Photo: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Capitals and Islanders are halfway through their eight-game series scheduled for the 2020-21 regular season, with the fifth game set for Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum. As was the case in their previous meeting last Thursday, first place in the East Division will once again be on the line.
Last Thursday’s game against the Islanders did not go well, and yes, that’s an understatement. However, with the loss, the Capitals season record is still an impressive 3-1-0 against the Islanders.
In advance of Tuesday night’s game I thought it would be good to take a closer look at the current team stats and a few of the stats from the previous head-to-head games in order to provide a little more context to the series.
The following table provides a few of the basic stats from each of the previous four games of the series.
The Capitals have dominated the special teams battle, going 6 for 10 on the power play. The Islanders have gone 2 for 10.
The face-offs have been basically even through the first four games. The Islanders dominated the dot in the third game of the series, but otherwise it’s been fairly even.
The Capitals have a healthy advantage in special teams, which will be key in the final games of the series. The Capitals have the 6th best power play in the league while the Islanders are 14th in penalty kill. The Islanders have the 20th best power play while the Capitals penalty kill is 8th in the league.
SHOTS AND POSSESSION
Here are the Capitals stats for shot attempts percentage (CF% – blue), high-danger shot attempts percentage (HDCF% – orange), scoring chances for percentage (SCF% – red) and expected goals percentage (xGF% – cyan) for the previous four games:
Since the first meeting on January 26, the Islanders have done well in shots and possession metrics against the Capitals. As you can see in the chart above, the general trend is downward for the Capitals in a number of the categories.
High-danger shot attempts percentage (HDCF%) has been on a steady decline since the first meeting, with a low of 15% coming in the meeting last week.
The scoring chances for percentage (SCF%) has also been on a general downward trend since the first game of the season, and has not been above 50% since the first meeting of the season. The same can be said for overall shot attempts (CF%) and expected goals for percentage (xGF%).
Save Percentage (5v5)
The story lines are a little more encouraging for the Capitals when it comes to goaltending. Samsonov and Vanecek have done a good job against the Islanders so far this season. Unfortunately, they are going head-to-head with two of the NHL’s top netminders this season.
Most notable is the third game of the series on March 16, where Ilya Samsonov did not allow an even strength goal. He would stop 22 of 23 shots faced for a .955 game save percentage. Unfortunately, that was followed by the game last Thursday in which the Capitals lost, 8-4.
East Division Save Percentage (SV%) and Goals Against Average (GAA)
The following graph updates the save percentage (SV%) and goals against average (GAA) for each of the East Division goaltenders at five-on-five. (Click to enlarge).
It’s been a relatively rough week for Capitals goaltending, as both Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov have fallen out of the top quadrant (upper right) and are now above the average goals allowed (GAA) for the division average.
Samsonov has fallen below the average save percentage in the division, while Vitek Vanecek is at the average of .907 at five-on-five. This can be a little misleading, as Samsonov possibly had his best game of the season on Sunday against the Devils in a 5-4 win.
Expected Goals Against/Goals Against Differential & Goals Saved Above Average
The following graph plots the goals against and expected goals against differential (GA – xGA) and the goals saved above average (GSAA) for all East Division goaltenders.
Vitek Vanecek is just outside the top quadrant, and Ilya Samsonov is not far behind. The last game against the Islanders dropped them out of the top quadrant.
Expected Goals Against/Goals Against Differential & Goals Saved Above Average
The following chart presents the same metrics detailed above, but in linear form. (Click to enlarge).
INDIVIDUAL PLAYER PERFORMANCE FOR EACH GAME
Drilling down a little more, lets take a look at the individual game performance for each player on each team for each game of the series. This will allow us to not only see which players have made an impact in each game, but will also allow us to begin to develop a better understanding of how each game in the series has been decided, and allow insight into trends for both teams.
GAME 4 – AT NASSAU COLISEUM (4/1/2021)
Not much (good) to say about the last game. The Islanders dominated on the scoreboard and in the advanced metrics. (Click to enlarge)
Not one Capitals player was above 50% in scoring chances for or expected goals for percentages. Simply put, it was the worst outing by the Capitals so far this season.
Conversely, the Islanders had several players that posted excellent metrics for the game, including Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Matt Barzal, Matt Martin and Nick Leddy. The top six dominated, but the bottom six also posted excellent numbers as well. Ok, enough on this game.
GAME 3 – AT CAPITAL ONE ARENA (3/16/2021)
Most of the Capitals forwards were below 50%, with the exception of Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson, yet the Capitals were able to snatch the victory due to strong netminding by Ilya Samsonov.
Also of note are the numbers for the Capitals fourth line (Hagelin, Dowd and Hathaway), who typically post the best numbers for the Capitals forwards. They were dominated in this game.
Several Islanders had very good games, including Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield. Pelech and Bailey have been strong in all games of the series.
The Islanders top four defenders once again dominated when on the ice, but the Capitals managed to take the 6-3 victory.
GAME 2 – AT CAPITAL ONE ARENA (1/28/2021)
Once again the numbers were relatively poor for the Capitals, but the team managed to pull out the victory. Defensemen Justin Schultz and Zdeno Chara had positive metrics, along with forward Conor Sheary. Nicklas Backstrom was above 50% in expected goals for percentage.
Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Scott Mayfield posted excellent metrics in the second game. This would become a recurring theme in the games that followed, as their lines and defensive pairs have been a consistent challenge for the Capitals.
GAME 1 – AT CAPITAL ONE ARENA (1/26/2021)
The Capitals posted their best metrics in the first game of the series, as several players were at or above 50% in scoring chances for and expected goals.
The Islanders once again held a firm advantage in scoring chances for and expected goals for percentages.
FOUR MORE GAMES
They Islanders have simply dominated the possession and shot metrics in each of the previous four meetings so far this season. It’s even more impressive when you consider the Islanders are playing at the level they have been playing at without the services of their Captain, Anders Lee.
The good news is we are only half way through the series. Expect a few modifications to the Capitals approach in games 5-8.
Outside of the remaining four head-to-head games, the Capitals and Islanders have similar strengths of schedules for other games remaining in the regular season.
More on the remaining schedules for the top teams in the East Division can be found here.
By Jon Sorensen
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The Pens have had their games against the Sabres and Devils backloaded onto the end of the schedule and now they will reap that reward. For the Caps to come out ahead of the Isles given our very tough schedule, we’ll have to beat the Pens in our remaining two games. I can’t see how we’d get past them otherwise. I’m surprised at how good the Pens are this year.
Agree with you Yogi, most (including myself) has the Pens falling off this season. You’re right, the schedule is set up for them nicely, but credit to them, they won the tough games earlier in the season.
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