Blog Archives

With or Without You: Nate Schmidt Continued Strong Play During Mike Green’s Injury

Schmidt_1

Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography

Nate Schmidt has been a solid NHL player since making his debut last season. The Caps see 2.8% more of overall shot attempts with Schmidt on the ice than when he’s off the ice, which is fourth best of all Caps players to have played 500+ 5v5 minutes in that time (behind only Dmitry Orlov, Mike Green, and Alex Ovechkin).

Schmidt has benefited from playing 47.5% of his 5v5 minutes with Green, who is a great possession player, as his defensive partner. In the minutes when Schmidt is on the ice with Green, the Caps have seen 53.7% of all shot attempts. In the minutes Schmidt is on the ice without Green, the Cap see 48.3% of all shot attempts.

Is Schmidt actually a below average possession player who Green covers up for?

Over half of Schmidt’s minutes come from last season, when the Caps were a sub-par possession team under Adam Oates. The majority of his minutes away from Green also came under Oates. However, Green’s recent injury gave us a look at whether Schmidt can still be a driver of possession when separated from Green and playing on a competent possession team (unlike the incompetent possession team Schmidt was on last season).

In the seven games Mike Green missed, the Caps saw 4.3% more of total shot attempts with Nate Schmidt on the ice than when he was off the ice. This is first among all Caps defenders during this time and second only to Joel Ward (+12.5%) among all Caps players.

You can argue that Schmidt played minutes that were even more sheltered than normal with Hillen as his partner, but there’s plenty of counter evidence as to why zone starts and quality of competition don’t impact possession numbers as much as we might think.

Nate Schmidt continues to develop into a very effective defenseman. While he certainly benefits from often playing with an elite possession player such as Green, there is reason to believe Schmidt can hold his own with or without Green as his defensive partner.

Kevin from Japers Rink had a good piece on Schmidt yesterday

All stats from War on Ice and Hockey Analysis 

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.

Breaking down a Caps breakdown

The Avalanche goal to tie the game at 1 against the Caps on Thursday never should have happened. Here’s a look at the play and why the goal was avoidable.

breakdown1

The play starts as Daniel Briere (#48) carries the puck over the blue line with teammate Nathan MacKinnon (#29) on his left. The Caps seem in good shape, as Mike Green and Nate Schmidt are back and in good possession with Evgeny Kuznetsov arriving to provide backside pressure.

breakdown2

Next, you’ll see Briere throw a saucer pass into space for MacKinnon. MacKinnon has ridiculous speed and good hands, so this is a good decision by Briere. Schmidt goes for the pokecheck, but as you can see, the puck goes between his stick and his body. The puck is now headed into space to one of the best skaters in the league (MacKinnon) who gas nearly half the zone to work with and the defender marking him (Schmidt) leaning the wrong way. Not good, but not necessarily due to any defensive lapse.

breakdown3

Schmidt is in trouble here. This is more a case of getting burned by one of the best skaters in the league than a lapse or poor execution. Yes, he could have pivoted sooner in the second picture, instead of going for the puck, but that’s a decision I can live with. The red arrows are used to point out the guys that are really at fault here.

Mike Green, the right arrow, either needs to have already pivoted to try to help cover up for Schmidt or he needs to be paying very close attention to Briere. Instead, he just kind of hangs out and watches MacKinnon burn Schmidt without paying Briere much mind.

If Green kind of hangs out, Kuznetsov (the arrow on the left) completely and totally hangs out. Give him a beer and a sandwich, at least that way he can have refreshments while being a complete spectator. Kuznetsov should be marking Briere here.

(As an aside, this isn’t any sort of general indictment of Green or Kuznetsov. They were bad on this play, but I’m not suggesting anything broader than that.)

breakdown4

MacKinnon puts a backhander on net and Holtby makes a kick save. Green and Kuznetsov continue to be completely mesmerized by the puck, not seeming to have a care in the world that Briere is in the slot.

Holtby kicks out the rebound to the aforementioned slot (the one that Briere and a couple of spectators in Caps jerseys are occupying). This was pretty bad rebound control by Holtby, but it’s hard to put much blame on him for this goal. I think I remember reading a quote after the game where Holtby said he anticipated MacKinnon trying to go high with the shot, so he was caught off guard by the low shot. This resulted in him not controlling the rebound very well (AKA really badly). This is bound to happen if you let a player like MacKinnon this kind of opportunity.

breakdown5

Mike, Evgeny. Your “oh, crap” reaction here is appreciated, but it’s far too late. Briere, untouched and less than 10 feet out, has the entire right side of the net in which to deposit the puck at his leisure.

