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A Quick Update

Our posts have been sporadic lately, but we’re still regularly publishing Caps content elsewhere on the web.

Margaret still writes about the Caps for The Hockey Writers.

I’ve been writing regularly for Russian Machine Never Breaks and have contributed to The Washington Post a couple times this season as well.

A good way to keep up with our regular Caps writing elsewhere is to follow each of us on Twitter.

Here’s where you can follow Margaret.

Here’s when you can follow Pat (that’s me).

Here’s where you can follow Mike.

We still plan on creating content here on Brooks Laichyear. But there may be periods where our updates are less frequent than they’ve been this season as we’re busy publishing Caps content elsewhere. Follow us each on Twitter if you want to keep up with our writing on other sites.

 

Caps at Flyers Recap: One Point is Better Than None

The Caps played poorly but still gained a point in overtime, with the Flyers winning by a score of 3-2. Caps goals were scored by Alex Ovechkin (21) and Nicklas Backstrom (13). The Flyers had the better of even-strength shot attemps, 55-47. The chart below shows shot attempts, adjusting for score states. As you can see, the Flyers had the better of shot attempts, when adjusting for score.

chart (7)

Even strength #fancystats

-Niskanen led the Caps with a +8 on-ice shot attempt differential

-Carlson had the worst shot attempt differential at -20

-Niskanen was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (21)

-Carlson was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (36)

-Green, Chimera, and Wilson faced the easiest zone starts, starting 100% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Johansson, Brouwer, and Kuznetsov faced the toughest zone starts, starting just 20% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update: HE HATH BEEN FREED. Schmidt posted a +5 shot differential and started 75% of his shifts in the offensive zone.

Non-fancy stuff

-Ovi kicked off scoring with a power-play goal, his 21st tally of the season.

-You know who else (almost) scored a goal? Karl Alzner. He and Jay Beagle have set career highs in goals. Do with that information what you will–Pat makes a good argument that Alzner is very tradeable.

-On the flip side, Sean Courtier’s goal was pretty bad for all parties involved, except for Sean Courtier.

-Braden Holtby has made 23 appearances. In a row. This sets a franchise record.

Thanks to hockeystats.ca for the stats.

Caps at Leafs Recap: Too Much Fehr and MoJo

The Caps crushed the Leafs, 6-2. Caps goals were scored by Marcus Johansson (11), Eric Fehr (12), Brooks Laich (5), Johansson again (12), Fehr again (13), Ovechkin (EN, 20).  The Leafs had the better of the even strength shot attempts, 55-44. The chart below shows shot attempts, adjusting for score states. As you can see, the Caps had the better of shot attempts, when adjusting for score.

Even strength, score-adjusted shot attempt chart:

chart (5)

Even strength #fancystats

-Johansson led the Caps with a +6 on-ice shot attempt differential

-Jack Hillen had the worst shot attempt differential at -7

-John Carlson was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (21)

-Carlson, Hillen, and Mike Green were on the ice for the most shot attempts against (20)

-Jay Beagle faced the toughest zone starts, starting just 25% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov faced the easiest zone starts, starting 100% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update: The Schmidtuation continues.

Non-fancy stuff

-This was the best game Johansson-Kuznetsov-Brouwer have had as a line.

-Marcus Johansson is a restricted free agent after the season. The Caps shouldn’t trade him, they should sign him.

-Braden Holtby continues to be outstanding for this team. Let’s give him the night off tomorrow, eh?

-Haha, Dion Phaneuf, don’t ever touch Ovechkin again. Remember when the narrative was that Tom Wilson on the first line allowed Ovechkin to feel more comfortable? The only protection Ovechkin needs is Ovechkin.

-Fehr was sniping tonight. How about giving him a try in the slot on PP2 instead of Ward?

 

Checking In On Old Friend Mikhail Grabovski

Grabovski_02

Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography

The Caps chose to spend the majority of their offseason cap space on defense. This meant that Mikhail Grabovski’s time in D.C. was over after just one season. Despite an ankle injury that limited him to 58 games, Grabovski had a successful campaign in a Caps’ uniform.

The Caps saw 4% more of total shot attempts with Grabovski on the ice than when he was on the bench, top among all forwards on the 2013-14 team. His 1.8 points per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time was third among all qualifying Caps forwards. That being said, when it comes to Grabovski as a Caps player, it’s far past time to let it go.

But, with the Caps traveling to pay Grabovski and the Islanders a visit on Monday night, let’s take a quick look at how Jeremy Roenick’s favorite player is doing this season.

Grabovski has 5 goals and 7 assist in 32 games so far this season, which isn’t terrible, but is fairly pedestrian. However, as I mentioned in the week preview, he is leading all Islanders forwards in possession, with a 55.3% shot attempt%.

