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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 Preview: Week 11

With five of a possible six points in the books, including two solid wins over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Caps had a great week. Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets robbed the Caps of a perfect record, but the two teams meet again this week. At present, the Caps have 33 points and are third in the Metropolitan Division, behind the Penguins (42 points) and Islanders (40 points) but ahead of the Rangers (30 points.) This week’s slate of three games take place against fairly mediocre teams (the Panthers, Blue Jackets, and Devils respectively.) Winning at least two of three would give the Caps a significant edge over their Metro rivals.

Photo by Amanda Bowen of RRBG Photography

12/16 at Florida

Power play: 13.8%
Penalty kill: 80.8%
5v5 Corsi-for: 51.6%
PDO: 99.9

The Panthers are better than you think. They’re no longer the Eastern Conference’s resident basement-dwellers; in fact, they’re fifth in the Atlantic Division with 32 points to their name. Does this make them a good team? No, but they’re no longer a team that can be walked over. They’re currently a playoff team (second wild-card spot) and have given the Caps trouble in the past.

Nick Bjugstad, rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad, and Jussi Jokinen lead the team in points (19, 18, and 16 respectively.) Brad Boyes and Jonathan Huberdeau are also prominent secondary scorers. Florida’s defense isn’t particularly robust, so capitalizing on defensive miscues will allow the Caps to keep their surging offense going.


12/18 at Columbus

Power play: 23.2%
Penalty kill: 77.6%
5v5 Corsi-for: 46.2%
PDO: 98.3

The Blue Jackets are on the verge of climbing back into playoff contention. Last week, their 3-2 OT win over the Caps was their fifth straight. They beat the Penguins 4-3 two nights later and can extend the streak Tuesday night with a win against the Red Wings. Little has changed for the Jackets since they faced the Caps, save for trading defenseman Tim Erixon to the Blackhawks and getting forward Jeremy Morin. The latter wasn’t seeing playing time given the Blackhawks’ loaded roster and asked for a trade, a request granted by Blackhawks brass.

Other players of note include Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s been spectacular for a team who gives up tons of shots. With stellar save-percentage numbers and a measly shooting percentage (6.52%), the Blue Jackets’ “luck” (or PDO) is due for a rebound. They’re third-worst in the NHL in that department, and 26th in 5v5 Corsi.

The Jackets’ two offensive stars are Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen, who are tied for the team lead with 27 points apiece. Foligno has five points in as many games, while Johansen tallied two assists in his last five contests. When the Jackets beat the Caps last Thursday, it wasn’t because they outplayed their opponent. Bobrovsky was phenomenal, but the Caps couldn’t seem to finish any of their scoring chances or get serious momentum going. They’ll be on a road trip but obviously need to play hard against their division rival.


12/20 at New Jersey

Power play: 22.5%
Penalty kill: 76.5%
5v5 Corsi-for: 49.9%
PDO: 100.3

The Caps and Devils have seen each other a lot lately, and the season isn’t at its halfway point. But after Saturday night’s game, they won’t face off until March. Still, the Devils are a Metro rival, thus making this game especially important. The Caps won 4-1 in their last meeting two weeks ago despite getting outshot 29-34.

The Devils don’t have a single offensive superstar, but they do have a number of players putting up good numbers. Jaromir Jagr and Adam Henrique lead the team in points (18), and sniper Mike Cammalleri has a team-best 11 goals. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky is fourth on the team in points and has played big minutes, averaging upward of 22 minutes a night in his last five games. Based on what we’ve seen of the Caps-Devils season series so far, the games could either way. The Caps may have the lead in terms of standings, but neither is an outstanding team. Given the fickle nature of the Metro Division, it’s possible their places could be switched in two weeks. Still, what sweeter finish to a weeklong finish than a win–over a division rival, nonetheless?

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.


-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:


All data 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.


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.

Line combinations for the new coaches in the Eastern Conference to consider

There were 6 coaching changes in the NHL this off-season, with 4 of them coming in the Eastern Conference. While a change in a team’s system can often be the biggest difference a new coach can make, deployment of the roster is also something that can affect the quality of impact a new coach can have. Here is a look at combinations that each new coach in the East should consider, based off of the success players on their new team’s roster have had together in the past. I’ve excluded the Caps from this post because I will have a more detailed look at Barry Trotz’s options closer to the start of the season.

Carolina Hurricanes-Bill Peters

It will probably be pretty easy for Peters to put together a top line of Eric Staal, Jiri Tlusty, and Alex Semin, given the success that trio had has together. After all, while Semin is generally a positive possession player regardless of his linemates, Staal and Tlusty both see a considerable drop when not playing with Semin. In fact, they both become negative possession players. When playing with Semin, Staal (53.2% CF) and Tlusty (51.5%) both find their team on the right side of the possession game. However, in the time the 3 have all played for the Canes, taken away from Semin, Stall and Tlusty both see their CF % plummt to 48.5% and 48.7%, respectively.

However, I still think another combination could prove very successful, depending on how Peters decides to deploy his forwards this year. In over 413 minutes of ice-time (general sample size warnings apply to this, as well as the article in general) together over the past two seasons, Jordan Staal and Alex Semin have been very successful. JStaal’s CF is 55.8% with Semin vs. 53.4% without him. On top of this, the duo has seen a 70% GF ratio when playing together. An argument could easily be made that JStaal seems to hold his own, possession-wise, with or without Semin, whereas his brother Eric doesn’t, so Eric should play with Semin. That’s a fair point, but JStaal and Semin are a duo worth considering.

Nathan Gerbe could be a good fit as the 3rd forward on that line. Gerbe has only played 207:21 with Semin, but the two have been downright dominant in that limited time posting a 58.6% CF. Gerbe’s CF without Semin is a medicore, if not bad, 47.3%.

Florida Panthers-Gerard Gallant-

Tomas Fleischmann had a down year offensively, netting only 8 goals after scoring 27 in his first season with the Panthers and then 12 in the lockout shortened season. However, expect a bounce back this season. Fleischmann shot just 4.3% last season, a far cry from the 11.0% career shooter he is. Many of the players Fleischmann has shared the ice with the most since joining the Panthers have since moved on. However, a couple remain that Gallant should consider playing him with, in what I think will be a bounce back year for him.

Both Scott Upshall and Tomas Kopecky are intriguing options to play with “Flash.”  In 357 minutes with Fleischmann, since the start of the 2011 season, Upshall has a 55.8%, as opposed to 49.7% in the 1177 apart from him. Fleischmann sees his CF% go up from 49.4 to 55.8 when playing with Upshall. The duos GF% of 36.4 is sure to rise if they can continue those possession numbers over a larger sample.

Kopecky and Fleischmann have also had strong possession numbers when playing together. In the 576 minutes they played played together, Fleischmann sees his CF% improve from 49.8 to 50.1. But the real story of this duo is the improvement in Kopecky, from 48.5 to 51.4 CF, when he plays with Fleischmann.

Pittsburgh Penguins-Mike Johnston

With the departures of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, the Pens D will have a different look this year. Johnston should play Paul Martin with Kris Letang. Since the 2010 season, the two have played 610 minutes together. A somewhat significant amount of time, sure, but both have spent far more time other partners than with each other.  However, when united, Martin and Letang have a CF% of 58.0. When apart, they seem their CF drop to 52.% (Martin) and 53.5% (Letang). I could see the argument that they are both solid possession players, so perhaps they should be split up, but they certainly offer Johnston a formidable top pair in his first season as the Pens coach.

It will be interesting to see how these coaches deploy the new personnel at their disposal. In the near future I’ll take a look at line combinations for the new coaches in the West to consider and then, as I said above, I’ll take a more detailed look at line combinations for Barry Trotz to consider.





Resale Report: Why even buy from a scalper outside a venue in the StubHub era?

Resale Report, a column focused on the secondary ticket market, runs every Wednesday here on Check out the first Resale Report from last week if you missed it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2012 Resale Report

Leonsis on ticket scalping at Verizon Center – “Selling tickets and sadly, buying tickets outside of Verizon Center is illegal. Scalping has become a major concern for many of our fans and they communicate these issues to us directly,” wrote Ted Leonsis, owner of the venue and three DC sports teams that play there.

In the age of online resellers such as StubHub and Ticket Exchange, it’s hard to believe that any buyers would make scalpers near a venue their source for tickets. Fraud protection and, in most cases, better prices are available through online outlets, which also don’t come with the risk of being stopped by the police or having to haggle with a scalper.

The chances of getting five people into Verizon Center for the price of one face-value ticket is a transaction that would be highly unlikely to ever occur outside the arena. But there are bargains to be had like that to games around the country on a regular basis when you use the more high-tech and legal ticket solutions. Unless you’ve waited until less than two hours before game time to purchase a ticket, when resellers have cut off resales, there’s hardly ever a reason to take your business to a scalper outside the venue. Even a tweet or a Facebook post in those last two hours before an event starts might yield tickets at a better price than purchasing them on the street.

So much for a victory tour? – The reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings visited Detroit on Sunday afternoon for a nationally televised NHL on NBC game. On Friday, tickets for that Kings visit to the Wings were available starting at $15 on StubHub. On Monday, when L.A. played at St. Louis, tickets for that Blues home game were available for $7.95 on StubHub late that afternoon. The Kings at least appear to be a hot ticket back home in L.A. On Friday, they play the first of three home games in four days, as they face the Bluejackets, Avs and Ducks. Nothing is currently available on StubHub under $30 for any of those three games.

Yankees add new ticket resale option – The New York Yankees this week announced an agreement with Ticketmaster to create Yankees Ticket Exchange, providing fans with another option for buying and selling their game tickets. As reported by the New York Times Ken Belson, the team will provide fans with an incentive to use the new service over the popular StubHub: “Ticket holders will be charged only a 5 percent fee to sell their tickets, compared with 15 percent on StubHub. Buyers will be charged 10 percent of the resale value, the same as on StubHub.” Consumers (and brokers) can still unload or acquire Yankees tickets through StubHub and, with buyers being charged the same percentage on either service, it’s likely they’ll buy from the one that offers them the best ticket options or prices.

Cheap Valentine’s Day option in South Florida – The Florida Panthers have some of the lowest StubHub prices in hockey, with very few games starting at over $10. Valentine’s Day is no exception, as the Montreal Canadiens visit Sunrise. The lowest price ticket on StubHub for that game is currently listed for $8.00 and there are over 1,000 available. $35 will get you into the lower bowl presently. If last night’s sparse crowd in South Florida, when the Panthers hosted the Washington Capitals, is any indication, you and your date will have a pretty good chance at getting on the big screen. Own the Kiss Cam…or an entire section. On Saturday, it will be a much different resale story on Montreal, when the Canadiens return home to face Philadelphia. Seats on StubHub for the Flyers visit to Bell Centre currently start at $101 on StubHub.

Bargain alert for Caps fans – On Tuesday, February 26, the Carolina Hurricanes visit Verizon Center to face the Caps. As of this posting, there are 2,259 tickets available on StubHub, with the cheapest going for $24.99. On Ticket Exchange there are another 1,788 available and those currently start at $21. There are already below-face-value options available, but those prices could drop even further as the game date gets closer, especially if the inventory remains plentiful. The key to getting a great deal for a game like this is often to wait. The buyer risks the chance that prices could go up or never drop any further if the tickets start to move. But with patience from enough buyers and the right conditions, there could be some dirt cheap seats for this one come the afternoon of February 26. Here a few suggestions on how to score cheap seats like this via the resale market.

Use the #ResaleReport hashtag – Send me a screen shot of best deals you find on hockey tickets or other events. You can do that on Twitter at @mikeholden or through email at brookslaichyear AT gmail DOT com. You can also tag them on Twitter as #ResaleReport.

Follow Lauren

Before Game 6 between the Devils and Panthers tonight, Panthers President and COO Michael Yormark brilliantly displayed to the world that he can be a jerk even when it’s completely unnecessary. See below.

Our mission? Get Lauren more followers than Yormark before the Devils-Panthers Game 7 on Thursday night. After all, should the President of a team that covers seats in their stadium with a tarp really be calling anyone out for their lack of Twitter followers? Do your part and follow Lauren on Twitter. On Thursday, thanks to Michael Yormark, we are all Devils fans.

Most important Caps home game since…

Masisak tweet

NHL writer/editor and former Washington Times Caps beat reporter Corey Masisak asked on Twitter, referencing tonight’s home game against the Southeast division-leading Florida Panthers, “…pretty much the most important regular-season #Caps game at Verizon Center since the end of the 07-08 season, no?”

Agree or disagree? Use the comments below or reply on Twitter.

And you can check out Corey Masisak’s hockey writing at

Breakdown of a breakdown: Florida’s fourth goal vs. the Caps on 2/1/12

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson has been taking some heat for his play lately, and understandably so.

As Adam Vingan of Kings of Leonsis points out, “in the month of January, the Caps allowed 32 total goals against. John Carlson was on the ice for 22 of them.” Looking as far back as the coaching change the Caps made in November, Japers’ Rink notes: “By my count, John Carlson has been on the ice for 42 of the 67 goals allowed under Dale Hunter. That’s staggering.” Carlson was nearly on the ice for another goal in Tuesday night’s overtime loss to Tampa, but Tomas Vokoun came up what some (we) are calling the save of the year.

There’s one goal though—an empty netter by Florida on Wednesday night to put the Panthers up 4-2—that Carlson deserves less blame for than he’s been getting from some Caps fans on Twitter. As the video clip below shows, a poor pass by Marcus Johansson played a large role in allowing the Panthers to score their fourth goal and put the game away.

The video begins as a pass from an unidentifiable Washington player Roman Hamrlik hops over Johannsson’s stick near center ice and, as Johannsson reaches it near the boards, he attempts to knock it back to Carlson. Even if Johansson makes a clean pass there, Carlson would have little time to do much with the puck, given how close the Panthers’ Shawn Matthias is.

Johansson would have likely been better off sending the puck left and off the boards toward the offensive zone, rather than trying to send it back to Carlson. The play also could have turned out better if Carlson had stepped up toward the red line and fired the puck into the offensive zone himself before Johansson got there, though he may have been playing somewhat cautiously knowing the net behind him was empty.

Going back to the unidentifiable Washington player Hamrlik, who made the initial pass to Johansson, a better decision could have been made there on what to do with the puck; other Caps were open and skating with the puck rather than passing it really might have been the best idea for that player. But when Johansson eventually does end up getting to that puck, he needs to make a quick decision that better protects it. His attempt to pass back to Carlson was careless and not a crisp one on top of that.

Improved communication and decision-making all around would have helped on this play. This breakdown is also a reminder that, though Johansson and Carlson play big roles on this Capitals team—particularly with Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom injured—they still have a relatively small number of NHL games played between them (Carlson 154; Johansson, 117). Eventually, with enough experience under their belts, they might act better on instinct in these situations.

On the topic of instinct, it sometimes seems it’s a sports fan’s tendency to quickly fault one player when something goes wrong while they’re in the game. Jeff Schultz and Alex Semin are two with which this happens often for the Caps, and for good reason in some cases. But the things that go wrong in some instances are often more complicated than something a single player did. Though Carlson is struggling right now, on this play from Wednesday night there are other players that deserve blame, Johansson especially. The finger should not always get pointed solely at the easy goat of the moment.

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