Capitals And Islanders: One More Time…For Now: Trends Analysis and Review

One more time. The Capitals and Islanders will wrap-up their eight-game season series Tuesday night at Capital One Arena. And while the Capitals have won five of the first seven contests, the series has been extremely close, with both teams trending up in several key statistical categories.

In advance of the final (regular season) tilt with Barry Trotz and the Islanders, we set the stage with a review of the previous seven games, and take a look at a few of the trends that have emerged during the previous seven games.

Once again, thanks to Natural Stat Trick, MoneyPuck and the NHL for the data utilized in this review.


The home team has won the first five games of the series, with the Capitals winning the first three games in the District and the Islanders winning the next two games in New York in early April. That all changed last week when the Capitals swept the two-game mini-set on Long Island.


As we’ve done in all of our previous series review posts, we begin with the basic stats from each game. (Click to enlarge).

The Islanders flipped the script on special teams in the two games last week in New York. The Capitals had dominated the first five games, going 6 for 12 on the power play, all while squashing the Islanders power play, holding them to just two conversions in 12 attempts.

That all changed last week as the Islanders went 2 for 4 on the power play while the Capitals top-ranked power play was shutout in four tries. It will be interesting to see how the special teams battle goes tonight.


The following table provides the averages for the first seven games of the series.

Nothing too earth-shattering here, although it’s somewhat of a surprise the Islanders are leading in hits by a wide margin. The Capitals have built their team on the premise that heavy, physical teams win games in the postseason. Maybe the team is saving the hits and wearing-down of their opponents for when the postseason begins.

It’s of little surprise that Lane Lambert has the Islanders blocking a lot of shots, and lead the series in blocks as well.


The following graph plots the save percentages of each team at even-strength for each of the seven games played to date. The Capitals (red) and Islanders (blue):

The series has seen excellent goaltending, for the most part, from both sides. The Capitals have gone three games without allowing an even-strength goal and the Islanders have done that twice.

Vitek Vanecek will get the start tonight. He is 2-1-0 against the Islanders so far this season. Semyon Varlamov is expected to get the start for the Islanders.


The following graph plots the shooting percentages of each team at even-strength for each of the seven games played to date. The Capitals (red) and Islanders (blue):

The Capitals have stepped-up their overall game in recent weeks, as we will also see in a few of the following graphics. The Capitals did not allow an even-strength goal in the two games against the Islanders last week, although they did allow their league-leading 8th shorthanded goal of the season on Saturday.

In checking stats form previous teams coached by Laviolette, there appears to be no significant similar alarming trends regarding shorthanded goals allowed under the Laviolette system.

The Capitals continue to lead the league in even-strength shooting percentage at 10.8%. The Islanders are 8th in the league at 8.8%. The league average is 8.1%.


The next graph plots the actual goals for and expected goals for differentials (GF – xGF – blue) and the actual goals against and expected goals against differentials (xGA – GA – orange) for the Capitals in the first seven games of the series.

After a slow start, the Capitals have greatly improved their goal differentials in the series, both for and against. The goals against and expected goals against differential has been impressive in the last three games. That’s also a positive trend heading into the postseason.


The following graph plots the goals saved above average (GSAA – red), the high-danger save percentage (HDSV% – orange) and the expected goals against and actual goals against differentials (GA – xGA – blue) for each of the goaltenders for the season.

The Islanders Semyon Varlamov continues to lead the East Division in most goaltending categories. Vitek Vanecek has been the second best netminder in the series.


The following graph plots the shot attempts percentages for (CF% – light blue), high-danger shot attempts for percentages (HDCF% – medium light blue), scoring chances for percentages (SCF% – medium dark blue) and expected goals for percentages (xGF% – dark blue) for the Capitals in each of the seven games to date. (Click to enlarge).

What jumps off the graph are the Capitals last two games where they essentially reversed a downward trend in possession and shot attempts. The final game is watered-down a bit because the Islanders were trailing late in the game.


The next visualization plots the low, medium and high danger shot attempt percentages for each team in each game. Capitals (red) and Islanders (blue). (Click to enlarge).

After the Islanders led in HDCF% in the first three games of the series, the Capitals have reversed the trend and have led the last three games. This is also a good sign heading into the postseason.


Capitals Forward Stats For The Season

The following graph plots high-danger shot attempts for percentages (HDCF% – blue), scoring chances for percentages (SCF% – red), expected goals for percentages (xGF% – cyan), and offensive zone start percentages (OFZS – orange) for each of the Capitals forwards with more than 100 minutes of ice time. (Click to enlarge)

The fourth line of Carl Hagelin, Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway continue to shine, although their numbers have dipped towards the end of the season. The line continues to face the top lines from the opposition, all while generating offensive chances, as seen in the last game where they scored two goals.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Lars Eller and Tom Wilson have improved their possession and shot metrics in recent weeks, although their offensive zone start percentages widely vary.

Remaining games and strength of schedule

While this is the last game of the regular season between these two teams, there’s a good chance they will collide again in the postseason. The series has been a good one, fairly well-balanced, with several trends and reversed trends midway occurring throughout the series.

Puck drop tonight is set for 7:00 PM.

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 interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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3 Responses to Capitals And Islanders: One More Time…For Now: Trends Analysis and Review

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s interesting how Capitals goalies have stepped-up their play against the Islanders. Lavi was asked if he was into assigning netminders based on opponent, and he said it’s certainly been discussed.

  2. hockeydruid says:

    Lets hope that the Caps can do what the did Sat night again as of 3PM I heard no Ovie tonight. Need the points as Pitt is putting on a good push.

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