This was a bad goal. Schmidt, who I’d argue deserves the least blame of the 4 Caps involved, got burned by MacKinnon because he got caught leaning while going for a pokecheck. Holby could have controlled the rebound better, but those kind of things are going to happen over the course of a hockey game. What can’t happen is two guys being passengers on the play, seemingly mesmerized by the puck. Kuznetsov and Green are to blame for this goal.

By the way, the Caps went on to win 3-2 on an unbelievable goal by Alex Ovechkin.

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 2014-15 season preview

We didn’t post very much last season. Personally, I didn’t post much the past two seasons as I navigated my way through Grad school while working a full-time job. But we’ve started posting more this summer and plan to be much more active this season. We’ve even added a new writer, Margaret Stuart, who you should follow on Twitter. So thanks for reading. Check back often throughout the season for more frequent posting than last season. 

There is no shortage of season previews available on the Caps. Given that, this preview isn’t meant to be an exhaustive recap of the summer or of story lines certain to arise during the season. Instead, I wanted to give answers and opinions on a few things.

Additionally, some of our recent posts have covered preview-ish type material.

Brooks Orpik and what we know about 34-year-old defensemen

What Todd Reirden could mean for Mike Green

Marcus Johansson: Where he fits and what to expect

First, here’s a question we got on Twitter

Pat Holden: I’d expect a defensemen to get dealt before a forward, but sticking to the subject of the question, my guess would be Marcus Johansson. Johansson has had 4 seasons to find his niche here in Washington and he’s yet to do so. Barry Trotz has already said that Johansson will be used at wing this year, not the greatest vote of confidence for a guy on a team lacking Center depth who was drafted to play Center. If Johansson doesn’t have a coming of age prior to the return of Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson, he’s going to be fighting to get a sweater each night. Johansson is an asset who probably has some value on the trade market. If he can’t realize that value here in Washington and becomes scratched on a regular basis, he will be dealt.

Margaret Stuart: The easy and accurate answer is Marcus Johansson. A quick look at the roster sets him apart from his teammates, and not in a positive way. Who else is a viable trade candidate? The Caps can afford to ship him off–he doesn’t fill a specific, in-demand need. Every other forward on the team has a clearly-defined role, even if his place among the lineup is undefined. Johansson, on the other hand, lacks this clarity.

Is he a center or a left wing? Having scored eight goals last season, where does he fit on a team in need of secondary scoring? His lack of physicality isn’t ideal for a bottom-six player, and his even-strength production doesn’t merit top-six minutes.

With a cap hit of $2 million, Johansson won’t be difficult to take on. A change of scenery might benefit Johansson, although it’s unclear what exactly a team would acquire him for. His all-around play is solid, and his relative Corsi was positive. The latter will help the Caps shop Johansson, given the rise of advanced stats. But Johansson deserves another shot to slot into the lineup, and a handful of new coaches could mold him into the type of player the Caps can’t afford to lose. If this isn’t the case, he’s in the last year of a two-year deal–he’s a natural choice for trade bait.

One optimistic prediction about the season

Holts_28

Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRBG Photography

Pat Holden: Braden Holtby will be widely considered an elite goalie around the NHL by the end of the season. (Peter from RMNB covered this in his predictions. I pinky swear this was in my draft of this post before reading that. I was going to remove it from my post but decided not to. Because really, Holtby’s play took such an undeserved beating last year that it doesn’t hurt to hammer home the point that he’s quite good).

Last season, Holtby caught a lot of heat for the Capitals problems. Last season, ultra-tinkerer Adam Oates messed with his style and Holtby played in front of a defense often comprised of multiple players who should have been in Hershey or the press box. Yet, Holtby still finished 8th in 5-on-5 save% of all goalies who played in 41 games or more. His 92.89 mark finished just below Henrik Lundqvist, who posted a 93.06%. Was Holtby shaky at times last year? Absolutely. But Holtby wasn’t the problem in Washington. In fact, Holtby has never been the problem.

