Caps Preview: Week 14

The Caps rang in 2015 with a Winter Classic victory over the Blackhawks before going on to defeat the Panthers at the Verizon Center. With three games this week, they’ll need to remain sharp if they want to earn points. This time last year, a number of losses derailed their season and prohibited them from another playoff appearance.

This week’s slate of opponents includes the Leafs, Flyers, and Red Wings. The first two games are on the road and back-to-back. The Caps’ 52.2% FenClose is ninth in the NHL, while the Wings’ 52.9% comes in at sixth. Meanwhile, the Flyers and Leafs are in possession hell (46.3% and 45.9% FenClose, respectively.)


Wednesday 1/7 at TOR

Score-adjusted Corsi: 44.9% (28th)
Power Play: 20.1% (13th)
Penalty Kill: 82.2% (12th)
PDO: 101.5 (3rd)

Despite being a poor team with even worse coaching and management, the Leafs are fourth in the Atlantic with 45 points (21-16-3). Much of this can be attributed to their insanely high PDO, which will rebound soon enough. It’s worth noting that the Leafs’ 5v5 save percentage is .921, good for 18th in the League. However, you can’t pin their woes on Bernier and Reimer: the Leafs’ SA60 (shots allowed per 60 minutes) is 33.1, second only to the Sabres.

The Caps and Leafs met earlier this season–November 29, to be exact. The game ended in a 6-2 loss for the Caps, who outshot the Leafs 37-23. However, the Caps were playing the second half of a back-to-back, and their defensive miscues proved costly. This time around, both teams will have several days of rest, and the Leafs will look at snap a two-game losing streak (3-1 and 5-1 losses to the Wild and Jets, respectively.)

Thursday 1/8 at PHI

Score-adjusted Corsi: 46.9%  (25th)
Power Play: 21.9% (6th)
Penalty Kill: 74.2% (30th)
PDO: 100.0 (20th)

The 2014-15 season is halfway complete, and the Caps haven’t yet faced the Flyers. Thursday, this will be rectified: the Caps visit Wells Fargo Center for the teams’ first meeting of the season. As mentioned above, this game is the Caps’ second in as many days. Averaging 9.4 penalty minutes per game, the Flyers are one of the NHL’s more-penalized teams. Given the bad blood between the two teams, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a few gloves dropped. The Caps should strive to play a disciplined game, despite their playing two games in a row–at sixth overall, the Flyers’ power play is quite potent.

The same can’t be said of their penalty kill, which is a League-worst 74.2%. As a result, drawing penalties is critical for the Caps. While their power play has struggled as of late–if dropping to third overall can be called struggling–playing against the League’s worst PK is a good opportunity to revitalize it and establish the largest lead possible.

The Flyers are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, during which they’ve been outscored by a terrifying margin of 19-9. They have two elite offensive talents in Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux, whose goal totals (15 and 13 respectively) account for 26.4% of the Flyers’ 106 goals tallied, thus far. Before facing the Caps, they’ll look to turn things around against the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night.

Saturday 1/10 at DET

Score-adjusted Corsi: 54% (4th)
Power Play: 23.1% (4th)
Penalty Kill: 86.9% (4th)
PDO: 98.3 (27th)

Four seems to be a common number among the Red Wings’ rankings in certain areas of their play. Their score-adjusted Corsi, power play, and penalty kill are all fourth-best in the NHL, while their PDO is fourth-worst. The Red Wings haven’t been a victim of bad goaltending, either.

Jimmy Howard has posted a .921 SV% and 2.08 GAA, while Petr Mrazek (.917 SV%, 2.35 GAA) and Jonas Gustavsson (.908 SV% and 2.30 GAA) have been serviceable backups. The Red Wings’ low PDO lies in their ridiculously shooting percentage (6.40%, second-worst in the NHL.)

If these numbers tell us anything, it’s that this game will be the Caps’ most difficult–by far. The Red Wings’ usual offensive talents will be in full force, from points leaders Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to Johan Franzen and Darren Helm. Stats don’t lie, and the Red Wings prove this: they’re poised to continue their epic playoff appearance streak with 49 points and a 20-10-9 record, good for third in the Atlantic. (Note: at the time of writing, the Caps have 47 points.)

All stats courtesy of

Caps vs. Panthers Recap: First Line Burakovsky

The Caps beat the Panthers, 4-3. Goals were scored by Alex Ovechkin (PP, 19), Brooks Laich (4), Karl Alzner (3), and first liner Andre Burakovsky (5).

