Category Archives: NHL

Caps vs. Red Wings #fancystats recap

The Caps fell to the Red Wings by a score of 4-2. The Caps now have a record of 4-3-2.

5-on-5 shot attempt chart

wings

-Shot attempts at 5-on-5 were 36-27 Caps. Close game shot attempts were 30-21 Caps.

-W-L on faceoffs, 20-20: Backstrom 5-6, Burakovsky 5-1, Kuznetsov 3-3, Beagle 3-3, Brouwer 2-2, Ward 1-0, Chimera 1-0, Latta 0-4, Ovechkin 0-1.

-The Caps best CorsiRel player was Troy Brouwer at +20.45%

-The Caps worst CorsiRel player was Liam O’Brien at -25.1%

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

-Brooks Orpik was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (13).

-The toughest ZS% went to Wilson, Kuznetsov, and O’Brien at 33%

-6 Caps had 100% ZS%: Brouwer, Burakovsky, Backstrom, Ward, Johansson, Ovechkin

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster update: 50% ZS, -3.99 CorsiRel

Shift chart:

wingsshift

Thoughts on Caps-related thoughts

Elliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” column is arguably the best hockey column to read on the internet. If you don’t reguarly read Friedman and his 30 thoughts, you’ve been officially notified to start. Friedman’s 30 thoughts from October 28th featured a lot of Caps content. You’ll find them below, as well as some brief thoughts on those thoughts.

Green_1a

Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRGB Photography

22. Before the season, a few Eastern teams thought the combination of Barry Trotz, Todd Reirden, Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik would have the biggest influence of any off-season moves in that conference. Can’t argue that so far. It took eight games before Washington allowed 30 shots, and it’s no coincidence the Capitals’ worst game was a 6-1 preseason loss in Buffalo. Niskanen and Orpik didn’t dress for that one.

Adding those two coaches as well the two defenders undoubtedly has had a big influence on the Caps. How could it not? I think the example of what happened in a preseason game without Niskanen and Orpik may be a bit exaggerated, but point taken.

Really, how could the Caps be worse by adding any 2 NHL caliber defenders, given the inexperienced and over-matched players they ran out there last season? On top of that, Mike Green has been healthy so far and Nate Schmidt is getting the playing time he deserves.

Oh, and Adam Oates isn’t the coach anymore, that’s a pretty big deal.

23. From one-to-five on the blueline, their minutes are very even, running from 23:14 (Niskanen) to 19:42 (Karl Alzner). Among returnees, Nate Schmidt (number six) is down 4:15 per game, John Carlson is down 1:21 and Alzner 0:50. Also down significantly: Mike Green (2:53). Green, who is unrestricted after this season, is being watched by other teams, as they wait to see how Brian MacLellan handles things.

It’s not a surprise that the ice time among Caps defenders is more even spread this season. The blue line is much deeper, therefore the Caps don’t need to rely on their top pair(s) as much. Schmidt is the team’s 6th defender, so his ice time decreasing isn’t much of a story. The fact that he’s in Washington and playing regularly is the much more important story.

Mike Green is still seeing 19:50 per game, so it’s not as if he’s getting buried on the depth chart. This is simply a case of the Caps having a much deeper blue line. Less ice time makes it more likely Green will be fresher and healthier come April, which is a good thing.

24. The early reviews are positive. One scout: “Green is trying. He (used to be) sloppy in coverage, bad stick, not finishing checks. Now, he’s staying on the right side of the puck.” MacLellan sees a difference, too. “When other teams played us, the plan was to hit him— finish your checks. It took its toll. Now, we have other options. It eases the pressure on him.”

This scout is obviously much more qualified than me to speak on Green’s coverage, positioning, checking, etc. than I am. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean the scout is right.

Regardless of Green’s gaffes, lapses and so on, since 2007 the Caps have seen 54.5% of all shot attempts while he’s on the ice, which is 21st best of the 366 defensemen who have played 500+ minutes since then. That’s superb. Mike Green is really good. Leave him alone.

25. The Capitals have yet to discuss an extension with Green. “We’ll leave that for later in the season,” the GM said. “Let’s see how this shakes out.”