Holtby is now being coached by Goalie Whisperer Mitch Korn. The defense in front of him is stronger than any other defense during his time here in Washington. This is Holtby’s year.

One less optimistic prediction about the season

Pat Holden: Joel Ward, meet regression to the mean. Regression to the mean, Joel Ward. 

Ward_1

Photo by Amanda Bowen, RRBG Photography

 

Ward was great last season and figures to play a big role on the Caps 3rd line again this year. However, if you’re expecting Ward to match the 24 goals and 25 assists that he piled up last season, you’re going to be disappointed. Ward shot 18% last year, which is well above his career mark of 11.1%, and about 10% above the league average. Ward’s PDO of 102.66 last year is certain to come back down closer to 100. This is not a knock on Ward or to say that he won’t play well this year. Ward was a good player last year and will almost certainly be a good player again this year. But he was also lucky last year. That luck is likely to regress a bit and it’s not because of a drop in quality of Ward’s play.

For example, last year Ward had 133 SOG and shot 18% for 24 goals If Ward again manages 133 SOG again but shoots at his career mark of 11.1%, he will score 15 goals. Ward will still be a contributor to this team, but his offensive totals are all but certain to drop.

Margaret Stuart: Caps trade Green and get little in return. To state the obvious, defense has long been an Achilles heel for the Caps. MacLellan addressed this weakness by signing Niskanen and Orpik to long-term deals. The moves raised questions about Green’s role with the team, given the capabilities of the former Pittsburgh defensemen.

Green is the epitome of an offensive defenseman, but the past few seasons have signified a drop-off in his scoring abilities. Enter the fancy-stats argument: last season, Green had some of the highest possession numbers on a lousy possession team. If the Caps wanted to trade Green tomorrow, they’d find some takers. His stock has gradually fallen, but he’s still a valuable asset.

What could the Caps get in return for Green?

Worst-case scenario, they receive a meaningless draft pick or two, coupled with a bottom-four NHL defenseman. The Caps have enough budding young blueliners in their system to fill that role. Calling for trades is premature, but the Caps should receive a high-quality offensive talent in return for Green. Parting ways with No. 52 means losing a veteran leader and weakening the defense. But if the Caps are struggling enough to trade him, they probably can’t afford to be choosers.

Where will the Caps finish this year?

Pat Holden: I’m not big on predictions of where a team will finish in the standings, but this is a season preview so I feel some sort of obligation to provide one. The only team in the division that I think will definitely finish above the Caps are the Penguin (sorry!). But the only team in the division I think the Caps are certain to finish above are the Hurricanes. I’d say it’s unlikely that the Caps will finish above the Rangers. In the end, I think the Caps will end up in a tight battle for 3rd in the division/a Wild Card spot with the Islanders, Devils, Blue Jackets and Flyers. How’s that for vague? Fine. In the end, the Caps will grab the 2nd Wild Card spot in the East with 95 points (41-28-13).

Margaret Stuart: The Caps will finish among the top-four Metro teams. The Metropolitan Divison is unique in that it lacks a truly elite team. The Penguins are still in the running for a Cup, but they’re arguably on their way to becoming fringe contenders. Even the Rangers, who made it to the Cup Final, look weaker on paper than they did a year ago. Beyond these “frontrunners,” the rest of the division is up for grabs–only Carolina is poised to be a true basement-dweller.

If the Caps can patch up the 2C situation, their revamped blueline makes them a far greater threat. And the penalty kill and shots-allowed, two areas in need of fixing, are being addressed. The preseason is…well, the preseason, but it’s yielded mostly positive results thus far.

On the offensive front, Burakovsky may be the team’s most pleasant surprise, providing secondary scoring to supplement Ovechkin. If Trotz & Co. can elicit a Young Guns-era performance from Green, that alone is a red flag to other teams.

Given their improved play in both zones, I predict the Caps will finish fourth in the division, and their 96 points will qualify them for the postseason via the first wild-card spot. Their record will be 42-28-12. (Bear in mind predictions are notoriously inaccurate.)


Thanks again for reading and be sure to come back and visit us often this season.

