After the Capitals roared out to a nine game points streak and a 6-0-3 record, the team has fallen in regulation the last three games. Through the first 12 games played so far this season, the Capitals now sit in third place in the MassMutual East Division, five points back from the first place Boston Bruins.
Although the Capitals have missed high impact contributors in most of their games this season, the Capitals have fared reasonably well. Each member of the de facto top six forwards, except for Nicklas Backstrom, have missed games this season.
That being said, there’s a considerable difference in performance from the first six games versus the last six games. Although the difference in their overall record isn’t much different (3-0-3 in first six, 3-3-0 in last six), the Caps are currently 4-4-3 in their last 10 games.
In this piece, we’ll examine a few key statistics, essentially looking at actual performance versus expected performance at the team level during five on five play. Let’s take a look at the graphic below (statistics courtesy of Natural Stat Trick)
Through the first six games of the season, the Caps took a 61.54% share of goals scored during five on five play, ultimately meaning they were outscoring their competition by a decent margin. Conversely, through the last six games, the Capitals have fallen quite short of that mark, scoring only 45.45% of the goals at five on five play. This is a huge and simple difference.
One of the most notable trends here is the difference in ‘high danger chances for’ and ‘high danger goals for’. Interestingly enough, the Capitals weren’t very good at suppressing ‘high danger chances against’ in the first six games, but have done a much better job at producing more high danger chances than allowed in the last six.
It has been a trend over the last handful of seasons where the Capitals tend to leak oil in regards to high danger chance suppression. From the 2017-18 season to the 2019-20 season, the Capitals gave up the third most ‘high danger chances against’ (2272), and had the third worst ‘high danger chances for’ percentage (46.45%). Obviously, the Capitals have had success recently, but this is certainly a weak point. Since there have been three different coaches leading the Capitals since the 2017-18 season, this could be a result of the personnel on the ice.
The Capitals High Danger Save Percentage (HDSV%) dropped by nearly eight points from the first six games to the last six games. In 50 high danger chances against, only seven high danger goals resulted in the first six games. In the last six games, eight high danger goals occurred on 44 high danger chances. In the grand scheme of things, this is only one more goal given up.
Additionally, the ‘expected goals for’ percentage has always been an interesting factor for the Capitals. Historically, the Capitals have always outperformed their expected goals metric. The most interesting thing here is that the trend has continued for the Capitals, even with a 3-3-0 record. The Caps have scored 15 goals during five on five play in the last six contests, and expected goals over the same period came in at 10.53.
Ultimately, we can expect some variation here due to the lack of top-end talent in the lineup due to injury or COVID-19 protocol. As those regulars return to the lineup, as we can expect for Sunday’s matinee matchup against the Penguins, we should see an uptick in offensive output, and hopefully high danger chance suppression.
By Justin Trudel