Postgame Analytics: Despite Strong Start, Capitals Turn in Clunker and Lose Game 2, 5-2

Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

The Capitals rushed out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first period with Alex Ovechkin scoring his first of the playoffs 56 seconds in, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Islanders’ stifling forecheck and timely scoring. The Capitals might have started strong, but whimpered through the rest of the game, allowing the Islanders to capture all of the momentum.

Here’s a breakdown of some head-to-head advanced analytics, statistics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick:

game 2 h2h

Long story short, the Islanders controlled every aspect of Game 2. All three of the Islanders’ even strength goals came on high danger chances that were caused by the Islanders forecheck or counterattack system.

Braden Holtby’s save percentage at even strength was only .885, but he performed stronger than that, making nine high danger saves out of 12 shots against. This is a huge contributor to the ‘expected goals for’ percentage being heavily in the Islanders’ favor. We saw at the end of the third period just how suffocating the Islanders forecheck can be.

The Capitals won’t have much of a chance in this series if they’re chasing a lead late in games against the Islanders. The Caps were one of the best teams at making comebacks late in games in the regular season, but the Islanders are making all the right plays and winning the puck battles.

The Islanders are not a strong possession team based on their regular season performance, posting a Corsi For Percentage of 46.45% and a Fenwick For Percentage of 46.67, which were in the basement of the NHL for those metrics. The Capitals’ inability to win puck battles and generate significant scoring chances is what put them in a 2-0 hole in this series.

Here are some interesting graphics to put these all in perspective, courtesy of Money Puck:

d2w gm2

This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who watched this game. The Islanders controlled a large majority of this game, and Holtby’s performance made this game look better than it probably should have been.

There’s just nothing really to take away from this game positively for the Capitals, other than Holtby continuing to play at a high level.

xg all situations game 2

This graphic, showing expected goals in all situations, shows how quickly the Islanders regrouped after giving up a quick goal in the first to take complete control of the game.

After the 10 minute mark of the first period, the Capitals took their foot off of the pedal (as Eller mentioned in his intermission interview after the first), and the Islanders took all positive momentum from the Caps, especially after a quick goal following Ovechkin’s second of the game to tie the game at two. It was just never close after the Islanders took a 3-2 lead.

xg by player game 2

The one bright spot coming out of this game is that Ovechkin was able to finally light the lamp in the playoffs. The biggest issue here is that the Capitals are just not doing enough to create high danger chances, and the effect of that is on the scoreboard.

Jakub Vrana needs to play more like he did at the beginning of the third period after he was benched for most of the second period. The Capitals’ scoring depth has had considerable issues making an impact in this series so far, whereas the Islanders are getting goals from fourth liners Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck. We’ve seen in the past how much bottom six goals can sway games and series in the playoffs, and the Capitals need more of that.

By Justin Trudel

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. Justin enjoys geeking out over advanced analytics, roster construction, and cap management.
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3 Responses to Postgame Analytics: Despite Strong Start, Capitals Turn in Clunker and Lose Game 2, 5-2

  1. Jon Sorensen says:

    Loosely following other teams social accounts, it was clear teams like CBJ, Isles, hit the ground running hard on day one. Torts was running scrimmages from day one. (We has some internal debate if he was actually breaking rules). I think we are seeing some of this now.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Team has no offense – they need big changes.

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