AP Photo/Gary Wiepert
It’s no secret that the current 2017-18 Washington Capitals may not be as good of a team as the teams that captured back-to-back Metropolitan Division titles and back-to-back President’s Trophies. But it’s early. In this piece, NoVa Caps’ CJ Witt takes an early look at some key statistics of the Capitals and how they compare to last season.
The Capitals currently sit at 7-6-1, good enough for 15 points and just four points away from first place in the division. I’ve said it here before, as have others, it’s not about putting yourself at the top of the standings right now, it’s about putting yourself in a position to strike later. The Caps are right there, and it’s been an OK start.
Now that some obvious things have been pointed out, why are we here? One thing I’ve always liked to do is point out stats that are harder to find. It’s easy to go to NHL.com and find that the Capitals are slightly lower in goals for per game. Right now they sit at three goals per game while last season they finished scoring 3.18 per game. It’s also pretty easy to go find out that last season the Capitals gave up 27.82 shots against per game, while this season they’re giving up 34 per game.
What’s harder to find is some of the underlying stats that may tell one why a team isn’t as good or better than the previous season or seasons.
Just to let you know, all these stats are at even-strength.
Last season, the Capitals were one of the best possession teams., finishing fourth in the league in Corsi percentage at 51.81. To say they have dropped this season may be a bit of an understatement. The Capitals’ current Corsi rating sits at 47.63, putting them 24th in the NHL. Unsurprisingly, shot attempts for and against per game have gone the wrong way for Washington. Shot attempts for per game this season are 42.35, compared to last season’s average of 44.58. Shot attempts against per game is worse: last season they allowed just 41.46 per game, which has risen to 46.57.
Now possession is just that. There is a saying in soccer (or real football, different argument for different times) what does one do with that possession.
This isn’t going to get any prettier for Washington. They’re scoring chances for percentage is 47.87. Last season, it was 52.15. That was sixth-best last season, and right now, that number puts them at 24th (of 31) in the league. We’ll try to make that a little clearer. Scoring chances for and against per game. There is some good news here. The Capitals are generating the same amount of scoring chances for per game as they did last season, and even slightly better. This season they get 22.42 chances for, while last season they averaged 22.37.
The problem is that they are allowing a lot more chances against so far this year. Last season, the Caps allowed 20.53 chances. This season, it has taken a big jump forward, as that number now sits at 24.42.
Again, these are just chances. What are the Caps doing with chances? Are they scoring goals and are they getting saves from these chances?
The Capitals shooting percentage from scoring chances is at 7.32% right now. Last season, they finished with a 8.28%. This season’s percentage has risen a bit in the past couple of wins; that number was down at 6.88, so perhaps the Capitals are on the rise a bit here. Meanwhile, the scoring chance save percentage has dipped a full percent this season, sitting at 92.89 compared to last season’s 93.76.
One more number I want to point out here. High danger chances. Scoring chances can come from pretty much anywhere, high danger chances come from the, you guessed it, the most dangerous areas of the ice.
Last season, the Capitals were on the wrong side of the HDCorsi For percentage, but just barely at 49.19. So far this season, that has taken a nosedive, as it currently sits at 40.74. To make one more disgusted at that number, that’s dead last in the NHL. The second-worst team is the Anaheim Ducks, who sit at 41.31.
One more time, what is happening in these high danger moments, are the Caps scoring and are they getting saves?. I like to look at this number throughout the season and see how goalies are doing. So far so good for Braden Holtby, as the Caps’ unquestioned starter has a .883 high danger save percentage. Among goalies with 200 minutes of ice time, he’s the eighth-best in this stat.
Again though, the shooting hasn’t been as good. Last season, the Capitals were third-best in high danger shooting percentage at 14.37. This season, it has crawled all the way down to 9.09, sixth-worst in the NHL. After finding and reading these stats I think it’s clear that the Capitals are not as good at creating offense. Even worse, they aren’t as good at finishing the offense they do create.
That shouldn’t be too surprising honestly. As we’ve pointed out a couple of times, Washington lost a combined 60 goals from their forward group in losing Marcus Johansson, Justin Williams, and Daniel Winnik, as well as another eight from the defensemen they lost. The offense was never going to be as dangerous as last season.
The good thing is that the Capitals are still averaging three goals a game, very similar to last season. Potentially the bad, is can the Capitals keep that up all season after seeing the numbers we’ve pointed out here?
By CJ Witt