Does the Caps depth make Green expendable? Well, I think he’s their best defender, so I hope not. But it is hard to see the Caps investing as much, or more, in their defense next season as this one.

26. Another Eastern Conference coach on the Nicklas Backstrom/Eric Fehr/Alexander Ovechkin line: “They still cheat, but not as much. I suspect that’s by design they’re allowed to…you still want opponents to be scared of them. The (Jason) Chimera/(Joel) Ward line, for example, plays differently.”

To me, this basically says that Trotz expect his first line to be responsible, but he’s still going to let Ovi be Ovi. And Nicky be Nicky. These guys should be allowed to “cheat” more than other lines. They are supremely talented offensive players and should be encouraged to put themselves on positions to use those talents.

27. Finally on Washington: MacLellan said new goalie boss Mitch Korn worked with Braden Holtby “to get his arms and legs more aligned with his body.” Sounds important for everyday life, not just hockey.

Mitch Korn is the goalie whisperer. Braden Holtby is an underrated goalie who got way too much flack last season for the Caps struggles. As I’ve said before, I expect Holtby to be considered an elite goalie by the end of this season.


 

Like I said above, if you don’t read “30 Thoughts” regularly, start doing so. While there’s not always this much Caps-related content, it’s always a great read.

 

 

Caps Preview: Week 4

Backstrom_1After a largely disappointing Western Canada road trip, the Caps are back to playing in a reasonable time zone. They’re 4-2-2 after losses to the Oilers and Canucks and a win over the Flames. This week, they’ll take on the Red Wings, Lightning, and Coyotes–in that order.

Overall, what can we expect? Puck possession has been great thus far, with the exception of the Vancouver game, during which the Caps allowed more than 30 shots for the first time all season. Their 3-2 loss to the Oilers was fluky; the better team didn’t get the win. Their effort against the Flames was rewarded with a 3-1 win, while the Canucks game was simply mediocre.

The Caps’ special teams weren’t at their sharpest. In the past three games, the power play was 2-for-7 (conversion rate 28%), while the penalty kill went 4-for-10. Granted, the refs in Vancouver were atrocious. The Caps’ power play and PK are ranked fourth and 17th respectively, with success rates of 25.9% and 80%. Getting the penalty kill back on track should be one of the Caps’ main goals.

 

10/29 vs. Detroit

The Red Wings match the Caps’ 4-2-2 record and sit at third place in the Atlantic Division behind the Habs and Lightning respectively. Their last effort, a disappointing 4-2 loss to the Flyers, saw the Red Wings allow three goals in the third period. Despite outshooting the Flyers 37-17 overall, they couldn’t finish the game. The Red Wings’ Corsi is currently the NHL’s fifth-best at 53.9%, barely two places ahead of the Caps’ 53.7%.

The Red Wings’ penalty kill ranks first in the League at 96.2%, having allowed a single power-play goal. Their anemic power play, however, is ranked 27th at 6.7%. They will no doubt be looking to play a disciplined game and stifle the Caps’ offense, particularly Alex Ovechkin, who has mustered two or fewer shots on goal in his past three games.

The return of Pavel Datsyuk means the Caps have an incredibly challenging forward to defend. Don’t anticipate any substantial changes to the pairings, although John Carlson has struggled as of late when paired with Brooks Orpik. Interestingly, Orpik’s 31 hits are second only to Ovechkin’s 33. The Caps will need to play a fast, physical game against the Red Wings, who possess offensive talent among both their forwards and defensemen: Henrik Zetterberg (10 points) and Niklas Kronwall (6 points) are their leading scorers.

 

11/1 at Tampa

The formidable Lightning boast a 5-3-1 record, good for second in the Atlantic Division. The return of Steven Stamkos has obviously played a large role in their success, as Stamkos has eight points in nine games (6G, 2A.) But the Caps shouldn’t look to shut down only Stamkos. Plenty of teams have made that mistake with the Caps themselves, aiming to contain Ovechkin and subsequently ignoring other offensive threats like Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer.

