Prior to yesterday’s 2-1 overtime win against the New Jersey Devils, the Capitals were struggling defensively, giving up 17 goals against over three games, a concerning 5.66 goals against per game average.
That’s not exactly winning hockey and resulted in the Capitals going 1-2-0 in that stretch. That single win against the New York Rangers was nearly squandered in the third period, where the Capitals allowed four third period goals.
The Capitals were giving up uncharacteristically bad chances against in those games, especially in the second game against the Rangers last week. The Capitals surely responded well against the Devils Friday night after an 8-4 shellacking by the New York Islanders on Thursday. This is something to keep an eye on as the regular season winds down and the postseason approaches.
In this piece, we’ll take a look at the performance of the Capitals’ six regular defensemen: John Carlson, Brenden Dillon, Dmitry Orlov, Justin Schultz, Zdeno Chara, and Nick Jensen.
GOALS FOR AND EXPECTED GOALS FOR PERCENTAGE
First up, let’s take a look at how the defensemen have fared in the last five games during 5 on 5 play, and look at their goals for percentage versus their expected goals for percentage. This helps us look at the data behind the overall play, such as if the Capitals are suppressing chances against, resulting in lower expected goals against.
The concerning part about the above graphic is that not a single Capitals defenseman is posting a 50% or above expected goals for percentage over the past five games. Why is this concerning? This means that the Capitals are not controlling the pace of play, and their opponents are getting more quality scoring chances against the Capitals than vice versa.
The interesting piece here is that the Capitals have three defensemen at or above the 50% mark for actual goals for percentage, which is promising. That being said, the Caps are also at the top of the league in goals scored during 5 on 5 play (93 goals), so there’s definitely some padding there.
The dip in the Capitals defensemen’s play is even more apparent when you compare it to their performance in the same metrics prior to the last five games:
This is where it really gets interesting. Five of the six regular Capitals defensemen have posted above 50% in their expected goals for percentage figure, and Dillon isn’t trailing too far behind there either.
All six Capitals defensemen have extremely strong actual goals for percentages in the time span prior to the last five games. Like mentioned above, these are likely a bit padded because the Capitals have the best 5 on 5 goal scoring numbers in the league.
HIGH-DANGER SHOTS AND GOALS FOR
Now, let’s take a look at the defensemen’s performance in generating and suppressing high danger chances over the past five games:
These marks aren’t good. The Capitals are struggling in suppressing high danger chances against, which pushes their high danger chances for percentage down under the 50% mark.
On top of that, the Capitals are getting routinely outscored in high danger goals. These goals are particularly apparent in the games against the Rangers over the past week, such as Artemi Panarin’s breakaway goal that really iced the game for the Rangers.
Let’s take a look at how the Capitals’ high danger performance has stacked up against their season totals prior to the last five:
The games leading up to the last five games are indicated as pHDCF% and pHDGF% above.
Every single regular defenseman has been vastly underperforming their season rates at HDGF%. The scariest drop off is Zdeno Chara’s, going from a 65.22 HDGF% to a 25 HDGF%.
Ultimately, the main takeaway here is: yes the last five games have not been the best defensively. It’s also a considerably smaller sample size than outside the past five games. The concerning piece would be if the more recent play becomes more of a trend than an outlier.
By Justin Trudel