Update on Capitals Shooting Statistics after 52 Games: Good or Bad, It’s “Steady As She Goes”

With 52 of 82 games in the books, the Capitals team identity and style of play is starting to take shape. The team was hampered with significant injuries through the first 34 games of the season, but have been really healthy since game #35. (Knocks on wood). With 18 games played with a healthy roster, we wanted to start to take a deeper dive on some of the team stats to date. First up, we bring you our latest installment of our season-long look at the Capitals shooting (and scoring) stats. (Our first report is here, our most recent report is here).

Back in June of 2017, NoVa Caps’ writer George Foussekis penned a piece stating that the Caps must address the “shots on goal issue” during the offseason. (Read it here). As a result, we decided to take a season-long look at just that, the Capitals shooting. Here is our third installment.

Shots For/Against
The Capitals continue to sit at the very bottom of the league in shot attempts per game, 31st in the league, at 28.9 shots per game. The Capitals are 13th in the league in ‘shots against’ at 32.1 per game. The data for games since the Capitals roster was fully healthy – game #35. (Click to enlarge).

For context, the Capitals finished 15th in the league last season at 30.4 shots per game, but gave up the 4th fewest shots per game at 27.8 shots per game. The Pittsburgh Penguins finished first in the league at 33.5 shots per game, but gave up the 4th most shots per game at 32.6 shots per game.

The Capitals shot differential (Delta) also remains high, but has been steady at around -3.00 +/- for the season.

Making them count
Conversely, the Capitals have the best even-strength (5-on-5) shooting percentage in the league at 9.3%, tied with the New York Islanders.

For context, the Capitals finished 2016-2017 regular season with the best shooting percentage at 9.2%, tied with the Minnesota Wild. (The league mean remains steady at around 7.6%). This would lead one to believe that the Capitals can sustain their current percentage, and that there is no impending slump.

Healthy since game #35
Many “experts” surmised in the early part of the season that the Capitals shooting woes were in someway related to early season injuries to key players (Burakovsky, Oshie, Niskanen). The Capitals became a healthy team when T.J. Oshie returned at game #35. (Click to enlarge).

Unfortunately the shooting stats have remained exactly the same, with no signs of improving since game #35. In fact the Capitals have registered a meager nine wins and nine losses since becoming a “healthy team”.

Defensive stance
Probably the most viable reason for the Capitals diminished shooting stats this season is the reconfiguration of the blueline. Losing Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt, and even Kevin Shattenkirk, and replacing them with Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos is resulting (generally) in extended defensive zone times and decreased offensive zone times for the Capitals.

For context, here are the Capitals lines and defensive pairings from the last playoff game (left), and from a random game last January (right). Bottom line, the Capitals replaced a top pair and bottom pair defensive player with two prospects from Hershey. This will take more time to fully take shape. (Click to enlarge)

Shot Locations
The following “heat map” details locations for “Shot Attempts For” and “Shot Attempts Against”, for the first 52 games of the season. Not much to really note from the map other than the fact the Caps scoring changes in the “high danger” area are up, but so are the Capitals opponents “high danger” chances.

Chart from Natural Stat Trick:

Big picture
As we presented to you in our earlier piece, no team has won the cup in the last 8 seasons (data quality degrades after that) with a ‘shots for’ ranking worse than 11th in the league. The last three Stanley Cup Champions were ranked first in the league. (Click to enlarge)

Barring any huge turn around, it’s looking more and more apparent that the Capitals shooting stats are likely to remain the same for the remainder of the regular season.

Chances to improve
Improvements with the youth on defense could begin to show a slight improvement with shots. Also, with the trade deadline approaching, shot improvements could be attained via trade, whether to fortify the defense, or to enhance the third and fourth forward lines. Additionally, the Caps had a strange January, with few games played and many days off, so there still could be additional line improvements with consistent play. Trotz’ laboratory lines have cooled down as well. It’s go time.

Time will tell how far the Caps can go with the league’s lowest shot production.

Capitals Player Shots Stats

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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