 

Caps advanced stats All-Stars of the Ovechkin Era

As part of their 40th anniversary season, the Caps are asking fans to help them vote on the 40 greatest Caps players in the team’s history. I’m not asking for your vote and I’m not looking at the entire history of the team. Instead, I am looking at the Caps advanced stats All-Stars from the Alex Ovechkin era (2005-06-present). I am not claiming that advanced stats are the end of the discussion when it comes to player evaluation. However, they are for my purposes here. I also didn’t consider forward specific positions. Instead, I picked 3 forwards and 2 defenseman. I set the minimum games played to a completely arbitrary 115 games.

To rank the players, I looked at FenClose, FenClose rel, zone starts, and quality of competition. If a player ranked 1st, he got 5 points, down through 5th place getting 1 point. This was done for each of the 4 categories.

Without further delay, here are the long-awaited Caps advanced stats All-Stars from the Ovechkin era.

Forward #1-Sergei Fedorov (10 points)

Fedorov finished first in FenClose (56.19%) and FenRel (+4.43%). He wasn’t anywhere near the top in zone starts (0.73%% ZS rel), but did finish 8th in quality of competition (28.82).

Forward #2-Nick Backstrom (9 points)

Backstrom’s FenClose was good enough for 5th (53.44) and his FenRel 3rd (+3.28%). Backstrom’s zone starts were not noteworthy (6.08%). Backstrom really shines in quality of competition, where he finished first (29.63%)

Forward #3-Viktor Kozlov (7 points)

Kozlov finished 2nd in FenClose (54.48%), but did not place in the top-5 in FenClose rel (0.34%), a sign that he benefited from playing on very strong possession teams. Kozlov also didn’t find himself in the top-5 in zone starts (5.58% ZS rel). However, he  finished 3rd in quality of competition (29.39), cementing his place on the All-Star team.

Defenseman #1-Mike Green (10 points)

This isn’t surprising to anyone who pays attention to possession numbers. Green finished 1st in FenClose (53.10%) and 2nd in FenClose rel (+3.12%). Green didn’t place in the top 5 in zone starts (4.54%) but came in 5th in quality of competition (28.62%).

Defenseman #2 Shaone Morrissonn (9 points)

This was the biggest surprise to me, by a long ways. Morrisonn finished 5th in FenClose (50.21%) but didn’t make the top 5 in FenClose rel (-1.21%). He faced the toughest zone starts (-4.17%) and the 3rd toughest quality of competition (29.03%).

Here’s a player usage chart of the 5 All-Stars.

allstarusagechart

Morrisonn was the only negative possession player relative to his teammates. However, this is counter-balanced by the fact that he faced the toughest zone starts and 3rd toughest competition among all qualified defenseman. His inclusion is still shocking to me.

Ladies and gentlemen, the wait is finally over. Let’s hear it for your Caps advanced stats All-Stars of the Ovechkin era.

What Todd Reirden could mean for Mike Green

Green_1a

Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography

Since the departure of Alex Semin, Mike Green is the most divisive player among Caps fans. I’m a Green supporter. Yes, he has defensive lapses that are glaring and costly. Yes, his offensive production has dropped off significantly and injuries have mounted. But the Caps are a better team with Mike Green than without him. He’s a possession monster and his skating ability is top-notch. The Caps additions on the blue line this off-season have left Green’s role in question, including who will play the point on the power play.

A lot of things will go into Green’s level of success this year. Perhaps the most important change is that the new coaching staff, led by Barry Trotz, have already said they will move away from Adam Oates’ insistence that the Caps defenders not carry the puck. Allowing Green the ability to showcase his skating a bit more should help his production.

One facet that I wanted to look at is how the coaching changes could affect Green by looking at how other offensive defeseman have fared before and during their time under the guidance of Todd Reirdan, who replaces Calle Johannson in handling the coaching duties of the Caps defenseman. As I said, this is just one of many facets and by focusing on this one facet I am not suggesting that it exists in a vacuum. I’m also not suggesting that the difference in results below are simply because of a coaching change.

Todd Reirden joins the Caps coaching staff after being an assistant in Pittsburgh since 2010. In Pittsburgh, two of the supremely offensively-gifted defenders Reirden coached were Kris Letang and now Cap Matt Niskanen. Here’s how each of these players did, possession wise, before and with Reirden.

letangniskanen

 

Both players saw a significant uptick in possession under Reirden. Yes, both of these guys also happened to enter their prime under Reirden, and these are overall possession numbers, not relative. But Reirden was the defensive coach during the time both players saw a significant uptick in their possession numbers. This can’t be ignored.

Enough about possession, how about production? This is 5-on-5 only.

letangniskanenproduction

Given the rise in possession shown in the first graph, the rise in production isn’t surprising. Both Niskanen and Letang saw a rise in production across the board under Reirden’s watch. In fact, both had a higher assists/60 with Reirden than points/60 before they were coached by him.

Simply because two offensive defenders entered their prime years under Reirden and improved their results drastically doesn’t mean that a 28 year old Mike Green is certain to have a return to glory because of the new coach in charge of the defense. But, it’s certainly not going to hurt. And allowing Green the freedom to use his skating ability and creativity is also not going to hurt. While I’m not expecting Green to return to his production levels from the Boudreau years, I do expect an uptick in his production this season.

Mikhail Grabovski: Caps loss is Isles gain (Jeremy Roenick is still wrong)

Yup, this is my second post about ex-Caps player Mikhail Grabovski in the past week. While it’s not my intention in writing this, this is further proof of how wrong Jeremy Roenick is about Grabovski.  But this post is more about the fact that the loss of Grabovski hurts the Caps, while the Isles will benefit from signing him.

On a personal level, Grabovski was the Caps player I most enjoyed watching last season. From a team level, he was a possession monster and a nice solution to the Caps problems at 2C that could have been had long-term for a reasonable salary. But I shouldn’t be the only one missing Grabovski. In fact, most everyone of his teammates should be missing him because almost every Caps player saw an improvement in their possession numbers in the minutes they played with Grabovski vs. when they played without him.

Here is a look at how every Caps forward fared while playing with Grabovski vs. while playing without him. I cut off the minimum minutes at 19:48, so as not to exclude possession anchor Aaron Volpatti. Sample-size warnings obviously apply, but you can see a trend. SA% is the % of shot attempts the Caps saw go in their favor while that player was on the ice.

Player TOI w/Grabovski SA% w/Grabovski TOI w/out Grabovski SA% w/out Grabovski Grabovski effect
Brouwer 273:16 51.6 756:55 46.4 +5.2
Fehr 271:10 55.1 641:53 46.4 +8.7
Ovechkin 235:19 50.8 888:27 48.8 +2.0
Chimera 223:53 49.8 804:11 45.6 +4.2
Ward 207:13 51.2 787:24 46.2 +5.0
Laich 123:59 48.1 508:47 47.9 +0.2
Backstrom 82:42 47.3 1070:13 49.5 -2.2
Wilson 40:53 48.8 598:32 44.8 +4.0
Erat 38:20 58.5 799:17 49.7 +8.8
Johansson 27:26 54.8 1039:55 48.2 +6.6
Beagle 19:49 46.2 609:13 44.6 +1.6
Volpatti 19:48 38.1 279:42 39.7 -1.6

-10 of the 12 Caps forwards who played 19:48+ with Grabovski this past season saw an increase in SF% with Grabovski vs without him, the only two exceptions being Backstrom and Volpatti.

-Remember when Adam Oates started the season with his obvious 2C (Grabovski) on the 3rd line and obvious 2W (Erat) on the 4th line? One wonders what the two could have done if ever given extended minutes together (something I, and many others, called for all season) given their dominating 58.5% SF in the very small sample.

-One interesting tidbit not shows here is that Backstrom, the player with the worst “Grabovski Effect,” saw his highest Goals For % with Grabovski out of all Caps forwards. Certainly just a sample size thing, but interesting nonetheless.

Here’s how are the Caps top 7 D, in terms of minutes played with Grabovski, fared with and without him last season at 5-on-5. Again, sample size warnings apply, but a clear patterns emerges.

Player TOI w/Grabovski SA% w/Grabovski TOI w/out Grabovski SA% w/out Grabovski Grabovski effect
Carlson 291:57 49.1 1029:15 46.3 +2.8
Alzner 287:30 49.9 1005:32 46.4 +3.5
Green 275:10 55.3 1003:39 50.4 +4.9
Orlov 166:52 59.9 795:41 49.0 +10.9
Schmidt 130:48 49.0 358:10 51.3 -2.3
Oleksy 119:42 50.4 316:32 44.9 +5.5
Erskine 92:14 53.3 405:21 43.9 +9.4

-Other than Nate Schmidt, every defender listed saw an improvement in their possession numbers, many of them pretty drastic improvements, when on the ice with Grabovski.

