NHL East Division Update: Islanders, Penguins Surging; Bruins, Flyers Dipping

The Washington Capitals have now completed 25 of their 56-game abbreviated schedule. As they begin their two game set with the Flyers tonight, we thought it would be a good time to check in on the East Division and see how the teams are doing.

The following is a quick breakdown of the standings and key statistics for each team in the East Division.

All stats are for games completed through last night (3/10/2021). [Data courtesy of NHL.com, Natural Stat Trick and MoneyPuck.]


The Capitals remain two points behind the New York Islanders for first place in the East Division, but have a game in hand (played one less game).

The Capitals have scored the most goals with 84, but the Capitals and Sabres have given up the most goals in the East (80) so far this season. That obviously needs to improve down the home stretch.

Let’s take a quick look at the stats for each team in the division.


The following graph plots the faceoff winning percentages for each of the teams in the East Division.

The Boston Bruins have the best faceoff winning percentage at 56.1%. The Capitals are 5th in the division at 48.3%, but that number has been improving since mid-February and the hiring of Michael Peca.


The Buffalo Sabres have the East’s best power play (orange) to date at a 28.8% conversion rate. The Capitals have the East’s second-best power play at 27.0%. (Click to enlarge)

The Boston Bruins have the East’s best penalty kill (blue) at 88.2%, followed by the Rangers (87.2%) and the Capitals (82.7%). The Bruins have the best special teams index (PP+PK) (red) at 113.2, followed by the Sabres (110.6) and the Capitals at 109.7. The Capitals power play has come down to earth in recent games.


The following graph plots shots for (red), shots against (blue) and the shot differential (SF – SA) (orange) averages per game for each team. (Click to enlarge)

The Bruins have the best shot differential at 5.3 shots per game. The Flyers have the worst shot differential at-3.20 shots less taken per game. The Capitals have the 4th best differential, but have closed the gap over the last month.


The following graph plots the ‘scoring chances for’ percentage (blue), ‘expected goals for’ percentage (orange) and ‘high-danger goals for’ (cyan) percentage for each of the teams in the East Divsion. (Click to enlarge)

The New York Islanders shine in this particular category. They have the highest ‘scoring chances for’ percentage, highest ‘expected goals for’ percentage and highest ‘high-danger goals’ for percentage.

The Capitals have the 4th best ‘scoring chances for’, just behind the Boston Bruins. The Capitals have the third best ‘expected goals for’ percentage and third-best ‘high-danger goals for’ percentage.


The following graph plots the shooting percentage, save percentage and PDO for each team in the East division.

The Capitals are second in the East in shooting percentage at 9.91%, behind only the Flyers who are shooting 11.37%. The Islanders lead in team save percentage at 5v5 at 93.13%. The Capitals are 6th in the East in team save percentage.


The following graph plots the save percentage and goals against average for each of the East Division netminders. (Even strength (5v5) – Minimum 200 minutes of ice time). (Click to enlarge)

The Sabres Linus Ullmark leads all East netminders in 5v5 save percentage at .937%, closely followed by Semyon Varlamov of the Islanders at .935%.

The Islanders’ Igor Shesterkin is 8th in save percentage at .923%, which gives the Islanders a strong goalie tandem with two of the top eight netminders in the division.

Vitek Vanecek is 9th in the East with a 5v5 save percentage of .917%. Ilya Samsonov is 15th in the division with a .889 save percentage, but his numbers are on the rise.


The following graph plots the difference between ‘expected goals against’ and actual goals against at 5v5 for each netminder in the East Division with more than 200 minutes played.

The Islanders Semyon Varlomov has the best differential, followed by Brian Elliott, Scott Wedgewood and Linus Ullmark.


The following graph plots goals saved above average and expected goals against.


The Islanders are posting some pretty impressive numbers so far this season, both offensively and defensively, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that they are atop the East Division.

The Capitals will need to clean-up a few areas of their game, including goals against and expected goals against, but recent trends for the team are showing some improvement in both categories.

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 interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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2 Responses to NHL East Division Update: Islanders, Penguins Surging; Bruins, Flyers Dipping

  1. Anonymous says:

    Looks like Barry Trotz and the Islanders once again. He’s going to torment the Caps forever, isn’t he?

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