Capitals @ Islanders – Inside The Numbers: The Student Outlasts the Teacher

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Image

We’ve seen this act before. In the second game of a back-to-back set, come out of the gates hard and fast, try to get the game’s first goal, then settle back in the defensive zone, pack it in tight, block shots and ride it out. Barry Trotz has mastered this plan to perfection, going 9-1-1 in the second game of back-to-backs so far this season. But last night against the Capitals, Todd Reirden’s game plan and the offensive barrage ultimately won-out. Here’s how the numbers looked.


There may be no better graphic that illustrates Barry Trotz’ strategy for the second game of a back-to-back. For those unfamiliar with the graph below, it represents shot attempt differential. The numbers up the side of the graph represents how many more shot attempts a team has made in the game. It simply states that the Islanders had more shot attempts (not shots on goal) for the first 3-4 minutes of the game, and registered a goal at 2:43. (represented with blue dot). At the time of the Islanders goal, they had three more shot attempts than the Capitals.

Then the Islanders packed the defensive zone, and only looked for chances on the turnover. By the end of the second period, the Capitals led in shot attempts 49-19, but the score remained 1-0, Islanders. Credit to the Capitals, they didn’t let it frustrate them.


The lack of results from the shot barrage they unleashed did not frustrate the Capitals, for Reirden had his own plan to counter the much anticipated, but tried-and-true Trotz scheme. They stayed with the plan. The Capitals, having rested for the last two days, were going to have longer shifts from the start of the game, in an attempt to wear the Islanders out. The question would be, could they find a way to penetrate the dense Islanders defense and push the puck across the goal line. Jakub Vrana would answer that question 3:26 into the final period.

In the end, the Capitals had 65 shot attempts to the Islanders 30. The Islanders had 25 blocked shots to the Capitals 11. The Capitals game plan bested Barry and the Islanders.

Any potential future playoff series with the Islanders won’t be flashy, but the hitting and physical nature of the Capitals-Islanders games so far this season might make up for it. It certainly would be interesting to see how the student battles the teacher.

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 interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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3 Responses to Capitals @ Islanders – Inside The Numbers: The Student Outlasts the Teacher

  1. Day One Caps Fan says:

    2017-18 Caps were IMMENSELY better across the board with the introduction of #6 into the lineup. The 2018-19 Caps are DRAMATICALLY better with #3 inserted into the lineup. [Thanks for the excellent NYI-vs-WAS analysis, Jon!]

  2. Pingback: Capitals at Rangers – Inside The Numbers: King Of The Hill, Top Of The Heap | NoVa Caps

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