Caps at Islanders Recap: The Who

Anyone else have Pinball Wizard in their head after those first two Islanders goals?

The Caps lost to the Islanders 4-3 in OT. The Islanders also had the upper hand in even strength shot attempts, 47-40.

Even strength shot attempt chart:

chart (2)


-Brooks Laich led the Caps with a +4 on-ice shot attempt differential

-Nick Backstrom had the worst shot attempt differential at -10

-Erich Fehr and Karl Alzner were on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (16)

-Alex Ovechkin was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (21)

-Michael Latta faced the toughest zone starts, starting  0% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Troy Brouwer, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jack Hillen, and Mike Green faced the easiest zone starts, starting 100% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update: FREE NATE SCHMIDT


-Sorry, time does not allow for non-fancy stuff tonight. Next up: Some Winter Classic thing people keep talking about

Checking In On Old Friend Mikhail Grabovski


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 Preview: Week 13

The Caps grabbed four points last week, going 2-1-0. The only blemish was a 4-2 loss to the Rangers sandwiched between victories over the Senators and the Penguins. With a record of 18-11-6, the Caps have 42 points, which is good for 4th in the Metro and the second wild card spot in the East. When adjusting for score situations, the Caps own 52.5% of shot attempts, which is good for 11th in the league.

The Caps have three tilts on the schedule this week (we run our weeks Monday-Sunday around here), and none of them are particularly easy. The team faces two top teams in the Islanders and the Blackhawks, as well as a surprising Panthers team that is working its way into the playoff hunt. Here’s a look at the games ahead.


Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography

Monday 12/29 at NYI

Score-adjusted Corsi: 53.3% (6th)

Power Play: 17.9% (17th)

Penalty Kill: 73.7% (30th)

PDO: 99.5 (22nd)

At 23-11-1, the Islanders sit 2nd in the Metro with 47 points. Despite so-so results on the PP and an awful PK, the Islanders are the real deal, thanks to superior puck possession and solid goaltending.

Jaroslav Halak’s 93.24 save% at 5v5 ranks 9th out of the 28 goalies who have played 900+ minutes this season. It appears Halak will be returning after missing two games due to injury. He had been on a nice roll, giving up just six goals in the four games prior to his injury.

The Islanders also have one of the more talented stars in the league in John Tavares, who is currently 21st in the league with 31 points. Oh, and some guy named Mikhail Grabovski is leading the team’s forwards in possession. The team sees 55.3% of total shot attempts when he’s on the ice.

Thursday 1/1 vs. CHI

Score-adjusted Corsi: 56.3% (1st)

Power Play: 18.7% (14th)

Penalty Kill: 91.0% (1st)

PDO: 100.9 (8th)

This game is apparently being played at a baseball stadium that isn’t Camden Yards.

The Blackhawks currently have 50 points, second only to Anaheim in the entire NHL. This is an elite team, if not the elite team. The Caps were thoroughly dominated in the previous meeting this season, but escaped with a win.

Chicago is led by its usual cast of characters. Joanthan Toews and Patrick Kane are the headliners, but players such as Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp (who missed 14 games due to injury) give this team such impressive forward depth that it’s easy to miss a guy like Kris Versteeg, who is on pace for a career year with 26 points in 32 games.

Hitting is one thing you won’t see the Blackhawks do a lot of. This isn’t because they are incapable or unwilling to do so. It’s because you don’t need to hit people when you have the puck.

Sunday 1/4 vs. FLA

Score-adjusted Corsi: 51.8 (13th)

Power Play: 13.0% (28th)

Penalty Kill: 81.3% (15th)

PDO: 99.5 (23rd)

This is Margaret’s favorite team. Okay, not really. But she’s been high on them for a while now and it’s for good reason. The Panthers are 6-2-2 in their last ten games and are only four points behind the Caps for the last wild card spot in the East. Their possession numbers are solid, and if they could figure out how to be just average on the PP, they could be a dangerous team come Spring.

Roberto Luongo is back tending the net for the Panthers this season. His 93.40 save% ranks 7th among qualifying goalies. He’s also endlessly entertaining on Twitter, but you probably already knew that.

Production-wise, they don’t have a standout forward, as Nick Bjugstad leads the group with 19 points in 32 games. Injuries have been a bit of a concern for the team, but they are getting healthier.

On the blue line, 18-year-old Aaron Ekblad has quickly established himself as one of the best young players in the game after the Panthers made him the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. His 19 points are tied for the team lead. Possession-wise, the Panthers do 0.8% better in terms of shot attempts when Ekblad is on the ice, which the team has to be happy with from a rookie defenseman at his age, regardless of the fact that his minutes have been a little sheltered.

Stats from War on Ice and

Caps at Penguins Recap: Fehr Scores, Ovechkin Shoots, Burakovsky Sits

The Caps beat the Pens, 3-0. The Caps won the even strength shot attempt battle, 46-39.

Even Strength shot attempt chart:


Even strength #fancystats

-Matt Niskanen led the Caps with a +11 on-ice shot attempt differential

-Andre Burakovsky had the worst shot attempt differential at -6, three of which came on one shift.

-Alex Ovechkin had the most individual shot attempts with 8. If you look at all situations, instead of just even strength, he had 17 shot attempts. Next closest Caps player was Johansson with 5. No Pens player had more than 7.

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

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

-Brooks Orpik faced the toughest zone starts, starting just 24% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Jack Hillen and Burakovsky faced the easiest zone starts, starting 100% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update: :( :( :( #FreeNate


-Both of Fehr’s goals were examples of crisp, perfect execution. Or the total opposite. Good things happen when you go to the net.

-Braden Holtby was excellent. When he’s not busy being excellent on the ice, he’s busy being adorable off the ice, apparently.

-The first line drew four penalties tonight.

-Jay Beagle’s 11:37 of 5v5 ice time was 6th among all Caps forward. He spent extended periods of the game on the first line. Okay.

-Andre Burakovsky skated 5:23 of 5v5 time, last on the team. Closest to him was Michael Latta at 6:54.

stats from

Defensive Prospect Madison Bowey Excels in WJC Debut

RRBG BoweyPhoto by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography

Drafted in the second round (53rd overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft, Madison Bowey is one of the Capitals’ top defensive prospects not playing in the pros. Wait, scratch that–he’s one of their top prospects, and he proved this tonight as a fixture on Canada’s blue line.

Going into the draft, Bowey was lauded for his strong two-way play and skating ability. He’s only strengthened these assets since, and is entering his second year as captain of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. At 6’1”, Bowey uses his size to add physicality to his play, and his offensive numbers are projected to surpass those of his previous season (21G, 39A in 72 games.) There’s a lot to like about Bowey, and he gave Caps fans a taste of his abilities in his WJC debut.

Bowey has suited up for Canada before, but this is his first World Junior tournament. He and Winnipeg Jets prospect Josh Morrissey were slated to comprise Canada’s top defensive pairing, and disappoint they did not. In Canada’s 8-0 shellacking of Slovakia, Bowey recorded two assists on Canada’s third and sixth goals (scored by Robby Fabbri and Max Domi, respectively.)

Skating and size are huge components of Bowey’s game, and he put both to good use. He employed nifty footwork utilized his reach to reclaim the puck from the Slovaks. Bowey also didn’t hesitate to get physical along the boards or around the net.

Quarterbacking a power play is an important skill for offensively-inclined defensemen. While Canada’s power play wasn’t as dominant as anticipated, especially when considering their even-strength dominance, Bowey made crisp passes. He cycled the puck with ease from Canada’s own zone to Slovakia’s, frequently giving rise to what would become good scoring chances.

Bowey himself was denied on a number of quality opportunities, thanks to Slovak goalie Denis Godla. However, he helped Canada return the favor by further stifling Slovakia’s tepid offense while on the penalty kill. Bowey drew a penalty himself—two for tripping—midway through the third period. And while he fanned on a shot on Canada’s final power play, his overall performance on special teams was strong.

Bowey certainly looked like one of the premier young puck-moving defensemen tonight, and it’s hard not to wonder how a Capitals or Bears jersey would look on him next season. He retrieved the puck easily and was able to transition from zone to zone without getting caught out of position. He also showed his ability to play in a variety of situations, from 5v5 to 4v4 to shorthanded.

Of course, Slovakia is hardly a feared opponent, and Bowey and Team Canada will have the opportunity to face tougher competition Saturday at 8pm against Germany. Based on the play of the Bowey-Morrissey duo, don’t expect Coach Benoit Groulx to shake up his top pairing anytime soon.