 -It’s especially interesting that the two worst puck possession players on the list, Oleksy and Erskine, both became positive possession players in their minutes with Grabovski, which were admittedly limited.

-I know it’s only 166 minutes, but the Caps were dominant when Grabovski was on the ice with Orlov.

Like I said above, sample-size warnings obviously apply here.  It should also be noted that none of these numbers include any caveats such as zone starts or quality of competition. But make no mistake about it, regardless of that, the Capitals were a better team with Grabovski on the ice, and his new Islanders teammates will start reaping the benefits in October.

All stats pulled from http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/

Follow us on Twitter

 

 

 

Who should play the point on the Caps power play?

When the Caps signed Matt Niskanen to a 7 year, $40.25 million contract, new coach Barry Trotz was given another intriguing option to play the point on the power play. Niskaenen is an offensively-gifted defenseman, finishing 12th among all defesemen in scoring last season with 46 points (10 goals 36 assists). While it remains to be seen if Trotz will use 2 defenders on the PP or skate one defender with Alex Ovechkin playing the other point, the Caps coach has 3 formidable PP options from his defensive corps in Niskanen, John Carlson, and Mike Green.

One consideration when deciding how to divvy up ice-time, as pointed out by Peter from RMNB, is that Carlson plays a significant amount of time on the penalty kill. We don’t yet know how the coaching and personnel changes in Washington will impact PK deployment, but last season Carlson saw the ice for 65.2% of the time the Caps were on the PK, while Green played 8.6% and Niskanen saw 13.8% in Pittsburgh.

Glossary for chart

FF% rel-The % of unblocked shot attempts the player’s team saw with him on the ice, relative to with him off the ice

SA per 2:00-The number of total shot attempts (SA) for a team with the player on the ice, per 2:00

Setup Passes per 2:00-Estimated number of passes by a player that led directly to a shot attempt, per 2:00

All of the numbers are PP only. Per 2:00 was obviously chosen to represent the time of a standard PP.

Player FF% rel SA per 2:00

Setup Passes per 2:00

Carlson

+6.3% 3.91

0.83

Green -8.3% 3.35

1.08

Niskanen +0.8% 3.54

0.31

-The Caps perform significantly better, FF%-wise, with Carlson on the ice during the PP while the Caps saw a significant drop in FF% with Green on the ice during the PP.  This is interesting, considering Green was the Caps best possession player in 5-on-5 close game situations. The Pens PP generated slightly more unblocked shot attempts with Niskanen on the ice.

-The differentials in SA per 2:00 may look insignificant but they add up quite a bit when given proper context. The Caps averaged 3.54 PP per game, so the difference between Carlson (13.8) vs Green (11.9) amounts to just about 2 additional SA per game in a hypothetical world where they each separately play 100% of the team’s PP minutes.

-Green has a significant advantage in setup passes per 2:00.  Discussing his numbers relative to Niskanen’s here is probably apples to oranges, since they played on different PP. There are all kinds of factors, such as set plays and who they are funneled through, that could impact this rather than passing ability and vision. For example, one possible reason Green’s numbers are so high is that he was often funneling the puck to shooting machine Alex Ovechkin for his patented PP one-timer. However, when comparing teammates, Green (3.82) would produce nearly one more setup pass per game than Carlson (2.93) were each to play 100% of the team’s PP minutes.

-One interesting tidbit not shown in the chart is that opponents’ average shorthanded shot distance with Carlson on the ice was 52.7 feet compared to 34.6 feet with Green on the ice. That’s the difference between 7.3 feet inside the blueline vs. 5.4 feet inside the top of the faceoff circle.  While not proof in and of itself, those numbers could serve as a launching point for someone who wants to show that Green is prone to take risks that can backfire (I’m skeptical of that theory).

Player

Individual SA per 2:00

Carlson

0.99

Green

0.91

Niskanen

0.91

-Carlson generates .08 more SA per 2 minutes of PP time than Green and Niskanen (Like above, reading too much into Niskanen’s numbers at face value vs. Green and/or Carlson is probably a bit faulty since they played on different PP). Last season, the Caps average 3.54 PP per game. Over the course of a season, at 3.54 PP attempts per game,  Carlson would generate 23.2 more PP SA than Green or Niskanen, were they each to play 100% of their team’s PP minutes (this also assumes, for the sake of simplicity, that each PP attempt is 2 minutes) . The Caps scored on 8.3% of their PP SA this past season. This would mean that, through his SA alone, Carlson would generate 1.93 more PP goals per season, in a hypothetical world where all 3 players assume the Caps average PP goals per shot attempt % from last season (8.3%) and the Caps average 3.54 PP per game for a season.

