NHL. They rank 9th in puck luck with a PDO of 101.02.

Keep an eye on Vladimir Tarasenko. This guy is the real deal. He currently sits 9th in the league with 17 points. He’s also been the Blues best possession player so far this season.

Three Caps’ Numbers: Episode Two

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.



55.06% is the percentage of all shot attempts that have gone in the Caps’ favor so far this season while Nate Schmidt has been on the ice during 5-on-5 play. This is really, really good. Of the 157 defensemen to have skated 140+ minutes so far this season, this ranks 23rd. Schmidt does benefit from playing on a strong possession team, but the Caps still see a 3.97% increase in shot attempts when Schmidt is on the ice, which is 37th best of the same group of 157 defenders.

Schmidt’s first 41 games in the NHL compare very favorably to the first 41 games of Mike Green, John Carlson, and Karl Alzner. The Caps should sign Nate Schmidt to an extension sooner rather than later.


Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRGB Photography


This is the Caps shorthanded save percentage, which ranks 24th in the NHL. This has to get better. The Caps are suppressing shots much better than last year, but their penalty kill is going to continue to struggle if the goaltending doesn’t improve (it will). It currently sits at 77.1%, which is 23rd in the league. There’s no way the save% will stay that low, but the Caps are having the opposite issue of last season, in that their shot suppression is no longer the problem (6th best in the NHL at 4-on-5) and their goaltending is no longer their saving grace while on the penalty kill.


This is the number of shots per 60 minutes allowed when Brooks Laich is on the ice during shorthanded situations. This leads the team and is awesome. This is also 25th among all NHL players who have played 6+ minutes on the PK this season. Yes, the sample-size is small, but the Caps have been great at supressing shots with him on the ice so far this year, so the Caps should be hoping he’s healthy and back on the PK as soon as possible. 

As always, thanks to War on Ice for all of the stats.

Caps vs. Canes #fancystats recap

The Caps beat the ‘Canes 4-3 in overtime. Their record is now 6-5-3.

5-on-5 Shot Chart:

W vs. Carolina 11-8-14

-Shot attempts at 5-on-5 were 30-23 Caps. Close game shot attempts were 21-11 Caps.

-W-L on faceoffs, 30-24 Caps. Backstrom 14-6, Beagle 1-0, Brouwer 3-0, Burakovsky 3-6, Chimera 3-0, Fehr 5-11, Kuznetsov 1-0, Ward 0-1.

-The Caps’ best CorsiRel player was Evgeny Kuznetsov at +27.48%.

-The Caps worst CorsiRel player was Nicklas Backstrom at -20.45%.

-Brooks Orpik was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (21).

-John Carlson was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (20).

-The toughest ZS% went to Kuznetsov (25.5%), followed by Latta (45.45%).

-The easiest ZS% went to Burakovsky and Johansson (tied at 80%).

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster update: 54.55% ZS, -11.34CorsiRel.

Shift Chart:

W vs. Carolina 11-8-14 Shift Chart

Thanks, War on Ice, for the stats and charts.

Three Caps’ Numbers: Episode One

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. 



Our first number, 97.75, represents the Caps PDO through the first 12 games of the 2014-15 season. For those who are unfamiliar with PDO, it is the found by combining a team’s 5-0n-5 shooting percentage and save percentage. In short, it regresses towards 100. So, a team with a PDO below 100 is thought to be getting bad “puck luck” while a team with a PDO above 100 is thought to be getting the good bounces. (For those who want a more nuanced definition of PDO, here’s a great article.)

So, why is this number significant? The Caps’ current PDO of 97.75 is the lowest of any regular season PDO on record for the team since 2002. This isn’t to say that the team hasn’t had 12 game stretches like this. But it does say that if this “puck luck” continues for the Caps, we would be able to call this the unluckiest Caps team on record.

Yes, this team has had some defensive lapses. And maybe we need our goalies to come up with some bigger saves. But the Caps will see better results simply by continuing to do the same things they are doing. Their puck luck will change. I’d be willing to bet a large sum of money or drinks on the fact that the Caps PDO will be above 97.75 at the end of the season.

Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRGB Photography


The number of shots per game Marcus Johansson is averaging so far this season. This is up from a career mark of 1.29 shots per game. This would lead to 44 more shots over an 82 game stretch. If Johansson were to shoot his career mark of 12.7%, this would mean 5.58 more goals per 82 games for him. This is not insignificant. We are talking 5-6 more goals per 82 games from #90 by doing nothing else but continuing to shoot the puck more. If Johansson keeps his current shot per game pace, without shooting any more accurately, and plays in 82 games, he will have 18 goals this season, which is great for a guy with a previous career high of 14. KEEP SHOOTING MARCUS!



Points per 60 minutes of PP time for Evgeny Kuznetsov. This not only leads all Caps forwards, but is 8th among all NHL forwards who have 13+ minutes of PP time so far this season. Small sample, sure, but if he can keep up a pace anywhere near this, the Caps PP will be relentless this season, with two high octane units.


Caps vs. Coyotes #fancystats recap

With a 6-5 loss to the Coyotes, the Caps have now lost four straight. Their record stands at 4-5-2.

11-2 shot attempts

-Shot attempts at 5-on-5 were 27-23 Caps. Close game shot attempts were 17-14 Caps.

-W-L on faceoffs, 26-14 Arizona. Backstrom 7-8, Brouwer 0-1, Burakovsky 0-7, Fehr 4-0, Kuznetsov 1-7, Latta 2-3.

-The Caps’ best CorsiRel player was Eric Fehr at +27.59%

-The Caps worst CorsiRel player was Jay Beagle at -43.42%

-Nicklas Backstrom was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (21).

-Brooks Orpik was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (22).

-The toughest ZS% went to Fehr (40%), followed by Backstrom (45.45%).

-One Cap had 100% ZS%: Burakovsky.

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster update: 80% ZS, +22.98CorsiRel.

11-2 shift chart

Caps Advanced Stats Player of the Month: October 2014

This is the first in what I intend to be a monthly feature here at BrooksLaichyear. As I said when I wrote about the Caps advanced stats all-stars, this isn’t meant to be a claim that #fancystats or advanced stats are the end of any discussion. Instead, this is just meant to be a fun way to discuss Caps advanced stats and to put a new twist on an old idea (player of the month).

Instead of making this a completely arbitrary award, I’ve come up with a system (that may be completely arbitrary) to determine the player of the month. Otherwise, I’d just rotate this award between Nate Schmidt and Mike Green and be accused of playing favorites.

There will be 4 categories used. They are:

1) Close game unblocked shot attempt (Fenwick) percentage.

*close game situations are when the game is tied at any point or within a goal in the first two periods.

2) Unblocked shot attempt (Fenwick) percentage.

3) Zone starts-The percentage of shifts a player starts in the offensive zone. The lower the number the more shifts a player starts in the defensive zone, and thus, the “tougher” the minutes.

4) Quality of competition-The higher the percentage, the tougher competition the player faced.

A player has to have appeared in a minimum of 6 games to be eligible.

I have used two possession categories to give possession more weight than the other categories. The top 5 players in each category will receive points based off of where they finish (1st place-5 points, 2nd place-4 points) and so on. The player with the highest point total from the 4 categories will be deemed the Caps Advanced Stats Player of the Month.

Category 1: Close-game unblocked shot attempt (Fenwick) percentage 

Player Close-Game Fenwick % Points
Latta 64.1 5
Ovechkin 62.75 4
Ward 61.11 3
Green 60 2
Backstrom 58.49 1

Category 2: Unblocked shot attempts (Fenwick) prcentage

Player Close-Game Fenwick % Points
Green 61.35 5
Ovechkin 61.25 4
Backstrom 59.75 3
Latta 59.02 2
Burakovsky 58.73 1

Category 3: Zone Starts

Player ZS% Points
Beagle 41.67 5
Fehr 46.75 4
Carlson 47.87 3
Chimera 48.57 2
Backstrom 51.32 1

Category 4: Quality of Competition

Player ZS% Points
Ovechkin 29.89 5
Backstrom 29.82 4
Fehr 29.47 3
Carlson 29.12 2
Orpik 29.03 1


Here, courtesy of War on Ice, is a player usage chart of our 5 finalists:


The Final Ballot: 

Player Points Place
Fehr 7 5
Latta 7 4
Green 7 3
Backstrom 9 2
Ovechkin 13 1

Ladies and gents, your Caps advanced stats player of the month for October 2014, with a grand total of 13 #fancypoints is Alex Ovechkin. 


Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRGB Photography



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: