The Capitals’ Goalies Have Been Superb….Except for One Minor Flaw

braden-holtby-philipp-grubauer-practice-kettlerOn Tuesday night, the Capitals defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-0. It was yet another shutout win for the Caps and the team’s second straight shutout, after winning an identical 5-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Super Bowl Sunday, on home ice.

Capitals’ home games for a non-Washington fan has to be a little bit boring at the moment. In the last eight games at the Verizon Center, the Capitals have outscored their opponent 42-6. Five of those eight games has seen Braden Holtby or Philipp Grubauer record a shutout. Once again, the Capitals have a pretty impressive shutout streak going. They have recorded two straight shutouts and have not allowed a goal since the final 12 minutes of their game against the Montreal Canadiens on the fourth of February. That’s a streak of 132:11.

The goalies are deservedly getting a lot of the credit for the Caps’ recent run of success. Led by the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Holtby, the Caps’ goalies seem unbeatable. Combine that with the fact that the Capitals possess one of the best defenses and possibly the best all-around play in the NHL, beating a player like Holtby or Grubauer is a tough task every single night.

Just how impressive is the Capitals’ goaltending? The Capitals’ current save percentage at even strength sits at .944. The Minnesota Wild sits in second at .937, and three teams are tied for third at .934% (Buffalo Sabres, Canadiens, and Chicago Blackhwaks).

Impressive, right? When one looks closer, it’s clear we’re not done here. Since the 2007-08 season, only twice has a team finished the season with a save percentage of .940 or better. Both times it was the Boston Bruins: the 2010-11 season and the 2013-14 season. In 2010-11, the Bruins finished with a save percentage of .941, and a .940 in 2013-14. Great numbers, but the Capitals are still securely ahead.

Among goalies who have played 600 minutes or more, Holtby and Grubauer currently sit number one and two in the league, respectively at even strength save percentage. Grubauer leads the NHL with a .954 save percentage and Holtby is right behind him with a save percentage of .943.

Here are some more impressive facts. Since mid-November, the Capitals have more shutouts than the Colorado Avalanche have wins. Since New Year’s Day, Washington has recorded consecutive shutouts three times.

I’ll throw in some offensive statistics too. The last time the Capitals failed to score five or more goals on home ice was on New Years’ Day. In their ten-game home winning streak they have scored five or more goals nine times.

On top of the Capitals’ defense and goaltending simply dominating, the Capitals score a ton of goals. There is just one category that might worry a Caps fan: penalties and goaltending when shorthanded.

Taking penalties has been a problem for a good majority of this season. Since December 5, 2016, when the Capitals started their dominant stretch, they lead the entire NHL in penalties taken at 136; the Calgary Flames are second at 133.

The special teams time differential is a nasty number to look at too. The Capitals are -59:18. For anyone not sure what that means, it simply means the Capitals have spent more than 59 minutes on the penalty kill than the power play.

Luckily, the Capitals have a very good penalty killing unit. The Caps do a very good job on limiting chances while shorthanded, and even generate their own chances while a man down.

The one chink in the fine armor of the Capitals’ goaltending is Braden Holtby’s save percentage while shorthanded. The Capitals are 24th in the league in shorthanded save percentage at just over .860.

If the Capitals are going to go far  in the playoffs, it will be on Holtby’s shoulders. When the Caps are shorthanded, Holtby has a .832 save percentage. Out of the 43 goalies who have played 100 or more minutes while shorthanded, that ranks 41st.

I think you have to take shots against into account here. Despite being one of the most penalized teams in the league, and spending a lot of time shorthanded, the Capitals have given up the ninth fewest shots against while down a man. In total, the Capitals have given up 208 shots against while shorthanded. If you measure that by shots against/60 they are the best in the NHL at 35.6. The Los Angeles Kings are second at 35.8.

According to Corsi.hockey, 81 of those shots were considered high-risk shots. Nearly half of the shots the Capitals give up shorthanded are high-risk shots. Washington doesn’t give up much, but when they do, apparently it’s dangerous.

That’s when they need their goaltender. A team’s goalie needs to be the team’s best penalty killer. I’m not sure Holtby is for the Capitals. His shorthanded save percentage already shows he ranks at the bottom of that stat. He also ranks near the bottom in high-risk save% while shorthanded. Of those 43 goalies who have played 100 minutes or more while shorthanded, Holtby ranks 35th in high-risk save percentage at .717. For that stat, between high 70’s and low 80’s would be considered a good number.

Playing shorthanded is not Holtby’s biggest strength.Is that something to worry about? Only time will tell. Having a great penalty killing unit will make that much easier to swallow, but it could become problematic in the playoffs.

The Capitals’ goaltending has been a strength all season long, and while they are seemingly invincible for the most part, even they have some minor flaws to hammer out.

By CJ Witt

This entry was posted in Data and Analytics, Goaltending, News and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Capitals’ Goalies Have Been Superb….Except for One Minor Flaw

  1. Pingback: What Does the Future Hold For Philipp Grubauer? | NoVa Caps

  2. Pingback: The Capitals’ Penalty Killing Against Eastern Conference Playoff Teams is Good, But it Can Be Even Better | NoVa Caps

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