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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.

Caps vs. Blues #fancystats recap

The Caps lost to the Blues 3-1 4-1 and now have a record of 7-7-3. 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.


-The Caps lost the shot attempt battle, 49-44.

-Mike Green had the best on-ice shot attempt differential at +9

-Brooks Orpik had the worst shot attempt differential at -12.

-Mike Green was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (19).

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

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

-Eric Fehr had the toughest zone starts, starting 25% of his shifts in the offensive zone.



Caps vs. Blue Jackets #fancystats recap

The Caps beat the Blue Jackets 4-2 and now have a record of 7-5-3. 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.


-The Caps lost the shot attempt battle, 46-35. In close-game situations (within 1 in the 1st 2 periods, tied in the 3rd), the Caps won the shot attempt battle 10-9.

-Nate Schmidt had the best on-ice shot attempt differential at +8 (duh).

-Brooks Orpik and Jason Chimera had the worst shot attempt differential at -10.

-Schmidt, Green, Johansson, Niskanen, and Alzner were on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (14).

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

-Johansson, Brouwer, and Burakovksy had the easiest zone starts, starting 100% of their shifts in the offensive zone.

-O’Brien and Latta had the toughest zone starts, starting 28.5% of their shifts in the offensive zone.

-By the way, Nate Schmidt had the toughest zone starts of any Caps D, starting just 37.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone.


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. Flames #fancystats recap

The Caps lost to the Flames in OT by a score of 4-3 and now have a record of 4-5-3

5-on-5 shot chart


-5-on-5 shot attempts were in favor of the Caps, 56-43.. Close-game shot attempts favored the Caps 42-29,

-Caps W-L on faceoffs 33-26: Latta 13-6, Backstrom 8-5, Kuznetsov 6-6, Burakovsky 3-4, Ward 2-2, Wilson 1-2, Brouwer 0-1.

-The Caps best CorsiRel player was Latta at +27.70%

-The Caps worst CorsiRel player was a tie between Kuznetov and Brouwer at -19.67%

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

-Orpik was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (16).

-The toughest zone starts went to Nate Schmidt at 25% ZS

-The easiest zone starts went to Wilson and Green at 88.89% ZS

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster update: ZS%, CorsiRel -3.03%

Shift Chart:


Thanks to War on Ice, where all these stats were pulled from.

Caps Preview: Week 5

With a 4-5-2 record, there are plenty of concerns over the Caps’ ability to perform for the remainder of the season, never mind the playoffs. But we’re also entering the fifth week of an 82-game season, and there’s plenty of reason to believe that the Caps will turn things around with time.

They’ve got three opportunities this week to tighten up their defense and improve goaltending: two home games against Calgary and Carolina and a trip to Chicago (not in that order.) Playing a varied set of opponents will serve as good benchmarks.


11/4 vs. Calgary

Despite an appallingly poor Corsi-for percentage of 43.2%, the Flames have managed to remain afloat in the super-competitive Pacific Division. Their 16 points are good for third among division rivals, beating out the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. (At the time of writing, the Ducks lead with 20 points, while the Canucks follow with 16. The Flames have eight wins; the Canucks have seven.)

But the Flames are also enjoying a PDO of 103.4, third in the League. They’ll return to reality soon enough–after all, they beat the mighty Habs 6-2 Sunday night. Much of the Flames’ success should be credited to Jonas Hiller, who boasts a .938 save percentage and one shutout in eight games played.

The Flames also have one of the NHL’s best pairings in TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano, who are capable of shutting down the opposition and bringing an offensive punch. They lead the Flames with 12 and 11 points respectively. Young forwards Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan aren’t far behind, with each tallying seven points.

With a mix of offensively talented defensemen and forwards, the Flames can produce goals from a number of players, thus making them a trickier team to defend. Their special teams aren’t particularly threatening, with a power-play success rate of 20% (12th in the League) and penalty kill success rate of 75.7% (24th in the League.) The Caps should always strive to stay out of the box, but facing one of the NHL’s better power plays will allow their PK to rebound from its dismal 78.6% success rate, good for 20th overall.

The teams last met in October, when the Caps won 3-1 and outshot the Flames 30-21. The win was the only bright spot in an otherwise dismal road trip, and with a four-game losing streak looking to be snapped, a victory couldn’t be timed more perfectly.


11/7 @ Chicago

It should go without saying that the Blackhawks are a formidable opponent, despite their fifth-place ranking in the Central Division. (It is the Western Conference, after all.) The Hawks are currently the NHL’s best Corsi team by a significant margin: their Corsi-for comes in at 57%, with second-place Minnesota at 55.8%.

With a roster reminiscent of All-Star games, Blackhawks are aiming to end their two-game losing streak. They lost 3-2 to Toronto, a game that was stolen by James Reimer’s superb goaltending (the Blackhawks outshot the Leafs 47-27.) Their second defeat, in which they fell 1-0 to Winnipeg, was another demonstration of the Blackhawks’ possession prowess. Having outshot the Jets 33-27, the game was their second shutout loss of the season.

