Capital Trends: Statistical Trends For The Washington Capitals Through The First 40 Games Of The Season

Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

This post will review a number of key rolling statistical averages for the first 40 games of the Capitals season, and detail shifts in the team’s performance over the course of the season. The post builds upon the two previous trend assessments evaluated at 17 games and 31 games.  (All stats are presented at even strength (5.5) and courtesy of Natural Stat Trick).

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.

In February, we start to see a the Capitals begin to find their 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 arrival of March shows a team beginning to hit their stride, and was by far the Capitals best month, statistically, although the strength of schedule was weaker. An overall downward trend began at the end of the month.

The start of April has seen the Capitals go an underwhelming 2-3, although the strength of schedule has stepped up significantly. The days of drubbing the Devils are over (8-0), and the Capitals have just two games remaining with the Sabres.

So let’s take a look at the rolling trends for the season to date.


POINTS PERCENTAGE

The following graph plots the Capitals’ rolling points percentage throughout the first 40 games of the season. (Click to enlarge).

The Capitals found their stride in early February, with an overall increase in points percentage continuing through late March. A downward trend begins at the end of March, more specifically on March 26, which you will see repeated in a number of the following visualizations.

SHOTS FOR PERCENTAGE (CF%)

The following graph plots the Capitals rolling shot attempts for percentage (CF%) for the first 40 games of the season. The Corsi metric can be useful for providing an indication of the time a team spends in the offensive zone, versus time spent in their defensive zone.  (Click to enlarge).

While the Capitals overall Corsi For percentage has been below 50% for the entire season, primarily due to a relatively poor start, the team has been trending upwards since late January, getting close to 50% towards the beginning of March.

The Capitals have wobbled a bit since March 6th (the season high point), with a clear downward trend occurring in the last three games.This is likely due to the increased strength of schedule, although the sample size is too small to definitively pinpoint specific causes.

SHOOTING PERCENTAGE

The following graph presents the team’s rolling shooting percentage for the first 40 games of the season. (Click to enlarge).

Following a hot start, the team’s shooting percentage dropped, as expected, until it settled into a more realistic percentage at around 10 to 11%.

Following a month of hovering around 10 to 11%, and a high-point of 11.61% on March 28, the Capitals shooting percentage has dropped more than a point over the last two weeks.

GOALS FOR PERCENTAGE (GF%)

The following graph plots the rolling ‘goals for’ percentages for the first 40 games of the season. ((GF/(GF+GA)). (Click to enlarge).

The Capitals goals for percentage has dropped nearly 5% since March 28. This is more indicative of the team’s poor performance in other key metrics, as detailed herein.

EXPECTED GOALS FOR PERCENTAGES (xGF%)

The following graph plots the Capitals rolling expected goals for percentage for the first 40 games of the season. (Click to enlarge).

The Capitals goals for percentage has dropped below 50% for the first time since late February. After a consistent upward trend since late January, the goals for percentage has trended downwards since March 30.

HIGH-DANGER GOALS FOR PERCENTAGE (HDGF%)

The next graph plots the rolling ‘high-danger goals for’ percentages for the first 40 games of the season. (This stat will gain more meaning as the team approaches postseason play).

After a dip below 50% in February, the Capitals high-danger goals for percentage trended upwards for most of March, before declining at the end of the month. Again, a weaker strength of schedule in March and the arrival of stronger competition in April is partially responsible for the March rise and April dip.

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 40 games of the season.

The goals for differential has shown a steady increase since the start of the season, with a two-game dip at the beginning of April. It should be noted that the Capitals have had three previous two-game dips over the course of the season. Really no concern, here.

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 40 games of the season. (xGA – GA).

This differential has been trending downward since peaking on January 28. There has been a slight upward tick at the beginning of April, but the differential (overall) is essentially at a season low.

SAVE PERCENTAGE (SV%)

The following graph plots the team’s rolling save percentage at even strength (5v5) for the first 40 games of the season.

 

The Capitals team save percentage has also begun a downward trend, beginning on March 26, although recent strong performances by Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov have buoyed the stat somewhat in recent games.


THE ROAD AHEAD

The Capitals have played 40 games in just 84 days so far this season. Last season the Capitals played their first 40 games in 92 days, a difference of eight days. The Capitals will play their final sixteen games in 33 days, but last season the Capitals were scheduled to play their last 16 games in just 31 days, so no real difference there.

The road ahead will be the Capitals biggest challenge so far this season, with regards to strength of schedule. The team will have three more bites of the Islanders apple later this month, two more games against the Penguins and three more games against the Bruins, including the season finale.

The Penguins and Bruins have the easiest remaining strength of schedule, although one could argue that the Bruins have to play more games in the back stretch, which could be a significant negative at this point in the season.

The Capitals have just 16 games remaining in their 56-game abbreviated regular season schedule, but the home stretch will be their biggest test of the season. The team has dipped in recent games, but it’s too small of a sample size to pinpoint who or what is responsible, although strength of schedule certainly plays into it.

We will update these stats one final time at the end of the season.

RELATED READING:
Statistical Trends: The First 17 Games
Statistical Trends: The First 31 Games

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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