Capital Trends: Statistical Trends For The Washington Capitals Through The First 31 Games Of The Season

Photo: AP/Nick Wass

In this post we will review rolling statistical averages for the Capitals for the first 31 games of the season. (All stats are presented at even strength (5.5) and courtesy of Natural Stat Trick).

By tracking and logging stats after each and every game, we can begin to attain a better understanding for the overarching dynamics of the season, and begin to define statistical low points and turning points in the season, and when they occurred.

As you will see in the following visualization’s, January was a poor month, statistically, for the Capitals, even though they took home at least one point in each and every game that month. Laviolette would later say that he liked the numbers of his team during a four-game losing streak at the beginning of February, better than he liked what he saw in January. The following stats will back him up on that.

In February, we start to see a team begin to find its way, as early season absences return and Laviolette’s new system begins to take hold, with February 1 being a clearly definable turning point. The team began the month losing four-straight games, but the underlying numbers were improving, and have done so ever since.

March shows a team beginning to hit it’s higher gears (potential), and has been by far the Capitals best month, statistically, so far. Let’s take a look.

POINTS PERCENTAGE

The following graph plots the Capitals rolling points percentage throughout the first 31 games of the season. (Click to enlarge).

The Capitals lowest points percentage came on February 14 following a 6-3 loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh (.577). Since that game the team’s winning percentage has been trending up at a very healthy clip.

SHOTS FOR PERCENTAGE (CF%)

The following graph simply plots the Capitals rolling shot attempts percentage (CF%) for the first 31 games of the season. (Click to enlarge).

As you can see, the Capitals got off to a poor start in January, with regards to shot attempts, and they have been making up the difference ever since, starting on February 1. You will see in several of the trends graphs that are presented later in this post that February 1 is a key demarcation point for the Capitals.

SHOOTING PERCENTAGE

The following graph presents the team’s rolling shooting percentage for the first 31 games of the season. Following a hot start, the team’s shooting percentage has dropped, as expected, until it has settled into a more representative (realistic) percentage for the team. (Click to enlarge).

The Capitals have been hovering around 10.5 to 11% over the last month or so, with the league average currently sitting at 8.18% (March 22).

This is a bit surprising, as the Laviolette system encourages taking more shots in comparison to the Trotz/Reirden administration, which wanted higher quality shots rather than quantity. (A reminder that the Capitals finished last in shot attempts the year they won the Stanley Cup.) It will be interesting to see how Laviolette’s system pans out over time.

GOALS FOR PERCENTAGE (GF%)

The following graph plots the rolling ‘goals for’ percentages for the first 31 games of the season. The statistic is essentially the total goals scored by the Capitals divided by the goals scored by the Capitals and the total goals they have given up. GF/(GF+GA). (Click to enlarge).

The Capitals have been above 50% all season, but experienced a dip at the beginning of February, and were a +1 in goal differential on February 14. Since that game, the Capitals have been on a consistent general upward trend.

SCORING CHANCES FOR PERCENTAGES (SCF%) PER GAME

The following graph differs from the previous graphs, as it plots the scoring chances for percentages from each and every game, rather than present a rolling average of the season.
(Click to enlarge).

As you can see, the Capitals are recording greater than 50% ‘scoring chances for’ ever since a low point on February 1. Since that date, you can see the trend has been above 50% and reaching new season highs on a consistent basis. The Capitals have been greater than 50% in 14 games and less than 50% in just six games, since February 1.

The team actually recorded one lower scoring chances for recently against the Islanders on March 16, but won the game 3-1.

EXPECTED GOALS FOR PERCENTAGES (xGF%)

The following graph plots the Capitals rolling expected goals for percentage for the first 31 games of the season. (Click to enlarge).

The Capitals began consistent improvement in ‘expected goals for’ percentage on February 1, which continued throughout the month of February. On February 28 they crossed over the 50% threshold and have remained there ever since.

HIGH-DANGER GOALS FOR PERCENTAGE (HDGF%)

The next graph plots the rolling ‘high-danger goals for’ percentages for the first 31 games of the season. This stat will gain more meaning as the team approaches postseason play.

As with several of the previous stats presented, there is a bottoming out in early February, followed by an upward trend, ever since.

GOALS FOR AND EXPECTED GOALS FOR – DIFFERENTIAL (GF-XGF)

The following graph plots the rolling difference in ‘goals for’ and ‘expected goals for’ for the first 31 games of the season..

The Capitals have had a positive differential for the first 31 games, and have been increasing the differential since February 21. There was a flattening of the curve from February 1 to February 21.

EXPECTED GOALS AGAINST AND GOALS AGAINST – DIFFERENTIAL (XGA – GA)

The next graph plots the Capitals rolling differential in goals allowed and expected goals allowed for the first 31 games of the season.

The Capitals have been allowing more goals than expected goals for most of the season with the exception of January 31 when they briefly climbed into the positive differential range. There has been a recent closing of the differential prior to the last game against the Rangers.

SAVE PERCENTAGE (S%)

The following graph plots the team’s rolling save percentage at even strength (5v5) for the first 31 games of the season.

As with many of the previous statistical categories, the teams goaltender save percentage bottomed out in early February.  Since then it has shown a general upward trend over time.


The first 31 games of the season can be broken down into three specific stages. First was the “Introductory and Exploratory” stage, which ran from opening night until early February. This stage saw the team implement Laviolette’s new system, experiment with new lines every day and deal with the loss of players due to COIVD-19 protocols.

The second stage was the “Adjust and Execute” stage which saw the team bottom out, statistically, and begin the gain momentum with Laviolette’s new system and consistent lineups. This ran from February 1 to February 14, according to the statistics.

Segment three has been the “Execute and Repeat” stage, which has seen the team begin to thrive under Laviolette’s new system and the relatively consistent lineup. I say relative, because if you factor in injuries and suspensions, the Capitals have had their “ideal” lineup for only six of the 31 games so far this season.

The numbers are encouraging, as they show a team starting to gel and gain steam. They will need to have all their ducks in a row when April rolls around, as the team will play 16 games against a tougher strength of schedule.

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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3 Responses to Capital Trends: Statistical Trends For The Washington Capitals Through The First 31 Games Of The Season

  1. Pingback: Tuesday Caps Clips: Goalie-palooza

  2. Anonymous says:

    The caps aren’t winning a cup anytime soon

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