The Lightning last played the Minnesota Wild, falling 7-2 in a tough road loss. The Wild came out fast in the first period, scoring four goals to the Lightning’s one. They never let up the pressure, tallying two in the second and a final goal in the third period. The Lightning were outshot by a narrow margin (22 to 19), which isn’t indicative of their impressive Corsi numbers. At 53.8%, they’re sandwiched between the Red Wings and Caps at sixth in the League.

This success has translated to their special teams, which are both in the League’s top ten. Their ninth-ranked power play boasts a success rate of 23.5%, and the penalty kill comes in at sixth (86.2%.) While Stamkos is clearly the Lightning’s greatest asset, they beefed up their blueline during the offseason with the additions of Jason Garrison and Anton Stralman. Like the Red Wings, the Lightning are a fast-paced team with a variety of weapons at their disposal–even without Ryan Callahan and Victor Hedman, who are out with injuries. To ensure success, the Caps need more than ever to keep their game simple and avoid dumping the puck in the offensive zone.

 

11/2 at Arizona

Having earned a meager seven points, the Coyotes are among the NHL’s worst with a 3-3-1 record. They’re currently competing with the likes of the Oilers for last place in the uber-competitive Pacific Division. This isn’t reflected in their power play, which is third overall (26.7%). Their PK isn’t quite of the same caliber (83.3%) but is ranked 11th in the League.

The Coyotes also aren’t a train wreck as far as puck possession is concerned; with a Corsi of 50.4%, the majority of shot attempts are in their favor. Relatively speaking, this number isn’t good enough–the Coyotes rank 15th in this department. However, they have one of the NHL’s best defensemen in Keith Yandle, whose eight points are good for first on the team. Containing Yandle, who logs significant minutes, will be the Caps’ greatest challenge. Sam Gagner will also be aiming to up his production, with just a single assist thus far. Mikkel Boedker is the ‘Yotes’ leading goal scorer with five tallies to his name. Martin Erat (remember him?) has also been fairly productive, with four points (2G, 2A) thus far.

The Coyotes play three games (against the Lightning, Panthers, and Hurricanes respectively) before facing the Caps Sunday night. They also have yet to record a road win.

Caps vs. Panthers #fancystats recap

The Caps prevailed over the Panthers 2-1 in a shootout. The Caps are now 3-0-2 on the year. Here’s a look at some stats from the game, particularly the #fancystats.

panthersshot

-Shot attempts at 5-on-5 were 49-35 Caps. Close-game shot attempts were also in favor of the Caps, 48-32.

-W-L on faceoffs, 41-22 Caps. In no particular order: Burakovsky 2-3, Backstrom 15-6, Laich 3-1, Brouwer 4-0, Kuznetsox 6-4, Chimera 1-1, Fehr 10-7.

-The Caps best CorsiRel player was Andre Burakovsky at +28.44%

-The Caps worst CorsiRel player was Chris Brown at -29.17%

-Brooks Orpik was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts for with 29.

-Matt Niskanen was on the ice for the most Panthers shot attempts with 20.

-The toughest ZS% went to Matt Niskanen at 50%

-6 Caps had a 100% ZS%: Andre Burakovsky, Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Liam O’brien, and Chris Brown

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster update: 80% ZS, +18.26 CorsiRel

Shift Chart:

panthersshift

All data pulled from War on Ice.

Celebrating Alex Semin, one of the 40 greatest players in Caps history

New York Rangers v Washington Capitals - Game Three

Getty Images

In case you haven’t heard, the Caps recently released a fan-voted list of the top 40 Caps in franchise history. On this list was Alex Semin, who I’d consider the most divisive player in franchise history. Yes, he’s even more divisive than Mike Green or Brooks Orpik’s contract. No doubt, Semin was frustrating at times. He took penalties in areas of the ice that seemed unnecessary. But Semin was often given an unfair amount of grief in his time here. He’s an under appreciated player, so I’m glad to see him being recognized as one of the better players in the history of the Caps.

Semin was one of my favorite players during his time here. I spent far more time than I ever hoped to defending him. Maybe I’m just a paranoid Sasha lover, but I’d imagine some people will bemoan Semin’s inclusion when he is celebrated as making the top 40. When they do, my fellow Sasha lovers, here is a list of rebuttals when they start to talk about him being lazy, enigmatic, and undisciplined.