The Caps had the better of the even strength shot attempt battle, 52-41

Even strength shot attempt chart:

chart (4)

Even Strength #fancystats

-Matt Niskanen led the Caps with a +13 on-ice shot attempt differential

-Brooks Orpik had the worst shot attempt differential at -8

-Niskanen was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (24)

-Orpik was on the ice for the most shot attempts against (23)

-Troy Brouwer faced the toughest zone starts, starting just 25% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Jack Hillen faced the easiest zone starts, starting 88% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update: Scratched. Again. Over on Russian Machine, Peter has coined this the “Schmidtuation.” I suggest we all incorporate this into our vernacular.

Non-fancy stuff

-The Panthers probably aren’t thrilled that their star goalie got clobbered and left the game after two periods.  But really there wasn’t much Ovechkin could have done to avoid the collision. And the Caps’ Captain was, of course, a good dude following the incident.

-Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov both in the lineup with neither buried on the fourth line? More of this, please.

-Burakovsky, thanks to a late Panthers goal, is credited with the game winning goal. More meaningless stats, GWG or goalie wins?

-Following a Winter Classic that had suspect officiating all around, the Panthers sure did draw some questionable calls. Granted, this is easy for me to say with the benefit of instant replay while sitting on my couch.

-Who is this guy wearing number 83 for the Caps? He had both a slick spin-o-rama and a nice toe drag today.

-Big win for the Caps against a team who could have drawn even with them in the standings today. Denied. Next up, the Caps visit Toronto on Wednesday night.

All stats from

Three Caps Numbers: Braden Holtby and First Line Beagle


Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography


Braden Holtby’s 5v5 save% for the month of December. This ranks 5th among the 28 goalies who played 300+ minutes during the final month of 2014. Also impressive is that Holtby was a perfect 28 for 28 on 5v5 shots when the Caps were trailing by a goal during December.


The percentage of 5v5 shot attempts that go in the Caps favor in 2014-15 when Jay Beagle and Nick Backstrom are on the ice together. This is in 53:16 of ice time together. Of the sixteen Caps skaters Backstrom has skated 10+ minutes with so far this season, Marcus Johansson (48.6%) is the only other teammate who sees a shot attempt% below 50% when on the ice with the Caps number one center.


The percentage of 5v5 shot attempts that go in the Caps favor since 2012 in the 158:34 that Beagle and Alex Ovechkin have skated together. Ovechkin has skated 16+ minutes with thirty-four different skaters since 2012 and only sees a lower share of shot attempts when he’s on the ice with Aaron Volpatti (26.9% in 28:31).

Thankfully, it appears the end may be near for First Line Beagle:

All stats from War on Ice and Hockey Analysis 


Caps vs. Blackhawks Recap: Winter Classic Style

The Caps beat the Blackhawks, 3-2. Despite the disappointment of no alumni game and the deserved snark over the musical guests, the Winter Classic was a total home run. From the F-16 pregame flyover to Braden Holtby’s last second save the preserve the win, this was a great day.

The Caps had the edge in even strength shot attempts, 52-47.

Even strength shot attempt chart:

chart (3)

Even Strength #fancystats

-Nick Backstrom led the Caps with a +12 on-ice shot attempt differential

-Joel Ward had the worst shot attempt differential at -9

-Backstrom was on the ice for the most Caps shot attempts (24)

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

-Eric Fehr faced the toughest zone starts, starting just 25% of shifts in the offensive zone

-Tom Wilson and Michael Latta faced the easiest zone starts, starting 83% of shifts in the offensive zone

-First line Beagle was a +7 in on-ice shot attempts.

-Nate Schmidt, possession monster, update:

i cant even

Non-Fancy Stuff

A quick tweet recap on the national media’s current narratives surrounding this Caps team and a certain superstar

-Jonathan Toews sure did give it to the refs about the hooking penalty called on him that led to the game winning goal. It was a weak call that resulted in the game winning goal with twelve seconds to go, so it’s understandable that he was upset. But there was one team that more consistently got the short end of the stick from officials today and it wasn’t the Blackhawks.

-That Holtby save in the final second is worth mentioning again. It’s also worth continuing to point out that Holtby continues to be outstanding.

-John Carlson had a rough day, despite being +1 in even strength shot attempts. He had multiple miscues in the second period, including one that ended up in the back of the net behind Holtby.

-Eric Fehr is a good hockey player. Outdoor Eric Fehr is a superstar.

-The Caps have picked up five points in their last three games, all against top teams in the league. Not too shabby.

-All stats courtesy of

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

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