Capitals Forwards: Performance Analysis After 31 Games

With the Capitals now enjoying a four-day break before they resume their second half of the 2020-21 regular season, it’s a good time to get caught-up on a few of the story lines from the first half of season. We begin today with an update on the performance of the Capitals forwards during the first 31 games of the season.

PROCESS

The analysis, similar to our defensemen performance analysis, will analyze and compare each of the Capitals forwards using a number of statistical metrics, including:

  • Goals/Assists/Points
  • Shots/Shooting Percentage
  • Giveaways/Takeaways
  • Blocks/Hits
  • Penalties
  • Offensive Zone Starts
  • Possession

The analysis will include all Capitals forwards with a minimum of six games played, or 50 minutes of ice time. All stats are even-strength (5v5) unless otherwise noted.

[Data utilized in this assessment is courtesy of NatStatTrick, NHL.com and MoneyPuck.]


GOALS/ASSISTS/POINTS

We begin with basic goals, assists and total points for each of the Capitals forwards, which are presented in the graph below. (Click to enlarge).

Alex Ovechkin leads the team in goals (14) and is second on the team in total points (25). Nicklas Backstrom leads the team in assists (22), in total points (34) and is second on the team in goals (12). Jakub Vrana is third on the team in goals (10) and total points (21). T.J. Oshie is third in assists (13) and fifth on the team in total points (20). Tom Wilson is fifth in total points (18).

Points Per Game

The following graph simply plots the points per game average for each of the Capitals forwards after 31 games. (Click to enlarge).

Nicklas Backstrom has the highest average points per game and is the only forward above a point per game at 1.10 points per game. Alex Ovechkin is second at .93 points per game, followed by Tom Wilson at 0.82 and Jakub Vrana (.70) points per game.


SHOTS/SHOOTING PERCENTAGE

The following graph simply plots the total shots and shooting percentage for each of the Capitals forwards. (Click to enlarge).

To no surprise, Alex Ovechkin leads all forwards in total shots (110), nearly double that of  Jakub Vrana, who is second (60), followed by T.J. Oshie (55) and Nicklas Backstrom (54).

Daniel Sprong leads all forwards in shooting percentage (25.0%), followed by Nicklas Backstrom (22.2%) and Tom Wilson (21.2%).


GIVEAWAYS/TAKEAWAYS

The following graph plots the difference between takeaways and giveaways for each of the Capitals forwards. (TkA – GvA).

Nic Dowd leads all forwards with a +15 differential, followed by Nicklas Backstrom (+7), Tom Wilson (+4) and Conor Sheary (+3). Carl Hagelin (2) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (2) are the only other Capitals forwards with a positive differential.

Daniel Sprong has the worst differential of all forwards, turning the puck over 6 more times than he has stolen the puck.

Takeaways/60 and Giveaways/60 Differential

The following graph refines the takeaway/giveaway stats presented above by including time on ice. The numbers are derived from each players differential (above) divided by time on ice ((TkA – GvA)/60.)

Nic Dowd averages nearly two more takeaways per 60 at 1.95. Nicklas Backstrom averages .71 positive differential per 60, followed by Tom Wilson at .63 takeaways per 60.


BLOCKS/HITS

We combined blocked shots per 60 and hits per 60 for each of the forwards, which are represented in the next graph.

Garnet Hathaway leads all Capitals forwards in hits per 60 minutes at 14.37. Tom Wilson is second with 11.34 hits per 60, followed by Alex Ovechkin (7.06), Richard Panik (7.41) and Nic Dowd (6.38).

Nic Dowd leads all forwards in blocked shots with 3.39 blocks per 60. Richard Panik is second (2.41) followed by Garnet Hathaway (2.18) and T.J. Oshie (2.05).


PENALTIES

The first graph plots the net penalties for each forward. Net penalties is simply the difference in penalties drawn and penalties taken.

Alex Ovechkin, Carl Hagelin and Nicklas Backstrom are the only Capitals forwards with a positive differential. All three players have drawn two more penalties than they have taken.