Part of the reason Grabovski’s production is a bit below where we’d expect it is because he has zero points on the power play this season. A closer look shows that the Islanders are shooting an absurdly low 3% on the PP when Grabovski is on the ice this season. So, in other words, Grabovski is getting the Alex Ovechkin treatment in terms of on-ice shooting% while the Islanders are up a man.

Another possible factor in his so-so production is that Grabovski starts 11.7% more shifts in the defensive zone than his average teammate, which is tops on the Islanders. So, he’s their best possession player while also being given the toughest relative zone starts. Not too shabby.

It’s pretty tempting to finish this post up by talking about money that the Caps spent on a certain defender that they could have spent on Grabovski. Temptation resisted. Grabovski was a joy to watch play for the Caps last season. It’s great to see that he’s doing well with the Islanders.

Stats from War on Ice

 

Caps at Panthers #fancystats (and beyond) Recap

The Caps lost to the Panthers 2-1 in a shootout that went 843 rounds and featured a ridiculous dangle by Brooks Orpik. What a weird night. The Panthers had more 5v5 shot attempts, 43-41.

5-on-5 shot attempt chart:

panrhersdec16

-The 5v5 sample from this game was just over 53 1/2 minutes.

-Eric Fehr led the Caps with a +7 on-ice shot attempt differential

-Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov had the worst shot attempt differential at -9. Linemate Troy Brouwer was just behind at -8. Time to break up the second line. Nothing doing there for too long.

-Further on that point, those 3 forwards had 1 total shot attempts between the 3 of them (Kuznetsov).

-Alex Ovechkin had the most individual shot attempts with 6

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster update: 50% ZS% an even 0 in on-ice shot attempts

NON-FANCY STUFF

-Mike Green’s turnover on Florida’s first goal is inexcuseable. But why was he so surpsied by the aggressive forecheck? It was as if none of his teammates hollered that he had pressure bearing down on him.

-Jason Chimera, scratched last game due to taking a dumb penalty that comes his team a game, returned to the lineup. He took a dumb penalty that negated a Jay Beagle breakaway.

-That shootout was, well, long. But, wow, that Orpik goal.

All stats from War on Ice

Two Players the Caps Should Not Trade

Mojo copy

Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography

According to Pierre LeBrun, Caps GM Brian MacLellan is looking to make some trades. The Caps have looked a bit stale lately, save for spurts of inspired and creative play such as the first 40 minutes in Saturday’s game against the Devils, so it’s not shocking the new GM may want to shake things up. Here are two players MacLellan likely will be asked about but shouldn’t trade.

Marcus Johansson

Johnasson has already bested his goal totals from the two previous seasons with 9 goals through 25 games. Johansson has 8 even strength goals this season. He had 5 even strength goals in the last two seasons combined. I understand if people think that dealing Johansson now would be selling high.

I’m not convinced of that. I think that Johnasson very well may have taken a major step forward in his development and that the improvements in his play and production could be long lasting. While his shooting% (17.6%) is likely to come back closer to his career shooting% (12.8%), Johansson is going to continue to score at an improved rate because he is shooting the puck so much more.

image (3)

As you can see, Johansson is shooting way more this season. In situations where he used to force passes, he is now firing pucks on net. As a result, he’s now putting close to 8 shots on per goal per 60 minutes of ice time. In the two previous seasons he averaged about four per 60 minutes of ice time.

In terms of shots per game this season, Johannson is averaging 2.04 shots. If he were to maintain this over an 82 game season, he would have 167 shots on goal, shattering his previous career high of 107 he set last season. If, Johansson were to pump 167 shots on net in a season and shoot at his career average of 12.8%, he would score 21 goals, which crushes his career high of 14 set in 2011-12.

Marcus Johansson is finally producing like a legitimate top-6 player. It would be a mistake to trade him. Instead, the Caps should look to extend him, as he is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Mike Green

Mike Green is an elite NHL defenseman and the Caps are a better team with him than without him. He can make glaring defensive mistakes at times, but you’re wrong if you think this makes him a bad player.

Here’s a chart Peter from RMNB made that was used in one of my posts on that site that shows Green has consistently made the Caps a better team when he’s on the ice.

greencaps

As you can see, 2012 was the only season when Green didn’t help the Caps possession. Other than 2012, the Green has made the Caps a much better team when he’s on the ice. For a more in-depth look at why Green is irrefutably awesome, check out this article I wrote about him over on RMNB.

I understand he’s injury-prone and that his salary demands could be tricky for a team up against the cap. But the Caps will be better off if they find a way to keep Mike Green.

In my next post, I’ll look at two players the Caps should trade, which can help free up some of the cap space needed to keep Mike Green.

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.

caps2

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.

caps3

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.

capsgood

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.

capsgood2

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.

blueschart

-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.

cbj3part2

-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.

CAPS WIN! HAVE A GOOD NIGHT!

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. 

 

——97.75——

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.

mojo
Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRGB Photography

——1.83——

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!

 

——9.89——

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.

 

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