A Close Game With The Rangers Looming: How Do These Teams Stack up When The Score Is Within a Goal

Photo: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

In the Capitals’ last 10 games, exactly one half have gone to at least overtime, and three of those tilts went all the way to a shootout. In the matchups where the Capitals did not need extra time, the games have not been close on the scoreboard.

That brings us to tonight’s game against the New York Rangers; the Capitals are down Nicklas Backstrom, Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway, and Carl Hagelin. Odds are that this Metropolitan Division rivalry will be closer than we expect, so let’s dive into some of the metrics related to how each of these teams perform when the score of the game is within a goal at 5 on 5 play (thanks to Natural Stat Trick):

vs nyr stats

To date, the Caps have been very strong in games where the score is within a goal. When your ‘Corsi For’ and ‘Fenwick For’ percentages are on the plus side of 50%, odds are that you’re controlling play through possession and shot attempts. The Caps are also in the positive when it comes to ‘goals scored’ versus ‘goals allowed’.

Oddly enough, the Rangers have managed to keep an exact 50% goals for percentage so far into this season while the game is within a score. Their ‘expected goals for’ percentage is 43.46%, which is the worst in the NHL to date.

So, taking that into account, the most likely reason for the “over-performance” regarding ‘goals for’ percentage versus ‘expected goals for’ is higher shooting percentages across the league than the ‘expected goals for’ metric is prepared to account for.

Now, let’s see how these metrics stack up against the rest of the NHL (also thanks to Natural Stat Trick):

vs nyr ranks

The important thing to keep an eye on here is that the Caps are without one of their top offensive threats, as well as two of their best penalty killers in Hathaway and Hagelin. To add to that, the last time the Rangers and Caps squared off, the score was not indicative of how close that game was. The Caps ended up prevailing that night 5-2, but a large part of that was a pretty mediocre showing from Henrik Lundqvist statistically – giving up 4 goals on 33 shots, good for a .879 save percentage.

Also in that game, the Caps who are going to miss this game due to injuries and suspensions, accounted for 2 goals and 2 assists, effectively a quarter of the Caps overall offense that night. This game will be closer due to key players being out of the lineup.

We also have some unknowns entering the lineup tonight. Michael Sgarbossa will make his Capitals regular season debut, previously making appearances in Anaheim and Colorado. Beck Malenstyn will make his NHL debut in a nationally televised game in Madison Square Garden. What a way to enter the league!

By Justin Trudel

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#ALLCAPS Garnet Hathaway suspended three games.

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About Justin Trudel

Justin is a lifelong Caps fan, with some of his first memories of the sport watching the team in the USAir Arena and the 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. Now a resident of St. Augustine, FL, Justin watches the Caps from afar. Justin graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science from Towson University, and a Master's of Science in Applied Information Technology from Towson University. Justin is currently a product manager at a non-profit in Jacksonville, FL. Justin enjoys geeking out over roster construction and cap management.
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