Caps at Rangers #fancystats (and beyond) recap

The Caps lost to the Rangers, 4-2. Their nine-game point streak was snapped, as was their three-game win streak. The Caps won the even strength shot attempt battle 47-24, at least.

-John Carlson led the Caps with a +14 on-ice even strength shot attempt differential.

-Nate Schmidt had the worst shot attempt differential at -1.

-Carlson was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (28)

-Carlson was also on the ice for the most shot attempts against (14)

-Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov faced the toughest zone starts, starting 33% of shifts in the offensive zone.

-Eric Fehr faced the easiest zone starts, starting 71% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update: -1 shot differential, 50% zone starts.



-The Caps looked absolutely dead in the first two period. They were playing the second half of a back-to-back like they held the lead the entire time. (If you’ve watched them at all this season, you know that’s a bad thing.)

-Martin St. Louis aka Caps Killer lived up to his title. Rick Nash got two goals, and the refs were pretty meh tonight.

-Both teams kept their cool, for the most part. Let’s hope the Caps can do the same Saturday night.

-Alex Ovechkin scored another beautiful goal. Remember how fortunate we are to see Ovi play in his prime.

-All in all, not the Caps’ best game. Be depressed, then move on with your lives. It’s Christmas! Drink eggnog, open presents, be merry. Or whatever it is people do on this holiday.


All stats courtesy of

Caps vs. Senators #fancystats (and beyond) Recap

The Caps beat the Senators, 2-1. The Caps edged out Ottawa 46-45 in even strength shot attempts.

Even strength shot attempt chart:

chart (1)

-Brooks Orpik led the Caps with a +9 on-ice even strength shot attempt differential. This is not a joke.

-Jack Hillen (playing for possession monster Nate Schmidt) and Nick Backstrom had the worst shot attempt differential at -11

-Orpik was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (26)

-Backstrom was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (21)

-John Carlson led the Caps in individual shot attempts with 10

-Orpik had 5 individual shot attempts tonight. A quick glance shows he’s gone entire seasons without having 5 shot attempts in a game (2007 & 2011). This is the third time he’s had 5+ in a Caps uniform.

Edit: My quick glance was way too quick. This is wrong. Thanks to JP for the fix.

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update: NATE SCHMIDT DIDN’T PLAY. YOLO, Barry Trotz. YOLO.

Non-fancy stuff

-Braden Holtby was pretty okay tonight, especially in the first period.

-A word on Mike Green and Ottawa’s first goal:

-Tom Wilson spent time on the fourth line while Jay Beagle spent time on the first. Trotz’s interesting handling of young players continues.

All stats from and War on Ice

Share Your Favorite Hockey Writing From 2014

The website Cold Takes has created a platform where baseball writers can share their favorite piece they wrote in 2014. I think this is a great idea and wanted to create something similar for hockey writing.

There is so much great content out there these days that I have trouble keeping up with posts by my favorite writers, let alone those whose work I am less familiar with.

Do you write about hockey and have a particular piece you wrote about in 2014 that you’d like to share? Cool, add it to the Google Doc below. Do you like reading about hockey? Cool, click the Google Doc below and check out posts people have shared.

But first, just a couple guidelines

1) Please only add something if you’ve written it. If there’s something you think should be shared that you didn’t write, encourage the author of that article to add it. Some may call it shameless self promotion. I think it’s great to be proud of something you wrote and you should want to share it with as many people as possible, especially considering the vast majority of writers do this in their free time for little or no income.

2) Please only add one article per person. Part of the reason I think this exercise could be helpful is that people can read articles they may have missed. One article per person will help cut down on any potential clutter.

So, here’s the Google Doc. Hopefully this can serve as a resource for us to share and read some great posts from 2014.

Caps Preview: Week 12

The Caps had another great week, having earned five of a possible six points. Their opponents included the Panthers, Blue Jackets, and Devils. This week, they’ll take on the Senators and two division rivals in the Rangers and Penguins.


Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography

12/22 vs. Ottawa
Power play: 19.7%
Penalty kill: 82.9%
5v5 Corsi-for: 47.4%
PDO: 100.6

The Senators are coming off a highly inconsistent week in which they posted a 2-2-0 record. With losses to the Sabres and Habs and wins over the Devils and Ducks, it’s hard to tell what kind of performance the Sens will deliver on any given night. At present, they’ve got a 14-13-6 record, good for 34 points and seventh in the Atlantic Division.