Net Penalties/60

The next graph plots the net penalties per 60 minutes of ice time. In other words it’s the penalties drawn minus the penalties taken divided by time on ice.

Carl Hagelin takes this evaluation category with a positive differential of .27 penalties drawn per 60 minutes of ice time. Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin are the only other forwards with positive values.

Daniel Sprong, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jakub Vrana, T.J. Oshie and Tom Wilson are even. Garnet Hathaway and Nic Dowd have the biggest negative differential, followed by Conor Sheary.


OFFENSIVE ZONES STARTS

The offense I’ve zone starts metric is an important stat for use in any analysis. It’s simply the percentage of shifts started in the offensive zone. The metric provides a good indication as to the players role on a team, and can be used to gauge the overall value of other related stats.

For example, if a player has an xGF% below 50%, but also has an offensive zone start below 50%, it’s most likely the player has a defensive or checking role on the team. Thus, a lower xGF% is not as critical. Conversely, if a player has a high offensive zone start percentage, but has an xGF% below 50%, it’s likely the player is underperforming in the expected goals category.

The following graph plots the offensive zone start percentages for each of the Capitals forwards.

The graph shows coach Laviolette’s use of each player and indicates the players designated role on the team. Top six players (Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Vrana, Backstrom, Oshie and Wilson) have the highest percentage of shifts starting in the offensive zone. Bottom six players (Sheary, Eller, Panik, Hagelin, Dowd and Hathaway) have the lowest percentage of shifts starting in the offensive zone.

Daniel Sprong is an interesting case, as his defensive issues have essentially relegated him to a top six offensive zone starts percentage, resulting in an offensive-only deployment role, and why he has been the odd-man out when a full roster is available. It is also big part of the reason why he has been benched in favor of Conor Sheary.

The offensive zone starts stat will be included in the following section to provide a reference marker for each player.


POSSESSION METRICS

The first possession metrics graph plots the ‘shots for’ percentage (CF%), High-Danger Shots For (HDCF%) and includes offensive zone start percentages for reference to how each player is deployed by coach Laviolette. (Click to enlarge).

Richard Panik has the highest CF% at 53.77% and one of the lower offensive zone start percentages at 58.54%. Evgeny Kuznetsov has the second highest CF% at 53.71%, but has the advantage of having the highest offensive zone (shift) start percentage at 87.63%.

Lars Eller scores well in this category with both CF% (52.38%) and HDCF% (55.56%) above 50%, but has one of the lower offensive zone start percentages among all Capitals forwards.

Kudos to Carl Hagelin. He has the highest HDCF% at 56.57% with the the third lowest offensive zone start percentage at 21.64%. Evgeny Kuznetsov has the second highest HDCF% at 55.91%, but again, he has the best chances for high-danger shots because he almost exclusively starts a shift in the offensive zone.

Richard Panik also scores well in high-danger scoring chances percentage at 53.13%, again, with one of the lower offensive zone start percentages.

Scoring Chances For/Expected Goals Percentages

The following graph plots the ‘scoring chances for’ (SCF%) and ‘expected goals for’ (xGF%) percentages for each of the Capitals forwards. The graph also includes offensive zone start percentages to provide a frame of reference for each player. (Click to enlarge)

Players standing out in this evaluation category include the fourth line of Carl Hagelin, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway, who all have scoring chances and expected goals percentages above 50%, but have offensive zone start percentages well below 50%.

Conor Sheary, Lars Eller and Richard Panik are a very close second. Their ‘scoring chances for’ and ‘expected goals for’ percentages are also above 50% with offensive zone starts around 50%.


AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME

The Capitals will have a more challenging second half of the season, as the they have had one of the easier strength of schedules in the first half of the season.

In addition, April will see the Capitals play a whopping 16 games in the month, which will include two back-to back sets that will require travel after the first game of the set. The Capitals will have more than one consecutive day-off just once during the entire month.

[Data utilized in this assessment is courtesy of NatStatTrick, NHL.com and MoneyPuck.]

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 Civil 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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