The Capitals have been two different teams at the start of the 2020-21 season. After a very successful January in which the team went the entire month without a loss in regulation, the Capitals have begun the month of February going winless in their first three games.
The underlying numbers and advanced statistics have been concerning from the start, although Sunday’s 7-4 loss to the Flyers actually saw an overall improvement in a number of key statistical areas, mainly in the area of shot metrics, scoring chances and expected goals.
However, this season has not only been a tale of two months for the Capitals, but each game has generally been a tale of two halves. The Capitals have done well in the first period and the first half of the second period, but after that, it’s been a different story.
Here are the ‘goals for’ and ‘goals against’ for the Capitals first 12 games, identified in two-minute increments for each period of each game.
The Capitals have a current overall goal differential of 0 – they’ve scored 43 goals and given up 43 goals. But of particular interest is the distribution of all goals within the 60 minutes of each game.
The Capitals have a +10 goal differential in the first 30 minutes of games so far this season, but have a -10 goal differential in the second 30 minutes. That’s a 20-goal differential between halves in just 12 games. What gives?
It’s no secret the Capitals have the oldest average age of any team in the NHL. Could the the ‘old guys’ be getting tired late in games? Unfortunately there are no real concrete metrics publicly available to ascertain a definitive answer. There is simply too much context missing. One can only begin to derive certain statistics that could be related to a team tiring as games progress.
It should be noted that it’s also possible the Capitals are simply less conditioned than other teams just 12 games into the season (with no preseason games). Because of the nature of this season and the sheer number of unknowns, it was expected that teams and players would show up at camp in a wide range of conditions, and each team’s overall conditioning level would be different, based on the sum of their parts (players). Again, this would be difficult to assess considering the lacking of pertinent data and information.
NHL teams have been collecting personal biometric data for players for a couple of seasons now, but that data will never become public, and rightfully so. It’s simply personal medical data that should be kept private.
There are overarching stats that detail specific stats for players, lines and teams that point to issues related to each game itself. The Capitals have also been missing several key players for each game since the second Buffalo series. All valid reasons for why a team is struggling. But why do these metrics fall off at the end of games?
We may never know, unless we start seeing older players benched strictly in favor of more youthful players. Regardless, we will continue to monitor the teams play within each game. In a follow-up post we will also begin to drill down into the advanced stats in smaller time increments to determine if there are any trends during the course of a game.
By Jon Sorensen