Unsurprisingly, the Sens’ top scorers include Kyle Turris, Erik Karlsson, and Bobby Ryan. They also have decent secondary scoring in players like Clarke MacArthur, Mark Stone, and Alex Chiasson. In 20 games played, Craig Anderson has been phenomenal: he boasts a .930 SV% and 2.43 GAA. Special teams give these players a chance to shine–their PP and PK units are ranked 12th and 11th in the NHL, respectively.

The Sens have undergone a major change since they last faced the Caps: they have a new coach in Dave Cameron, who replaced Paul McLean earlier in December. As the Sens adjust to a new system, they give the Caps an opportunity to exploit weaknesses. The game is the Caps’ first at the Verizon Center in over a week and offers a chance to improve their home record (6-5-4). It’s also the first of a back-to-back, with the Caps playing at Madison Square Garden the following evening.


12/23 at Rangers
Power play: 16.3%
Penalty kill: 82.1%
5v5 Corsi-for: 49.4%
PDO: 101.7

The Rangers have often been lauded as a strong defensive team–at the expense of their offense. A quick glance at their special teams–decent penalty kill and dreadful power play–might have you thinking it’s still 2012. So does a look at the standings, where the Rangers are nipping at the Caps’ heels in the Metro’s third-place battle. Earning two points is critical for the Caps, particularly as they face the Penguins (another division rival) later in the week.

It’s the first time the Caps and Rangers have played each other all season, and chippiness is all but guaranteed. Avoiding injury (particularly in fights!) will be essential for the Caps, who will inevitably drop the gloves in Saturday night’s contest against the Penguins. The Caps should aim to play a fast, physical game while limiting penalties-something that seems obvious, but that will be especially challenging against such a hated rival.

Scoring on Lundqvist is always a challenge, particularly with a solid defense limiting the number of shots allowed. There’s no better time for the Caps’ secondary scorers to contribute than this game. Throw in the Rangers’ five-game winning streak–with victories over the Penguins, Canucks, Oilers, Flames, and Hurricanes–and the Caps have a tough, but necessary, team to beat.


12/27 at Pittsburgh
Power play: 24.3%
Penalty kill: 86.1%
5v5 Corsi-for: 50.8%
PDO: 102.7

As usual, the Penguins’ special teams rank among the League’s best. Their PDO is also incredibly high, and they’ve got decent puck possession numbers. Oh, and Marc-Andre Fleury is having an incredibly strong season. Read: there’s a reason the Pens are at the top of their division and are a strong team even beyond the confines of the Metro (22-6-4 record, good for 48 points–second only to the Ducks.)

It’s been a while since the Caps beat their archrivals, a feat they never accomplished under Adam Oates. However, none of their recent meetings have been particularly tame. All things considered, it won’t be shocking if Wilson and Latta put their fists to use. Regardless of who ends up in the penalty box, special teams likely won’t win the game for either team. (However, the Caps’ penalty kill is 27th overall, so drawing penalties instead of taking them is highly advisable.)

The Penguins aren’t a dominant puck possession team (in fact, they rank behind the Caps at the time of writing), but they’ve sustained their success thus far. Despite an insane number of injuries, the Penguins have managed to keep their high-powered offense afloat. They’re a good benchmark team for the Caps to face, even if they’re missing several key parts of their lineup.

Alex Ovechkin’s Top 5 Goals

By now, you’ve likely all seen Alex Ovechkin’s goal last night against the Devils. It got me thinking where that goal ranks among his career best.

For my Top 5, I didn’t consider the importance of the goal, but simply how impressive the goal was outside of the context of the game it was scored in. So, for example, his first playoff goal, the GWG against the Flyers that had my brother-in-law and I running up and down the aisles of Verizon Center, didn’t make the cut.

Here’s my top 5.

5) 11/20/2014 vs. Colorado Avalanche

4) 4/24/2009 vs. New York Rangers (I had forgotten about this one s/t to .)

3) 12/20/2014 vs. New Jersey Devils 

2) 2/18/2009 vs. Montreal Canadiens 

1) 1/16/2006 vs. Phoenix Coyotes (duh) 

I think the first two are locks but there are definitely a few goals that were hard to cut out. What are your top 5 Ovechkin goals?


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