Wayne Gretzky once famously said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. Sage life-advice from the “Great One”. However, that quote seemed to have very little impact on the 2017-2018 Washington Capitals, as they finished in the statistical basement for shots per game in the regular season. Yet the Caps went on to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Washington Capitals finished dead-last in shots/game during the 2017-2018 regular season, by almost a full shot per game. In fact, they spent the entire season 31st in the league in shots per game. This was a season-long point for discussion amongst fans and analysts. It seemed concerning at the time.
How unusual is this? The Capitals are the first team to finish last in shots per game during the regular season and win the Stanley Cup since the 1990 Edmonton Oilers, (and there were only 21 teams in the league at that time). Since 1990, no team finishing worse than 11th in the regular season won the Stanley Cup.
Ok, so shot production was the worst in the league. The Capitals must have been really accurate with the shots they did take, right? Well, not bad, second in the league, but nothing astromical as far as shooting percentage and the record books goes, 8.9%. The league average for the season was 7.8%.
So if shot totals were a league-worst, and shooting percentage was second in the league at a rather pedestrian 8.90%, the Capitals goal differential must have been quite impressive. Nope. The Capitals were ninth in the league in goals for (256), and 16th in the league in goals against (238) for a goal differential of +18. For comparison, the Vegas Knights were 5th in goals for (268) and 8th in goals against (225) for a goal differential of +43. The Tampa Bay Lightning led the league in goals for (290) with the Kings giving up the fewest goals against (202).
So what’s the deal? How did the Capitals win the Metropolitan Dvision and the Stanley Cup in 2018? Part two of our shots analysis will dig deeper on perceived shot quality, high and low danger shots, apecial teams and defensive characteristics of the 2017-2018 Washington Capitals. We will also dig deeper into postseason numbers to see if there was any drastic turn around, or shift from regular-season trends.
By Jon Sorensen