Familiar Shots: A First Look At The Shooting Stats For The Washington Capitals Through The First Eight Games


Yes, it’s still fairly early in the Capitals season, but as the saying goes, “it gets late, quick”. And that saying stands particularly tall for this shortened 2020-21 season. The Capitals are eight games into their abbreviated 56-game regular season schedule, exactly 1/7th or just over 14% complete.

In this post we’ll take a look at the Capitals shooting and shot metrics for the first eight games of the season in order to set an initial baseline for the metrics to be utilized in follow-up analysis during the remainder of the regular season. If you don’t set a benchmark, you can’t accurately measure in the future.

CAVEATS AND CONTEXT

We’d be remiss if we didn’t detail the specific caveats or context lacking that affects the statistics for the first seventh of the season, most notably:

  • The omission of the Russian players, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Orlov and Samsonov for four of the first eight games of the season due to COVID-19 protocol.
  • Data consistency and relevance lacking due to the fact that Peter Laviolette is still implementing his new system and forward lines and defensive pairs have been continuously reconfigured as he learns more about his new players.

Having said that, as previously noted this post will provide an early look at the Capitals offense and establish a baseline for follow-up shooting and shot analysis.


SHOTS
Capitals shooting stats through the first eight games (Click to enlarge)

Shooting Percentage
The Capitals are shooting 12.64% through the first eight games of the season. That’s currently the highest shooting percentage in the NHL. (A good shooting percentage for a season is 8-9%). The Flyers (12.24%), Canucks (12.00%), Blues (11.84%) and Canadiens (11.52%) round out the top five team shooting percentages in the NHL.

Shot Attempts
The Capitals have attempted 324 shots (9th most in league) while their opponents have attempted 344 shots (also 9th most in the league) through the first eight games of the season, for a CF48.50%.

The Capitals are averaging 27.6 shots per game, which is 26th in the league while the Capitals opponents are shooting 31.6 shots per game, which is the 11th most in the NHL. That’s a shot deficit of four shots per game.

This may seem concerning and it ultimately could be, but remember that the Capitals finished dead-last in shot attempts per game for the 2017-18 season which also included the team winning their first Stanley Cup.

Note that the table above also includes the final regular season shooting percentage for each of the Stanley Cup winners dating back to 2010 (The first year the League began tracking shot attempts per game). It should also be noted that while the Capitals proved shot attempts per game doesn’t necessarily directly correlate to a Stanley Cup winner, many of the Championship teams did finish first or in the top 10 in shot attempts per game since 1990.

Shot Locations
Its not just about firing the puck at the net. Just like real estate, one of the most important factors of a shot characteristic is “location”. The following chart (courtesy of ChartingHockey.ca) identifies each and every shot location the Capitals attempted through the first eight games of the season. [Click to enlarge]

EXPECTED GOALS
“Expected Goals” stats include shot location and probability (percentage) chances of each shot finding the back of the net. The Capitals have an expected goals ‘for’ (xGF) of 11.62, which ranks 18th in the league. They have an expected goals ‘against’ (xGA) of 12.96, which also ranks 18th in the league. [Click to enlarge]

The Capitals have a resultant expected ‘goals for’ percentage (xGF%) of 47.28%, which ranks 23rd in the league.

High-Danger Shots
The Capitals have generated 51 high danger shots (for) while their opponents have generated 61 high danger shots (against) for a HDCF% of 45.54%. That ranks 25th in the NHL and could be a concern going forward.

ANALYSIS

Shooting
The Capitals have several areas of concern when it comes to shooting the puck, or more specifically concerns with the team defense. The deficit in shot attempts and high danger chances are stats to keep an eye on.

The Capitals fall in the bottom half of the league in ‘expected goals ‘for’ and ‘high danger shots for’ percentage. Those stats could be a concern for the Capitals moving forward.

PDO
PDO (called SPSV% by the NHL) is the summation of a team’s shooting percentage and save percentage multiplied by 100. The sum is also used separately to see if a team should expect a regression or improvement in the coming games.

The combined SPSV% of all 31 NHL teams will always equal 100%, therefor values over 100 likely indicate “lucky” teams or teams that will likely see a regression in the future.

The Capitals currently have a PDO of 105.2, the highest value in the league. That would indicate that a regression is on the horizon for the Capitals.

The advanced stats for Capitals shooting through the first eight games indicates a couple areas of concern, and those stats will be closely monitored through the next eight games. We will also begin to break down players associated with the key metrics.

We could and should see an improvement when the Russians return to the lineup, but the bottom line for today is the Washington Capitals have the most points in the NHL right now and are atop the East Division. That stat trumps all stats….for now.

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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