While their record says the team was fairly successful in January, taking home at least a point in each of the nine games, and says that February has been much the opposite, losing the first four games of the month, key statistics for the Washington Capitals over the month of February have shown solid improvement.
If you consider the following key metrics, the demarcation point for improvement is easily identified, beginning with the Bruins game on February 1. Let’s take a look.
- Shot Attempts (CF%)
- Expected Goals For (xGF%)
- Scoring Chances For (SCF%)
- High-Danger Shots For (HDCF%)
The following is the raw data for the Capitals season to date, with the February improvement highlighted in yellow. [Click to enlarge].
Let’s break it down and dig deeper on each of the key metrics identified above.
Shot Attempts (CF%)
Following the Boston game on February 1, the Capitals shot attempts per game began to consistently outnumber the opposing team’s shot attempts for each and every game in the month so far. The numbers indicate consistently improved possession metrics for the Capitals. [Click to enlarge].
Expected Goals (xGF%)
The percentage of ‘Expected goals for’ also shows consistent improvement in the month of February, beginning with the Rangers game on February 4. In January the team recorded an xGF% above 50 percent in just two games. Since the Bruins game on February 1, it’s been the opposite, with the team recording an xGF% above 50 percent in every game but two. [Click to enlarge].
Scoring Chances For (SCF%)
Another key statistic is scoring chances and the percentage of scoring chances for the Capitals in each game. The team has consistently recorded a SCF% above 50 percent in the month of February, meaning the Capitals scoring chances have been greater than the opposition’s scoring chances in each game since the Bruins game on February 1. [Click to enlarge].
High-Danger Shots For (HDCF%)
High-danger shots are an indication of how well a team is working the puck down low. Again, the Capitals have shown solid improvement since the beginning of February. In January the team recorded an HDCF% above 50 percent in just two games. In February they’ve recorded a HDCF% below 50% on just two occasions. [Click to enlarge].
Discussion and Context
In January the team dealt with COVID-related absences from several key players, including Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ilya Samsonov, Dmitry Orlov and dealt with injuries to Lars Eller and Justin Schultz, which made it challenging for new Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette to implement and practice his new system. Although the team played through the adversity and did well recording at least a point in each game, the team’s underlying stats for January were not very good.
Back on February 8th following a 7-4 loss to the Flyers, their third consecutive loss, coach Laviolette echoed much the same, saying that while the final results were not desirable, he is seeing improvement in his team.
“I think that the process is important right now. I think how we play the game and the eye ball test and the numbers and everything that backs up a game, I think that it’s important,” said Laviolette.
“I looked at the last couple of games, and while they’re not perfect, there are things that I see that I like, there are things that we are working on, for me, that are taking positive steps in the right direction. We lost the game last night and yet we won game one (Buffalo) and I liked last night better than I liked game one.”
One could argue the February improvement is against an easier strength of schedule. However, if you compare similar series, (Pittsburgh, Buffalo) the improvement can also be seen.
The Capitals are now alone in second place of the East Divsion, three points behind the Boston Bruins. Putting recent results aside, the improvement in the aforementioned metrics bodes well for the Capitals over the longer term.
By Jon Sorensen