Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
It wasn’t going to last forever. The Capitals went into their game against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night scoring four or more goals in eight straight games, and ten of their last eleven games. The Capitals’ insanely high shooting percentage wasn’t or isn’t going to last.
From December 30th, 2016, to the 23rd of January, the Capitals were shooting at 17.1% while at full and even strength. That was by far the best in the NHL. The Minnesota Wild were in second place with a shooting percentage of 12.5%.
When the Columbus Blue Jackets were on their great run of 16 consecutive wins, and had just one shootout loss in 18 games, I remember hearing people say that their shooting percentage (and save percentage) was too high and that it was going to come down and they would eventually cool off. Their shooting percentage was only 10.6%. People were right on one thing though, and their shooting percentage did drop as the Blue Jackets stopped winning consistently. Columbus has gone 6-6 since their win streak was snapped and are now just shooting 8.4%.
We can look at other winning stretches this season too. The Philadelphia Flyers went on a ten-game winning streak from November 27, 2016, to December 17th. Their shooting percentage during that streak was only 9.8%.Their shooting percentage since their streak ended is sitting at just 4.7%, which is last in the NHL since December 17.
We can look at Washington’s division rival, the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts stormed out of the gates, going 13-4 in their first seventeen games. During their first seventeen games, the Rangers scored four or more goals twelve times. A similar stretch to the one the Capitals are on now. During this stretch, their shooting percentage sat at 13.1%. Many were looking at the Rangers and predicted that the percentage would drop, as would their performance.
Yet again, people were right. The Rangers’ shooting percentage fell from 13.1% to their current 8.4%. After starting the season on fire and atop the tough Metropolitan Division, the Rangers are 18-12-1 since their 13-4 start and now sit in a wild card spot.
What’s the point here? Shooting percentages fluctuate throughout a season. After talking about a couple of other teams, we can now move on to the prime suspects here: the Capitals. As was mentioned above, Washington is shooting a ridiculous 17.1% since the end of December. Before that, the Caps were shooting just 7.7% for the season.
That puts the Capitals’ total shooting percentage at 10.7%, and that would be around the total needed to finish as the leaders in that stat for the season. Here are the best shooting percentages at the end of the NHL season in the last seven years.
As you can see here, teams rarely finish a season in which they shot over 10% for the entire season. Only the high-powered Capitals offense of 2009-10 finished above 10% in a full 82-game season in the last seven seasons.
A lot of Capitals start producing at the same time. Look at and compare players on the teams we discussed earlier.The New York Rangers’ hot streak saw seventeen players shoot over 10% and one player shoot over 18%. The Blue Jackets’ winning streak saw eleven players shoot over 10% and no player shot high than 13.8%.
The Capitals have nineteen players shooting over 11%, eight of those players are shooting over 18%, and three are shooting over 20%. Before December 30, Washington had only one player shoot at 10% or better, and that was T.J. Oshie, who sat at 10% even.
You want more examples of shooting percentages going up and down? Look at Justin Williams. He couldn’t buy a goal for the first two months of the season. He was shooting just 4.3%, which was good enough for the worst percentage on the entire team, at least among lineup regulars. Since December 7, though, Williams is shooting 14%, and is now shooting 16.5% for the season, which would be his best season ever in the NHL.
Another thing to think about is how many shots are being taken. To start the season, all the way up to December 29, the Capitals averaged 30.2 shots per game. Since December 30, however, the Capitals have averaged only 27 shots per game. Three full shots is a pretty big dip. Lower shots on average and several Caps having a hot stick, and then you will have a higher shooting percentage.
The Capitals aren’t going to continue to score four goals every game. This month-long stretch of shooting 17% won’t last either. It sounds like a bad thing, but the great news about this is that the Capitals are the best defensive team in the league. They don’t need to score four, five or six goals every night.
It’s been fun and entertaining hockey to watch, but honestly it’s probably better if the Capitals start playing the low-scoring game to get ready for playoff-style hockey.
By CJ Witt