With a Tuesday night away game scheduled against the Habs, the Blackhawks will be taking on one of the NHL’s top teams. Their special teams are a mixed bag: the power play is a lackluster 18.4% (17th overall), but the penalty kill is ranked third at 91.9%. Regardless of the opponent, the Caps shouldn’t count on the power play as a major source of offense. This is imperative against the stingy Blackhawks, who will capitalize on the slightest defensive miscue. If the Caps play to their potential, they can definitely stay with–if not beat–the Blackhawks.


11/8 vs. Carolina

The Hurricanes have garnered plenty of headlines this season–nearly all of them negative, and nearly all of them pertaining to their winless October. Their six points are lowest in the League, and they’ve compiled a 2-6-2 record thus far. Yet they beat the Kings 3-2, matching them in shots (32-32.)

Some of the ‘Canes best players have struggled, and this is reflected in the team’s play. Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner (both of whom were injured in October; the latter by a Niskanen hit) have yet to deliver much of an impact. The same can be said of Alex Semin, who was a healthy scratch against the Kings. The three forwards have racked up eight points total, a number that’s been affected by the aforementioned injuries.

Given the Hurricanes’ poor quality of play, it’s hard to imagine that their Corsi-for is 15th in the League at 50.8%. This is tied with the Kings and easily surpasses teams like the Ducks and Sharks–and the injury-decimated Blue Jackets, who the Canes face in a home-and-home before taking on the Caps Saturday night.

On the surface, the game looks like an easy win. The Hurricanes have no singular strength that must be addressed, saved for their eighth-ranked power play (21.9% efficiency.) The penalty kill is 18th overall at 80%, and could allow the Caps to exercise their firepower on the man advantage.

Then again, the same was said when the Caps played the Coyotes. By this point in time, the Caps should have cleaned up their defensive zone play and cut back on turnovers to hopefully earn four of a possible six points by week’s end.

Caps at Lightning #fancystats recap

The Caps dropped their third straight to the Lightning, 4-3. Their record is now 4-4-2.

5-on-5 Shot Attempt Chart:

11-1-14 L @ Tampa

-Shot attempts at 5-on-5 were 38-28 Caps. Close game shot attempts were 32-29 Caps.

-W-L on faceoffs, 24-20 Tampa. Backstrom 7-10, Brouwer 1-0, Burakovsky 4-5, Chimera 0-1, Kuznetsov 4-5, Latta 4-2, Ward 1-1.

-The Caps’ best CorsiRel player was Mike Green at +25.47%

-The Caps worst CorsiRel player was Karl Alzner at -31.54%

-Mike Green was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (23).

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

-The toughest ZS% went to Chimera (40%), followed by Kuznetsov and Fehr (50%).

-Three Caps had 100% ZS%: Beagle, Latta, and Wilson.

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster update: 62.5% ZS, +12.96CorsiRel.

Shift Chart:

11-1-14 L @ Tampa shift chart

Thanks, as always, to War on Ice for stats and graphs.

Charity raffle: Win a Caps jersey autographed by the 2013-14 team

My family, led by my Mom, puts on an annual bingo event to support Team Fox for Parkinson’s research. My Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a few years ago and has since put an amazing amount of energy into raising money for Team Fox. This year, we reached out to the Caps to donate an item for the bingo. They completely blew us away by donating a jersey autographed by the 2013-14 team. Yes, it comes with a certificate of authenticity.

Here’s a couple pictures of the jersey and the certificate

caps jersey1caps jersey2certificate


How can you win this? Well, you can purchase raffle tickets from us by contacting us at brookslaichyear AT gmail. Tickets cost $10 per chance. There is no limit as to how many you can buy.  We will then email you back with contact information so you can enter this great raffle.

100% of the money raised from this raffle goes to Team Fox. The raffle will be held at the bingo on September 27th, but you do not need to be present to win. However, if you’d like to attend the bingo, you can find event info here.

A review of OOTP’s Franchise Hockey Manager ’14

Full disclosure: I was asked by a member of the OOTP team to write this review. No, I was not paid for it. Yes, I was given a free copy. No one with OOTP saw or edited this review before it was published. 

I am a huge fan of the Out of the Park baseball series released by OOTP developments. For an armchair general manager, given the mind-blowing level of details, it is the best sports simulation game ever created. So, needless to say, I was pretty excited when OOTP released their franchise hockey sim, Franchise Hockey Manager ’14. I was actually so excited about it that I didn’t allow myself to purchase it when it was released because I was in Graduate school and didn’t want to flunk out. Now that I’ve graduated and played the game, I’m glad I waited until after graduation, otherwise graduation day may never have come.