From all of this data, it appears that John Carlson should be first choice to play the point on the PP in 2014-15 for the Caps. The team generates more unblocked and overall shot attempts with him on the ice, and he personally takes  more shot attempts than Green or Niskanen. However, should Trotz choose to manage Carlson’s PP time in order to keep him fresher for PK and 5-on-5 play, and depending on what position Ovechkin plays on the PP, both Green and Niskanen offer Trotz viable options.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to comment below or send a tweet. Follow us on Twitter here.

S/T to ExtraSkater.com for being such a great resource for this article (and in general). 

Taking a closer look at Brooks Orpik, Part 2

In my last post, I took a look at how Brooks Orpik’s possession stats compared to defensemen around the NHL who faced similar minutes in terms of quality of competition and zone starts during the 2013-14 season. The contract Orpik signed with the Caps on July 1st has been met with a lot of criticism, and I am certainly among those who don’t like the deal for the Caps.

However, some context can help us better evaluate the Orpik contract. Below I’ll take a look at how Orpik fared compared to the top 5 Caps defenders in terms of games played in the 2013-14 season.

Key

FF%-FF% (Fenwick For %) is the percentage of unblocked shot attempts a team takes when that player is on the ice. Think of it like +/- but for shots. Instead of 0 being even, like with +/-, the 50% mark is even. It is a metric used to measure puck possession. If you’re skeptical as to how much this stat matters, here is a chart showing the top Fenwick teams of recent years.

ZS%-This is the percentage (ratio) of offensive zone to defensive zone face-offs for a player. A lower percentage indicates a player is assigned “tougher” minutes as he is on the ice for more defensive zone face-offs.

QOC TOI%-This is the quality of competition a player faces as measured by the average time on ice of the opposing players he faced.

“Close” game situations are games within a goal or tied in the 1st or 2nd period, or tied in the 3rd. It is used so score effects don’t inflate or deflate a player’s numbers in blowout situations. All FF% and ZS% below are in close-game 5-on-5 situations only. QOC TOI% is from all situations at 5-on-5

As noted in my last post, Orpik started more shifts in the defensive zone during close-game situations and also faced tougher competition than any other Penguin defender. Here is how he stacks up against the Caps defenders last year.  The players are in order of FF%, best to worst, but I’ve also noted their ranks in QOC TOI% and ZS% (ranked toughest to easiest).

Player ZS% QOC TOI% FF%
Orlov 50.1% (3rd) 28.0% (5th) 52.5% (1st)
Green 53.2% (6th) 28.5% (4th) 52.0% (2nd)
Orpik 48.2% (1st) 29.3% (3rd) 47.6% (3rd)
Alzner 49.1% (2nd) 29.4% (2nd) 47.3% (4th)
Carlson 51.3% (4th) 29.6% (1st) 46.3% (5th)
Erskine 52.8% (5th) 27.7% (6th) 45.1% (6th)

-Orpik was a better possession player last season than Alzner and Carlson, who are generally considered to be the Caps top-pair defenders that play the toughest minutes among Caps defenders. Orpik did this while having a tougher ZS% than either of the Caps defenders. Carlson faced the toughest competition of the three with Orpik finishing 3rd barely behind Alzner. One important thing to remember in terms of FF% is that the Penguins were a better FF% team than the Caps, so Orpik has an advantage there. FenClose rel % is a stat that can be better to compare possession stats of players on different teams, but I chose not to include it in this post, for the sake of simplicity.

-Orpik ranks 3rd in FF%, but it’s a distant 3rd. Green and Orlov are significantly better possession players than the other 4 defenders listed.  Green and Orlov did face far easier ZS’s than Orpik, which isn’t particularly surprising since they are thought of as more offensively-minded defenseman. Green and Orlov also faced weaker opponents than Orpik.

So, while I still don’t like the Orpik contract, there is no debating the Caps have improved their defense this off-season. Hopefully the last two posts have provided some insight into what exactly to expect from him moving forward with the Caps.

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: