Tonight, the Washington Capitals won at home over the New York Rangers by a score of 5-2. Their previous meeting, less than two weeks earlier they won in a blistering 4-3 in OT. Before that it was a 7-3 win by the Caps in late December. The last win the Rangers pulled off was early November, the Caps only loss to the Rags and one of only a few overall during the season, 5-2. Of course, previous to that was a heartbreaking game 7 in the second round last year.
Since that game-7 loss the Caps and Rangers were headed in different directions. Initially it seemed like the Rangers where the more successful team. They advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the second season in a row while the Caps were headed back to the golf corse before June yet again. The Rags began the season flying high winning three of their first five, six of the first ten and pulled off nine straight wins with thirteen straight games earning a point to wrap up October and begin December. The Caps merely pieced together enough points to barely keep up in the top three of the Metro.
The reality is , the Caps have gotten 78.89% of the 90 available points so far for a league leading 71 points over 45 games, or an average of 1.57 points per game. This leads the league by a wide margin. The caps are fifteen percent better than Chicago at 1.375 points per game. Dallas 1.36, LA is 1.34 and Fla is 1.266 as the next closest in the East. The Rags aren’t even close.
Put another way, the Caps at the 41 game halfway mark in the season were at 68 points. That’s just shy of doubling the last place Sabres points total at the halfway point. It is more than Buffalo, Edmonton and Arizona had in points in the full 82 games last year, tying them with Toronto. It’s more than Buffalo, Edmonton and Florida had the previous year. Going back to the lockout shortened 48 game season before that, it’s on pace almost match Chicago’s points total that year and with having played fewer games so far bests every other team’s season ending totals.
Win streaks are nice and all, the run Florida just went on and the run Chicago are on are definitely nice – but they are rare, unpredictable and often very fluky. Consistency is nicer. The Caps are the only team who in a rolling 10-game view have gained 14 or more points. That’s indicative the timing of their losses and how they are being spaced out.
The Caps ROW is 32 or 6.66% better than the next closest team, streaking Chicago at 30 and a whopping 52.38% better than tops points producer in the East, Florida at 21 ROW. It is also 18.51% better than the 27 ROW for either Dallas or LA in the West and 45.45% better than Tampa and Detroit’s 22 ROW in the East. And none of this is taking the games in hand into play, which, in this case at the maximum is three in hand over Chicago.
That said, their longest winless streak is two games and they’re longest pointless streak is only a single game. They remain the only team without back-to-back regulation losses. And, that’s represented as the only team in any rolling ten game segment to leave 6 or fewer points on the table.
They just broke the combined 10-loss total, which puts them with fewer total losses than any team in the league’s Regulation loss number. The next closest are LA with 13/3/16 loss slash and Chicago 13/4/17 and the Stars 12/5/16. There isn’t anything close in the east.
Or, to put this another way the Caps 34-11 can be expressed as a .756 winning percentage at this point in the year. Chicago who is next in points would be at a .646. The next closest winning percentage would actually be back in the lockout shortened season when Chicago put up a .750. The venerable firepower of the 2009-2010 Caps produced a 120 point 54-28 season at 659.
It’s quite a dominant start, to be sure.
Comparison in the East
This is a 129-point pace.
If the Caps were to come back down to Earth, producing a record of .500, substantially lower than their current 129 point pace, only adds 37 points creating a total of 108.
Panthers are 26-15-5 after 45 games for 57 points. To get to 109, Panthers need 52 points in their remaining 37 games. That’s 26-11 – or a 115-point pace.
Islanders are 24-15-6 after 45 games for 54 points. To get 109 and surpass Caps, Islanders need 55 points in their remaining 37. That’s 27-9-1 or a 122-point pace.
Rangers are 24-16-5 after 45 games for 53 points. To get to 109, Rangers need 56 points in 37 games. That’s 28-9-0 or a 124-point pace.
Pens are 21-16-7 after 44 games for 49 points. To get to 109, Pens need 60 points in 38 games. That’s 30-8 or a 129-point pace.
Devils are 22-19-5 after 46 games for 49 points. To get to 109, Devils need 60 points in 36 games. That’s 30-6 or a 137-point pace.
Detroit (45 games/54 points), TBL (45 games/52 points), B’s (44 games/51 points), Habs (46 games/50 points) all are similar to the metro numbers already outlined and wold compete for the Wildcard.
Alternatively, what if the Caps regressed to the 0.826 points per game pace of the last place Columbus Blue Jackets. In their final 37 games they would produce only 30 points which would give them 101 for the end of the season
101 points was good enough for a tie at the #2 slot in the Metro last season. It would have secured the #3 in the Atlantic, tied for #2 in the Pacific and secured the wild card spot if in the Central.
The previous year it would have been good enough for sole possession of the #2 in the Metro as well as a tie for #2 in the Atlantic, sole possession of #3 in the Pacific and the Wild Card out of the Central.
At no point in the in the post-2005 lock out era has eclipsing 100 points no earned a team a playoff spot and in the vast majority of the cases puts a team securely in the middle of playoff contention and in a rare case challenging for the divisional leads.
To put this another way. Suppose the Capitals were to go into an epic losing streak and not pick up a single point for the next few weeks.
To lose their place upon the top of the Conference:
Panthers are 14 points behind. Florida would need another seven-game winning streak to tie the Caps 71 points on Feb 6 with a win over the Penguins.
To lose their place at the top of the Metro:
Islanders are 17 points behind. New York would need a nine-game winning streak to catch up to the Caps 71 points on Feb 11 with a regulation tie against the LA Kings.
To fall out of Wild Card contention
Montreal is 21 points behind and hold the final wildcard spot. They would need an eleven-game winning streak to catch the 71 points Caps on Feb 15 with a regulation tie against Arizona
Pittsburgh is 22 points behind and are just outside of the wildcard but with two games in hand on the Habs. They would need an eleven-game winning streak to catch the 71 point Caps on Feb 10 against the Rangers.
It is an impossibility for all four scenarios to occur together because some combination of the teams face one another between now and mid-Febrauary which would cause streaks to break.
It’s also highly unlikely the Caps would go on a minimum of seven-game pointless streak through February 6 or eleven-game pointless streak prior to taking the ice Feb 16 against the Kings — AND — that one or more of these teams could put together the win streak necessary to overtake them.
And, even if some version of this scenario were to happen and the Caps were to fall into the Wild Card, depending on the scenario they would still have a minimum of 26 games to play and need a minimum of 29 points to reach the 100-point plateau which essentially guarantees a playoff spot. This a 1.11 points per game or about the same pace the current Rangers and Red Wings are playing at right now.
While none of these losing scenarios would bode well for the team’s chances of making it out of the first round of the Stanely Cup playoffs it would certainly at least provide them with an opportunity to at least try.
So then the questions become either how sustainable is the Caps success or how likely is a regression? Lets check against stats.hockeyanalysis.com
Corsi is generally an approximation of puck possession. Put simply is goals + saves + blocked shots + missed shot attempts. The theory in using it as a proxy for possession is that a team is creating an opportunity for a Corsi event they have possession of the puck and the other team does not. If you generate enough Corsi events for your likelihood of creating a goal is greater. If you are generating Corsi for you are also eliminating the other team’s ability to generate a Corsi against. If they other team cannot generate enough Corsi against chances are they are not going to score. Thus, generally speaking, teams who have the greater share of Corsi events are in control of the puck more and are creating a greater opportunity to win. Think of it like you would time of possession for American Football or Basketball or how many batters are faced in an inning or game. There’s a predictive element to having possession when it comes to winning. Predictive doesn’t mean guaranteed, outliers and other noise will always exist, but it’s a very good model for the vast majority of cases.
#9 Corsi For — 2589 shot attempts for, 57 CF/60 good for #7 in the league
#20 Corsi Against — 2542 shots attempts at, 55.9/60 for #21 in the league
+47 or 50.5%, good enough for 10th in the league,
#1 Dallas with 2848 and the only team to break 2800. They possess the puck 10% better than the Caps.
Four teams are +2700 including Carolina, Chicago, LA & Montreal. the Caps are 4.28% off this pace.
#1 is Dallas with 61.2 per 60 and the only team better than 61. They possess the puck 7.3% better per 60 than the Caps.
Two other teams make 60/60, LA and Toronto. The Caps are 5.26% off that pace.
The only other teams above the Caps Montreal, Nashville & Carolina.
LA & Anaheim are tied with 2272. They are 11.88% better than the Caps at limiting possession.
Only one other team is sub-2300, Nashville, still over 10% better than the Caps
Sub-2350 includes Carolina, San Jose, New Jersey, Montreal & Detroit and is still 8.17% better than the Caps
#1 is Carolina at 48.5 per 60 and the only sub-50 team. They’re 15.25% better per 60 at possession than the Caps.
Four other teams are sub-51/60, including which is 9.6% than the Caps
#1 is LA with +448 or a 54.5% corsi-for, or a whopping 853.19% better than the Caps possession performance
The only other team to break a +400 & 54% is, believe it or not, Carolina and they’re stunningly closer to LA than they are to #3 Montreal’s +363 / 53.6%
The only other team to break #300 or 53% was Nashville and even that pace is a mind numbing 538.03% better.
What’s notable is only 5 other teams are even into triple digits, Anaheim, Dallas, Toronto, Chicago & Tampa Bay. The Caps only need a 112.77% increase to join them breaking in breaking 51%.
Generally over 50% possession is the goal. 51+% puts teams into the good-to-very good category and the elite stratosphere right now are the 53% teams. LA is just godly across the board while Carolina is very impressive as well as Nashville. After that Montreal looks pretty good too.
The Caps are good enough for top third mostly by riding their shots for. They give up quite a bit going the other direction, but as we drill down in the numbers you’ll see how they’ve negated the deficit by improving themselves in other metrics.
It’s said, 5-on-5 close is more predictive of a model, and it encompasses only high value situations thus eliminating special teams, overtime and other noise like early game score effects. I do question over-reliance on it, and you’ll see some of the reasons why as we go on, but it tells part of the story so we’ll check it out.
#14 CF — 1241 corsi for events, #13 with 55.5 CF/60
#14 CA – 1245 corsi against events, #19 with 55.7 CA/60
-4 or 49.9 against, good for 16th in the league.
#1 is Dallas with 1490, or 20% better than the Caps at possession.
Only two other teams break 1450, St. Louis & LA and Chicago also breaks 1400.
The Caps are still 12.81% off that possession pace.
#1 is LA with 64.47 and the only team to break 64. That’s a tick over 16% better than the Caps possession per 60
Only two teams, Dallas and Nashville, break 60/60 which is still 8.1% better than the Caps.
#1 is Anaheim with 1037 or 20% better than the Caps ability to limit attempts
Only one other team, LA, is also better than a sub-1100 number
Five other teams are sub-1150, including New Jersey, Winnipeg, Nashville, Pittsburgh & San Jose. The Caps are still 9.16% off that pace
#1 is LA with 46.2 and the only team to sub-47. The Caps are 20.56% behind.
Only three other teams are sub-50, Anaheim, New Jersey & Carolina. The Caps are still 12.33% behind that pace.
#1 is LA with a whopping +420 / 58.4% for, the only team better than +250, they’re 90.9% better than the next closest team.
There’s only six teams better than +100 / 52%, including Nashville, Dallas, Anaheim, Carolina, Montreal & Tampa Bay. The Caps are still 4.2% behind this pace.
LA clearly plays the best all around in Close5 situations and there’s no competition, and their play here is actually an improvement on their all around number to boot. Teams like Anaheim aren’t bad both ways placing close to the top. Nashville and Dallas get credit for their offense carrying them but few teams actually look better-than-average across the board.
The Caps appear to have a steep drop off from their all-around play and undoubtedly have a lot of work that could be done to improve these very middle of the road numbers.
Minutes Played Notation
In the case of Close5 situations the Capitals play the 7th fewest minutes at Close5s at 2175:19, or as a percentage of TIO at event strength the 5th fewest minutes in the league at 61.64% or against all minutes played
I bring this up because there’s a distinct difference between the Caps and the other teams in the bottom third of the league for minutes at Close5s. If you compare Colorado, Winnipeg, Montreal, Arizona ahead of Washington or Anaheim, Pittsburg, Minnesota, Calgary or Ottawa rounding out the rest of the bottom ten only the Caps and the Wild are currently in a playoff position while Pittsburgh and Montreal are on the cusp. The Caps are the only secure team.
In this same group of Close5 teams, all but Washington and Anaheim play more than 30% of their total minutes at even strength from behind. The Caps play a meager 19.19% of their even strength time while behind. This is not only the fewest among teams at Close5s, it is fewest in the league. The next closest team is Chicago who plays from behind 23.72% of the time at events, or the Caps play nineteen percent less time behind than the next closest team.
Or, to put this another way, in this same group of Close5 teams, all but Washington and Colorado play more less 35% of their total minutes at even strength while ahead. The Caps play a whopping 43.38% of their minutes at evens which is best in the league, while the next closest is Florida at 38.49%, or the Caps play thirteen percent more time ahead than the next closest team.
The problem here is Close5 doesn’t distinguish between ahead, tied or behind, just that the score is close and thus there can still be score effects that occur when looking at Corsi if a team were to spend a disproportionate amount of Close5 time either trailing or leading. Knowing what we know about the distribution of leading, tied and trailing situations in all even strength minutes there’s a good chance the Caps Close5 numbers are the result of the Caps spending more time with the lead than their opponents despite the score being close. Score effects analysis typically finds a correlation fewer shots for and more shots against when holding a lead with the opposite more shots for and fewer against when trailing and in the Caps case this seems to be no different from the normal assumption a quick brush of their overall even strength numbers.
Therefore, although the Caps position at Close5s being only 50% might not be as indicative of sustainability problems since they are an outlier in their even strength situations to begin with for playing ahead versus playing behind. One has to imagine it’s also problematic for a team like Pittsburgh who play to a low number of Close5 minutes like the Caps but also have a high imbalance of trailing minutes (34%) compared to leading minutes (28%) at events.
Shots on Goal
SOG are ones that make it through to the goalie. So, no misses, no blocks and not crossbar/posts. Only attempts that either generate a save or a goal. It’s an old school metric. It looks at a specific type of puck possession, the type that representing actual goal scoring opportunities rather than possession overall. That doesn’t mean it’s any more accurate than Corsi as a predictive model. Actually, it might be less-so because goal scoring in-and-of itself is a highly random occurrence. Nonetheless, because of it’s legacy and because it does indeed add some needed color to the overall story of success (or failure) we will look at it as well. One way to interpret this is on the ability to negotiate defense through the difference between corsi and SOG since blocks and misses are, in theory, the result of better defenses while attempts that get through to the goalie are, again in theory, results in some lapse in the defense.
#10 SF with 1386, or 53.53% of CF events result in a SOGf, #14 in the league, 30.5 SF/60 #9 in the league.
#11 SA with 1279, or 51.02% of CA events result in a SOGa, #2 in the league, 28.5 SA/60 or #11 in the league
+89 or 51.7% for, good for #8 in the league
#1 is Chicago with 1495 or 7.86% better at shot generation than the Caps. Only Dallas breaks the 1450 mark as well.
Five other teams break 1400 including Montreal, St. Louis, LA, Pittsburgh & Nashville.
The Caps are just over 1% off the 1400 shot pace and one of only three other teams to be +1350.
SF Corsi Conversion-AS
#1 is Buffalo with 57.22% of CF resulting in a SOGf. They’re the only team better than 57% and are 7% better than the Caps at it.
Five other teams brea 55% including Boston, Colorado, Florida, Pittsburgh & New Jersey.
The Caps are 2.75% off that conversion rate right now.
#1 is Dallas with 31.8 or 4.26% than the Caps at a per-60 rate.
Four other teams are better than 31 including Pittsburgh, LA, Montreal & Boston.
The Caps are 1.6% off that production rate.
There isn’t a clear leader in all shoot generation categories, though Pittsburgh looks close. Perhaps Dallas, or LA, or Montreal or even Boston get a mention as well. The Caps clearly have some work to do regardless.
#1 is Anaheim with 1169 or 9.4% better than the Caps at suppressing shots
Only two other teams are sub-1200, Nashville and San Jose.
The caps are 2.65% off that suppression rate
SA Corsi Conversion-AS
#1 is Calgary with 50.33% as the only sub 51% team and 1.39% better than the Caps
Only four other teams are sub-52% including Colorado, San Jose, Anaheim & Boston.
The Caps are 2.11% better than the next tier team, Dallas.
#1 is Carolina with 25.8 and the only team sub-26 or 10.47% better than the Caps.
Only two other teams are sub-27, Anaheim & Nashville.
The Caps are 5.56% off that suppression rate.
Anaheim appears to be fairly elite here showing up in all three categories though San Jose gets a nod along with Nashville for honorable mentions too.
#1 is Nashville at +204, good for 53.9%. They are the only team to break +200 and are essentially all alone at 54%. That’s a whopping 129.21% ahead of the Caps.
The next tier is +150 and 53% or better and includes Montreal, Nashville, Carolina & Anaheim. The Caps are still 68.54% off that pace.
The next tier of Dallas & Boston are +100 / 52% and still 12.39% ahead of the Caps
The takeaway here is the Caps are in the good-to-very good range. They have deficiencies and room to improve being they are in the middle-third of the league in most of the categories but also have a few standout performances giving them separation perhaps from the overall middle third of all categories combined.
remember the TOI caveat above, it applies here too
#14 SF with 673 SF, or 54.23% of CF events result in a SF #11 in the league
#14 SA with 657 GA, or 52.77% of CA events result in a SA #11 in the league as well
50.6% for, good for #13 in the league
The Caps in these situations come back down to the middle third of the league. Again, it could be a function of score effects since the Caps hold the lead more than any other team in the league and play behind the fewest minutes. There’s room for improvement here for sure, but it’s maybe not as bad as it appears on first glance to be where they are comparatively.
The name of the game is scoring goals while preventing the other team from doing so. However, as noted, Goal scoring is a pretty random event and a lot of the aspects like quality of shot attempt, quality of opponent, quality of line mates, etc has very little correlation to scoring which probably comes as a surprise to most people. Because of the randomness involved, and the extremely small sample size goals actually produce, it is difficult to tie past success at goal scoring to predictive models of future success. Nonetheless, teams that score more do generally win more provided they can also stop the other team from scoring as much, but you need a fairly wide gap between the two to really get through the tremendous noise in the numbers.
All situation scoring
147 GF, #2 in the league, league leading 10.61% team shooting pct & 5.68% corsi conversion
96 GA, #1 in the league, league leading 7.4% GA/SA and 3.78% corsi conversion
60.5% for or a +53 differential, #1 in the league
Raw Goals for-AS
#1 is Dallas with 152, the only team to break 150 and 3.4% better than the Caps
Only one other team in addition to the Caps breaks 130 goals (Chicago at 137)
Boston is right at the 130 mark, or 13% behind the Caps production. Also in the +125 are NYR and Montreal.
Shots for conversion-AS
#1 is the Caps. Only two other teams are +10% conversion (Dallas & Arizona)
Colorado’s 9.9% begins the next closest tier and they are 7% behind the Caps production. Also in the +9.5% are NYR, Ottawa & San Jose.
Corsi for conversion-AS
#1 is the Caps. Only one other team is +5.5% conversion (Colorado)
Dalla’s 4.34% begins the next closest tier and they are 6% behind the Caps production. Also in the +5.25% are NYR, Arizona & Boston
The Caps, along with arguably Dallas are the elites at generating offense while the Rangers probably slot in next.
Raw Goals Against-AS
#1 are the Caps. the only other sub-100 teams is LA with Florida right at the 100 mark, 4% behind the Caps
There are three more teams sub-105 and a total of six teams sub-110 (Tampa Bay, Anaheim, Pittsburgh & Minnesota, New Jersey, Islanders)
Shot Conversion suppression-AS
#1 are the Caps as the only sub-7.5% team.
Florida just misses at 7.51% or, 2% behind the Caps, the only other sub-7.75% teams are Chicago & Pittsburgh
The next tier begins with LA at 7.81% or a full 6% behind the caps suppression.
Corsi Conversion suppression-AS
#1 are the Caps as the only sub-4% team.
The next closest teams are 4.18% (Islanders & Chicago) which are 10.58% behind the caps. The rest of the sub-4.25% teams include Pittsburgh & Florida with Minni right on the mark or 12.43% behind.
The Caps and Florida are elite at limiting offense with arguably Pittsburgh is next with honorable mentions to the Islanders and Minnesota.
#1 Caps with +51 or 60.5%. They are the only team great that +50 and greater than 60%
Dallas is next at 31 (the only team to break +30) or 55.7%. One of only two teams better than 55%
Chicago is the other +55% with a +27 and there is no other team above +25.
Dallas is 64.52% behind the Caps in differential while Chicago is 88.89% behind.
Only five other teams break double digit differential while six others have at least a positive differential.
The Caps are the only team to make all three lists. Honorable mentions here is Chicago who also pulls down some solid numbers in all three categories while LA is consistently on the cusp as well.
5-on-5 close Scoring
57 GF, #3 in the league, 8.47% for 4th in shot conversion, 4.59% for 4th in corsi conversion
37 GA, T#2 in the league, 5.63% for 4th in suppressing shot conversion, 2.97% for 2nd in suppressing corsi conversion
60.6% for +20 differential, #1 in the league.
The Caps goals for numbers come down when in Close5 situations from essentially dominating the absolute upper echelons to the very good/elite. It’s not really as steep of a drop as what was experienced with their Corsi, and still even better than their drop in performance with their SOG. This is where the TOI deficiencies for Close5 might actually rise to the surface in the Caps case, but, let’s not jump to too many conclusions just yet.
Raw shots for–Close5
#1, Dallas is elite with 61 which is 7% better than the Caps
Rest of very good are plus-55, which includes NYR & Boston along with the Caps
Caps are 5.56% better than the next tier of Florida & Chicago at 54
Shot conversion for–Close5
#1 is Arizona at 9.34% which is 10% than the Caps, Also +9% are the Rangers
Florida is the only other +8.5% team, the Caps just miss.
the Caps sitting 2% ahead of the next closest team that’s +8% in conversion (Boston)
In Corsi conversion for-Close5
#1 is Florida at exactly 5% which is 9% better than the Caps.
Rest of the elite are 4.5+% including NYR & Arizona along with the Caps, while Colorado and Detroit just miss by a tick.
the Caps sit 4% ahead of the next closet team that reach +4% in conversion (Calgary)
Only the Rangers appear on all three lists as very good-to-elite, the Caps are next closest along with Florida.
Raw shots against-Close5
#1 is elite and that is LA at 33 which is 12% better than the Caps.
Rest of the very good are sub-40, including Detroit, Florida and Vancouver.
the Caps are currently 8.11% better than Pittsburgh & Nashville at 40 GA.
Shot conversion against-Close5
#1 is Detroit at 5.5% in limiting shot conversion which is 5% better than the Caps.
The rest of the elite are sub-5.75% with the Caps joining Vancouver, Florida & Ottawa.
the Caps are currently 2% better than LA is exactly on the 5.75% mark and 4% above Chicago the next team out.
Corsi conversion against-Close5
#1 is Vancouver with 2.96%. the Caps are the only other team sub 3%.
The Caps are 4% better than the next best team, Ottawa. The rest of the sub 3.25% teams include Detroit, LA, Florida and Chicago.
The Caps are 10% better than the next tier team which is Minni.
There’s no clear winner here but along with the Caps, LA and Detroit are noticeably always near the top.
Caps are the only team to break +20 goals / 60% differential
17.64% better differential than #2 Rangers
7 teams in the league have a double digit differential & 100% better than #7 ranked Dallas.
14 teams have a positive differential.
The Caps are the only team that overlaps consistently the production and suppression, which is probably also why they have such a clear lead on the rest of the league in terms of the differentials. LA and Florida probably get some interesting honorable mentions here too.
This is affectionally known as puck luck. It seeks to determine how teams shooting percentage and save percentage are affecting their overall performance. Abnormally high shooting percentages might skew a goals for number while abnormally high save percentages might skew a goals against number. High percentages are generally not sustainable and if both are high, it’s definitely not sustainable. Likewise the opposite is true as well, low percentages are not either. Some teams are capable of sustaining a higher-than-league average shooting percentage which may be the reflection of some offense talent greater than the league average. Some teams will see a save percentage sustained better-than-league average due to elite goal tending. Generally though, you expect some kind of “regression to the norm” when there’s PDO spikes. The league average being 100, but team’s individual norm might be slightly higher or lower as noted before.
103.2 #1 in the league
That’s 1.47% better than the next best team or 3.2x better than average.
It’s driven, in part, by their league leading 10.61% shooting percentage.
The other +10% shooting teams are #4 Dallas with 101.3 Dallas & #15 Arizona 100.2
It’s also being driven by a league leading 92.6% save percentage.
There are 3 other teams with a 92.25% or better rate, #2 Florida 101.7, #3 Chicago 101.6 and #16 Pittsburg 100 even.
This is not a sustainable number by any stretch of the imagination. However, we know the Caps are not a PDO-100 so we wouldn’t expect them to regress quite that far.
Shooting percentage should come back down sub-10% but we also know the Caps are much better than the league’s 8.753% average. Assuming they regress back to around 9.25% they’d still be top ten in the league which seems about right based on their overall offense.
Save percentage is really because Holtby has demonstrated he’s among the elite goalies, but still feels inflated. If it were to fall to 92% even it would still be good enough for 8th.
Those closest proxy to those two is between the 101 PDO of #6 Tampa Bay which features a slightly lower 9.11sh% and 91.88sv%.
That still might feel a little high, but it is also, in part a reflection of the league’s top-three power play that converts better than 25% of the time and a top penalty kill matched with it and the underlying Corsi number bear out some regression over time while maintaining some form of “very good” consideration.
102.8 good for #4 in the league
Shooting percentage here is 8.47, good enough for 4th but nothing like the 9+% Arizona and the Rangers are relying. There are 5 other teams at 8+% and the 8.47 is not that far off from the league’s all around average. So, it doesn’t seem like the Caps number is necessarily an outlier even if the league’s Close5 is down near 6.92%
Save percentage is 94.27, also good enough for 4th, but with 7 teams above 94% it doesn’t feel like it’s on outlier either knowing the Caps goalie tandem despite the average 93.47.
However, of teams with 8+sh% and 94+sv%, you’re left with PDO leading Florida’s 103.2 and Detroit’s 103 and it should be noted the Caps Corsi5 % isn’t really very impressive so it’s expected this pace might not sustainable either.
If the Caps were to regress to something closer to an 8sh% and 93.5sv% they would slot inbetween #6 Ottawa’s 101.8 and #7 Colorado’s 101.5 which feels more like where you’d expect their equilibrium based on how their other Corsi5 conversion numbers look.
It’s concerning however when looking out West to see teams like LA and Dallas in the middle third with a more pedestrian to-date PDO which means they winning without relying on the possibility highly fluctuating percentages do do so? Yes, but then again, Chicago is cruising right along with a pretty high PDO themselves.
So, is it likely the Caps continue on a 129-point pace tear? Probably not, but it’s also very unlikely they regress to the point where they give up their top spot in the Metro or remain a leader in the East overall. The fact is, the underlying numbers are good, not great, and they’ve been super consistent so far which means they’re more reliable than teams like Montreal, NYR, Chicago and Dallas who have had much wider swings.
Finally, it’s notable the Caps are doing this while skating without their top-pair on Defense with both Orpik and Carlson out. This means their second pair of Alzner and Niskcanon is skating first pair minutes. Their third pair is now skating second pair minutes and consists of two under-25 year olds with under 275 games between them in 24-year old Schmidt with 109 games and 24-year old Orlov with 163, who missed the full-season last year. Both are performing handsomely and likely above most people’s expectation. The third pair consists of 7D off season signing Taylor Chorny, who at 28 years old sports 104 career games and an AHL call-up like Aaron Ness. The D has also seen Connor Carrick & Tyler Lewington along the way and they still have some talented depth down in Hershey that could also be brought up in a pinch. It is a statement to both Coach Trotz and D-Coach Rierden’s ability to get the most out of their players by adjusting the system to them. The return of Carlson and Orpik if it happens before the playoffs would be like adding two veterans into the system without any of the disruption of a normal trade-deadline deals.
Furthermore, the Caps bottom-six was not necessarily stable to begin with but the loss of 3C Beagle has not helped either. In the interim they moved former top-six, 25-year old winger Marcus Johannson back to center to fill in and it’s worked well. Johannson was drafted as a center and played there on-and-off previously so it’s not foreign and the move has produced some solid numbers early on. This was bolstered by the acquisition of veteran Mike Richards. The two now provide the Caps with a dearth of bottom-six options including the possibility of a very consistent third-line overall and pushes it to be both defensively sound while providing an extra level of scoring threat and creates a flexible forth line that can be either “heavy” hockey or provide an additional level of skill most forth lines wouldn’t necessarily offer especially when the expectation could also be that Beagle returns before the playoffs and adds additional veteran experience and positional flexibility (as well as solid face off and PK numbers) without the disruption of trade-deadline deals.
Although the Caps are within the bottom half to bottom-third of man-games lost (of teams that report them) they quality of players they’ve missed at different times (including Backstrom to injury, Johnasson to suspension believe it or not and Holtby most recently to a headache) has been fairly crucial in every way except their ability to adapt in part because of franchise depth, in part because of solid coaching and in part because some pleasant surprises in skill sets developing.
This makes the team’s prospects for making the post-season in good position fairly strong. They won’t need to rush injured players back. They should not have to overplay their top players in order to ensure good positioning. They can build confidence and, in some theory momentum, just by continuing to play consistent hockey.
What becomes of their playoff run? Who knows. There is still too much unpredictability in the data to make real projections and even then the games still need to be played and the playoffs are much more coin-flip in nature than the regular season and moreso as a Cardiac Caps fan. But, if I were to allow myself something that might seem like possible optimism, the competition in the first two rounds at least doesn’t look as intimidating as they might have in the past.