If you’ve ever found yourself daydreaming about being the General Manager of a hockey team, this is the game for you. The detail and and control this game gives you is great. You can take control of teams in about 20 leagues, including the NHL, AHL, KHL, OHL and WHL. You can also take control of any and every NHL season dating back to 1947. I didn’t play any of the historical seasons, as the depth of the game play starting in the present was plenty to keep my attention. However, if, as a Caps fans, you’re interested in seeing the 2009-10 season play out differently, this mode is for you. Or perhaps you often wish the 1998 season had ended differently. Well, here’s your chance to replay that season and trade Esa Tikkanen before he misses a wide open net in the Stanley Cup finals.

Like I said above, I found myself starting with the 2013-14 season and playing as the Caps GM. You have a lot of control that you can customize, a hallmark of the baseball sim series. One thing I really liked was the ability to assign ice time percentages when creating your lines. You have a lot of control over your scouting staff as well, so much that the detail of their reports can be overwhelming at times. The game gives you control over contracts, trade, promotions, etc that allows you to pull off all those moves you’ve been wishing your favorite team could make. For those of you, like me, who like advanced stats, the game tracks individual player Corsi and Fenwick, as well as Corsi Rel and Fenwick Rel. That was a really cool surprise!

This is a new franchise, so I came into this experience expecting for it to be a bit of a work in progress. Certainly, there are things that can be improved (luckily, the OOTP releases frequent patches and listens to feedback on their message boards). For one, the trade engine needs some work. As the Caps GM, I was able to acquire Claude Giroux, Jamie Benn and Jack Johnson without giving up Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, Alzner, Carlson or Holtby. With some tricky moves, I was able to stay under the salary cap. I then let the computer control the team so I could simulate a ways forward without interuptions to get a feel for how the game plays out as you move into future seasons. I was completely shocked to find the computer put Ovechkin and Benn on waivers for no apparent reason. Obviously, this wouldn’t happen if you stay in control of all roster moves, but that’s certainly something that should be fixed.

If you are the kind of sports fan that likes to think about the game from the perspective of a GM, this game is for you. My only word of warning is that there will be some small annoyances, as this is a new franchise and it is not yet as deeply developed as OOTP’s baseball sim. However, if the OOTP baseball sim is any indication, Franchise Hockey Manager is only going to get better from the strong foundation provided by FHM ’14.

For more info on the game or to pick up your own copy, visit the FHM website here



Advanced stats are not scary

Advanced stats have gotten a lot of attention in the hockey world this summer, in part thanks to numerous hires by organizations around the league that indicate the debate is over as to whether NHL teams are using advanced stats as part of their evaluation process. While dubbing it the ‘summer of advanced stats’ (or ‘analytics,’ if you prefer) may discredit the wave that has been building in the hockey world for years, advanced stats are certainly part of hockey conversations more than ever.

A word on the term “advanced stats”: Does calling these stats “advanced” increase the divide, perceived or real, between the “watch the game” crowd and the “advanced stats” crowd? The current state of advanced stats within hockey uses a lot of the same basic math required to understand the more well-known stats we’ve all been familiar with for quite some time. While the stats may be different and, at times more in-depth, the math is largely the same. Using the word “advanced” may dissuade those unfamiliar with what “advanced” stats are.

Truth be told, both watching the games (scouting) and using numbers are essential, and you should be skeptical of anyone who tells you otherwise. Why are (advanced) stats important? Well, for a lot of reasons. First off, no one watches every game. On top of that, every fan I’ve ever spoken to uses numbers and stats as part of a conversation about sports. Advanced stats aim to provide the most accurate, telling, and/or predictive (depending on the stat and sport) statistics possible. Advanced stats do not aim to replace the sports that we all love with spreadsheets and data.  If we’re already using stats to quantify things about sports, shouldn’t we seek to quantify these things in the most meaningful way possible? Advanced stats are not the start of a new conversation. Rather, they are a continuation of and an attempt to better inform conversations we have been having about the games we love for as long as they’ve been around.

Today, Puck Daddy broke the news that the Maple Leafs have hired, among others, Darryl Metcalf, the founder of has been the site I’ve used the most when combing through advanced stats. I’ve seen some people on Twitter wonder where to turn for their advanced stats needs now that Extra Skater is offline. The good news is, there are other similar sites out there. The two I have used the most (other than Extra Skater) are and Behind the Net. With so many smart people out there that have an interest in advanced stats, I fully expect similar sites to pop up sooner rather than later (as I was writing this, I saw this tweet from Peter of RMNB). Editor’s Note:  More details are now available about Peter’s plan. Check them out and contribute to the conversation here.

The bulk of this post was initially intended for something else but it felt relevant today with the news about Extra Skater. To those of you opposed to or skeptical of advanced stats: Dig around online, ask questions, and don’t be scared of them. To those of you mourning the loss of Extra Skater: I’m with you, but there’s still useful resources out there and more help is likely on the way.




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