-Semin scored 198 goals for the Caps, good for 5th all-time. At 469 games played, he is the only player in the top-7 to be under 500 GP.

-Semin’s 211 assist places him 19th on the Caps all-time list.

-Semin is the franchise’s 16th leading scorer in terms of points.

-During his time with the Caps (2003-2012), Semin’s 1.45 Goals per 60 minutes of play were second to only Alex Ovechkin. His 1.56 Assists per 60 were 5th among all players who played 82 total games or more for the Caps between 2003-12. His 3.01 points per 60 rank second, again only trailing Ovechkin.

-His G/60 ranked 4th among the 852 NHL players who played 900+ minutes between 2003-12. His P/60 ranked 29th

-Semin’s 53.25 close-game CF% ranked 82nd among the same group.

Semin also made the players around him better. WOWY stats are only available back to 2007, but here’s Semin’s teammates fared playing with him vs. playing without him. These are the 10 players who spent the most TOI with Semin from 2007-12.

 sasha

Every one of these players, the 10 who skated the most amount of minutes with Semin from 2007-12, saw an improvement in their possession numbers when playing with him as opposed to without him. In fact, the top 26 skaters, in terms of TOI together, to skate with Semin during this time period saw an improvement in their possession numbers.

Alex Semin was excellent during his time here in Washington, despite what some fans’ frustration level with him might have led you to believe. His place among the top 40 Caps ever is well deserved. While I’d argue he’d be pretty high up on the list if the 40 players happened to be ranked, I’m satisfied just knowing that the lazy narratives on Semin didn’t win out when it came to voting for the 40 greatest Caps in franchise history.

Caps vs. Devils #fancystats recap

The Caps beat the Devils 6-2 to move to 2-0-2. Here’s a look at some of the #fancystats from the game.

devils

-Shot attempts at 5-on-5 were 45-35 in favor of the Devils. Close-game shot attempt totals were 34-25, Devils.

-W-L on faceoffs, 37-32 for the Devils. In no particular order: Ward 2-1, Fehr 6-10, Brakovsky 4-4, Backstrom 5-5, Burakovsky 4-6, Brouwer 5-6, O-Brien 0-1, Brown 1-1, Laich 3-3.

-The Caps best CorsiRel player was Eric Fehr at 39.61%

-The Caps worst Corsi Rel player was Chris Brown at -22.73%

-Mike Green and Karl Alzner were on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts with 13.

-Nate Schmidt was on the ice for the most shot attempts against with 19.

-The toughest ZS% went to Andre Burakovsky at 33.33%

-The easiest ZS% went to Troy Brouwer at 77.78%

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster update: 50% ZS, -8.23 CF%

devils2

All data pulled from War on Ice

Caps vs. Sharks #fancystats recap

The Caps fell to the Sharks in a shootout, 6-5. The Caps are now 1-0-2 on the season. Here’s a look at some stats from the game, particularly the #fancystats.

sharkscaps

-The Caps had a 5-on-5 shot attempt advantage of 55-37. In “close” score situations, the advantage was 6-3, Sharks.

-Caps W-L on faceoffs. Backstrom 8-11, Burakovsky 3-6, Kuznetsov 3-5, Johansson 1-0, Latta 3-1, Ward 4-2, Laich 4-2.

-The Caps best CorsiRel player was Green at +27.01%

-The Caps worst CorsiRel player was Laich at -21.93%

-Nick Backstrom was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts with 25.

-Matt Niskanen was on the ice for the most Sharks shot attempts against with 20 (But 24 for the Caps)

-The toughest ZS% went to Troy Brouwer and Marcus Johansson, who didn’t start any shifts in the offensive zone.

-Liam O’Brien and Evgeny Kuznetsov saw the highest ZS% at 83.3%.

-Only 3 Caps were below 50% CF: Laich, Chimera, and Ward.

-Nate Schmidt (possession monster) update: Nate was on the ice for 13 shot attempts for and 7 against for a CF% of 64% and a CorsiRel % of +5.79

Shift chart:

sharksshiftchart

All stats pulled from War on Ice

Caps Preview: Week 2

After a successful start to the 2014-15 season, the Caps now enter their first full week of play. With a 1-0-1 record against the Canadiens and Bruins, they’re looking to extend their momentum to the three games slated for this week. Here’s a look at the upcoming games, featuring the Sharks, Devils, and Panthers.

