Category Archives: Washington Capitals

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:

octplayerofmonth

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. 

Ovi_2

Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRGB Photography

 

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 Preview: Week 3

With two weeks and five games in the books, we’re starting to get a picture of what the 2014-15 Caps look like. Yes, the season is still young, but what we’ve seen thus far indicates that the Caps are a good team, and more importantly, will continue to be a good team (unlike the Leafs last season. Hello, PDO!)

The Caps have played a variety of opponents: Cup contenders like Montreal and bottom-feeders like Florida. And how they perform against top teams isn’t necessarily representative of their overall play, as we saw in Saturday night’s game against the Panthers. Still, there are certain things we can expect from these Caps as they head for western Canada to face the Oilers, Flames, and Canucks. Given the caliber of their competition, the Caps should aim to extend their win streak to four games and go 6-for-6 in terms of points. However, they shouldn’t underestimate their opponents. Bad teams aren’t always easily beatable, and if the Caps come out slow in the first period, they could lose a serious advantage and send the game to overtime.

Going into this road trip, there are three stats that stick out for me. First, the Caps are the only team in the East who have yet to be defeated in regulation. Not saying they’ll be the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks, but who know. Second, they have yet to allow 30 shots in a game–a far cry from last season, in which their shots-against average was 33.5. Third, they currently rank 11th in the league in Corsi at 52.4%. Interestingly, the Oilers come in at 53.3%, good for ninth in the league. (It’s still early in the season.)

 

10/22 at Oilers

Remember how lousy the Oilers were last season? That hasn’t changed much; in five games, they’ve collected a single point. As I mentioned above, the Oilers have fairly solid possession numbers. However, these haven’t translated into results. They have yet to play a game in which their offense, defense, and goaltending are consistent.

Their power-play success rate is 20%, which is a decidedly inflated statistic due to small sample size. This isn’t knocking the Oilers specifically; I doubt that the Penguins will capitalize on 47.1% of their opportunities in two months. They’ve only had 15 power-play opportunities in five games. On the flip side, their 73.7% success rate on the penalty kill puts them well in the bottom third of the league. Lackluster is a good way to describe the Oilers’ special teams, which means the Caps should be able to notch a power-play goal or two.

 

10/25 at Flames

Though marginally better than the Oilers, the Flames don’t pose much of a threat to the Caps. A 3-3-0 record has them fourth in the Pacific Division, and they’ve both won and lost by various margins. Their most surprising victory came against the Blackhawks, in which Jonas Hiller delivered an oustanding performance. The ‘Hawks peppered Hiller with 50 shots, yet he let in only one. The team before him was decidedly less solid, finishing the night with a mere 18 shots in their eventual overtime win.

The Flames will likely give the Caps a harder time than the Oilers. They have a stellar top defensive pairing in TJ Brodie and Mark Giordano, who have combined for 13 points (4G, 9A.) They both log significant minutes and will be deployed against the Caps’ top forwards.

On the offensive side of things, Johnny Gaudreau’s return from the press box was marked with a goal and assist in the Flames’ 4-1 win over the Jets. The Flames have several players capable of making offensive contributions, so it’s difficult to pinpoint where exactly goals might come from. Their special teams are far from exceptional, with a middle-of-the-pack power play and below-average penalty kill. If the Caps can stay focused and disciplined and play a full 60 minutes, they should head to Vancouver with two additional points.

 

10/26 at Canucks

Sitting at fifth in the Pacific Division, the Canucks have failed to make much of an impact. Most notably, however, is the absence of the offensive woes that plagued them under John Tortorella. They’ve scored at least two goals in each of their games so far. Daniel and Henrik Sedin lead the team in points (seven and six each, respectively), and they’ve sourced offense from other players.

At 53%, the Canucks’ Corsi is 10th in the NHL. That isn’t far ahead of the Caps’ 52.4%. While we’re talking stats, the Canucks’ special teams deserve a serious look. At 21%, their power play is quite effective and will give the Caps’ revamped penalty kill a workout. And the Canucks’ penalty kill boasts an 87.5% success rate, 10th in the League. Playing a disciplined game will be critical for the Caps, whose proclivity for penalties wore them down in their home opener.

Before they face the Caps, the Canucks gallivant off to the States to face the Stars, Blues, and Avalanche. The Stars transformed into a dangerous team in the offseason, while the Blues remain potent as ever. How the Avalanche will fare against the Canucks is anyone’s guess. How the Canucks perform against these teams will give Trotz a better of idea of what to expect, and if the Canucks get worn down, that’ll be a boon for the Caps. But they could suffer a similar fate–long road trips with time zone changes often make for sloppy play.

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.

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