Holts_9

Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRGB Photography

 10/14 vs. Sharks

Of the three teams visiting the Verizon Center this week, the Sharks are easily the most formidable opponent. Despite blowing a 3-0 playoff series lead over the eventual Cup champs, they remain  a dangerous team. They’ve played two games thus far and won both by a significant margin–4-0 over the Kings and 3-0 over the Jets, respectively.

The Sharks’ success can be chalked up to a high-powered offense, rock-solid defense, and superb goaltending. However, they allowed at least 30 shots in both games, something the Caps were frequently guilty of last season. The Sharks also killed off all seven penalties they’ve taken so far, but only capitalized on one of their 12 power-play opportunities. And they (unsurprisingly) dominated the Jets in possession, but couldn’t out-shoot the Kings.

The Caps failed to out-possess the Bruins, yet came away the clear victors. The reverse happened in their season/home opener against the Habs, a game in which they failed to score on five power-play opportunities. Against the Bruins, however, they notched two of a potential four power-play goals, courtesy of Ovechkin and Green. And of the five goals they’ve scored so far, three have been at even-strength. Establishing a strong forecheck and avoiding defensive miscues will be key against the Sharks, given their exceptional offense.

 

10/16 vs. Devils

In two games, the Devils look like an entirely different team from last season. They no longer have an anemic offense; in fact, they’ve scored five or more goals in their two contests. The first, a 6-4 win over the Flyers, saw goals come from seven different players. Former Flames sniper Mike Cammalleri made his presence known, tallying two goals in the victory, while Wayne Simmons also lit the lamp twice. However, the Devils gave goalie Schneider a workout by allowing 39 shots and taking only 26.

Their following game, a crushing 5-1 rout of the Panthers, again saw a handful of players notch goals. After going 0-for-3 on the power play, the Devils capitalized on two of five possible opportunities. Their penalty kill success rate shot up from 60% to 87.5%, though they gave the Panthers eight possible chances to tally power-play goals.

The Devils totaled 33 penalty minutes in their two games. Given the Caps’ success on the man advantage, undisciplined play could easily set the Devils back. If their possession numbers don’t improve significantly, the Caps could have a reasonably winnable game on their hands. Before heading to DC, the Devils visit the Lightning. How they fare against one of the Eastern Conference’s strongest teams will further highlight their strengths and weaknesses.

 

10/18 vs. Panthers

It’s been a while since anyone took the Panthers seriously, and even the addition of top draft pick Aaron Ekblad won’t change that. However, the Panthers have done decent damage control in their two games played, including a decent fight against the rival Lightning, where they lost 3-2 and allowed 32 shots on goal. The game was unsurprisingly dominated by penalties (21 minutes for Florida, and 32 minutes for Tampa.) The Panthers finished with a 57.1% success rate on the penalty kill.

Their next game was a 5-1 loss to the Devils, which I mentioned in the previous breakdown. The Panthers out-possessed the Devils but failed to generate offense. The lone goal came from Derek Mackenzie, who also registered five hits.

Taking on the Panthers shouldn’t be a challenge for the Caps. The two teams faced one another three times last season, with the Caps sweeping the series. However, each game was decided by a single goal. As always, establishing a lead and protecting it should be the Caps’ objective.

Caps vs Bruins #fancystats recap

The Caps beat the Bruins 4-0 to move to 1-0-1 on the season. Alex Ovechkin had 2 goals while Mike Green and John Carlson added 1 a piece. Here are some stats from the game.

bruinscaps

-The Bruins had a 5-on-5 shot attempt advantage of 42-25. The close-game 5-on-5 shot attempt totals were 8-7 in favor of the Bruins.

-Caps on faceoffs: Backstrom 3 for 10, Burakovsky 1 for 5, Laich 2 for 8, Kuznetsov 2 for 4, Ward 1 for 2, O’Brien 1 for 1, Brouwer 1 for 1. Ouch.

-The Caps best CorsiRel player was Karl Alzner at +33.30%

-The Caps worst CorsiRel player was Brooks Orpik at -34.00%

-Matt Niskanen led all Caps in on-ice shot attempts for with 16

-Brooks Orpik was on the ice for most shot attempts against with 21

-Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera saw the toughest zone starts, starting just 25% of their shifts in the offensive zone.

-Liam O’Brien, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Marcus Johnasson saw 100% ZS%.

-Only 3 Caps had a CF% above 50%. Karl Alzner (57.69%) , Matt Niskanen (57.14%), and Joel Ward (60%).

-Only 4 Bruins had a CF% below 50%, but who cares about their names

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster update: -15.35% CorsiRel. Not even Nate is perfect.

Shift Chart:

capsbruinsshiftchart

All numbers courtesy of War on Ice 

 

First impressions of Barry Trotz

Trotz

Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRGB Photography

When the Caps hired Barry Trotz as their head coach this offseason, he hardly needed an introduction to local hockey fans. Trotz has ties to the area and the organization, having coached the Baltimore Skipjacks and Portland Pirates in the early 90’s. In 1997, Trotz was hired as coach of the Nashville Predators, where he stayed until being let go at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. Trotz has coached 1,196 regular season games, good for 14th all-time.

While it’s far too early to start drawing conclusions about Trotz’s job performance here in DC, first impressions have already been made before the season has already started. I, for one, am impressed and encouraged by Trotz’s work so far. Here are 3 things Trotz has done to impress me thus far.

1) Troz has made it clear that Braden Holtby is his #1 goalie.

In our season preview, I talked about why I expect big things from Holtby this year. Last season, Holtby appeared to lose his confidence at times and was benched for lengthy periods of time by former Head Coach Adam Oates. This was despite the fact that Holtby, in a “down” year, still finished 8th in the NHL in 5-on-5 save% among goalies who appeared in at least 41 games. For perspective, 8th place put Holtby just a touch below Henrik Lundqvist. It appears that the ruining of Holtby is over and on its way to being repaired. The new regime instantly named Holtby their #1. They’ve also brought in the greatest goalie coach in the world, Mitch Korn. The signing of Justin Peters makes it even more clear that Trotz and company are full speed ahead with Holtby as their starter. This is such a breath of fresh air after the Oates regime and their treatment of Holtby.

2) Despite a crowded blue line, Nate Schmidt made the Opening Night Roster

The Caps have a logjam on the blue line. When healthy, they have a clearly established top 6  that doesn’t even include veterans John Erskine and Jack Hillen. After this, the Caps have younger players who have seen some playing time over the past two seasons, such as Tomas Kundratek, Steve Oleksy, Connor Carrick, Patrick Wey, and Nate Schmidt. With such a crowd, comprised of so many veterans, it would be understandable if these younger players got lost in the bunch in the limited time their new coach had to evaluate them. Schmidt standing out enough in Trotz’s eyes to make the club is a good sign.

For some reason, despite being one of the better possession players on the team last season during his time in Washington, Schmidt did get lost in the crowd and spent far more time in Hershey than he should have.

Puck possession is important. Nate Schmidt was one of only 3 Caps defensemen last year who improved the team’s possession play with him on the ice vs. with him off the ice. He may get sent back down to Hershey once the team begins to get healthy, but the fact that he is on Trotz’s radar and seemingly pretty high up the depth chart is encouraging.

3) Eric Fehr is getting the first crack to play alongside Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin

If you’ve read this blog, or any number of others Caps blogs, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re thrilled to see Fehr on the top line to start the season. Simply put, he’s the best option. When healthy, Fehr showcases the hands that one would expect from a first round pick. He’s got size but can still move. Oh, and his possession numbers when playing with Backstrom and Ovechkin make him the best option to play with them, by far.  Fehr thinks it’s wise to bet booze on the fact that he’ll score 15 or more goals this year. I agree.


It’s the start of a new season. While I was highly critical of a certain offseason signing, I’m feeling optimistic about the Caps chances to have a bounce back year. One of the main reasons for this is that my first impression of Barry Trotz is that his reputation as a stellar NHL coach is well deserved.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: