Capitals’ Poor Finishes The Difference In The Series So Far: Analysis Of First Three Games


We expected the Capitals-Bruins series would be close , but probably not as close as it’s actually been. Each of the first three games has required extra hockey to decide the winner, with the third game requiring two overtime periods. Many of the stats show an even tighter series, while other stats…not so much. So what are the stats telling us about the series so far? Let’s take a look.

The Capitals and Bruins split their eight-game regular season series and the first round of the best-of-seven series has been just as close. The series could very easily be 3-0 Caps or 3-0 Bruins, but we stand at Bruins leading, 2-1.  The difference in the series so far has been the play of the two teams in the later stages of each game.

In advance of Game 4 on Friday night, we wanted to take a deeper dive on the three previous game, to get a better sense of the trends and tendencies that are emerging in the series. This post will look at:

  • Basic Game Stats
  • Shot Attempts/Possession
  • Goaltending
  • Finishes

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


BASIC GAME STATS

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

The following table provides the averages of each stat over the first three games of the series.

Faceoffs were a concern for many Capitals pundits in the early going, but things have evened up somewhat, with the Capitals actually winning the battle at the dot in Game 3.

The special teams battle has been fairly close, and about as expected. The Capitals are averaging five more hits per game, but this is also somewhat expected.


SHOT ATTEMPTS/POSSESSION

Three-Game Summary

The following graph simply plots the shot attempts percentage (CF% – blue), High-Danger Shot Attempts Percentage (HDCF% – orange), Scoring Chances For Percentage (SCF% – red) and Expected Goals For Percentage (xGF% – cyan) for the Capitals at even-strength in the first three games.

After getting outperformed in high-danger chances in Games 1 and 2, the Capitals responded in Game 3. The deficit in Expected Goals For Percentages and Scoring Chances For Percentages is likely the biggest concern related to the table above.

Three-Game Averages

The three-game snapshot tells the story. Here are the averages of the aforementioned statistics for the three-game set.

These number are certainly not very encouraging, but to the Capitals’ credit, they’ve managed to keep each game very close, even though they have been outperformed in each of the advanced statistical categories in the table above.

The Bruins are leading in high-danger chances 60-40, which is not a recipe for success. The vast improvement in high-danger chances in Game 3 is probably the most encouraging sign moving forward.


GOALTENDING

The following chart plots the overall Save Percentage (SV% – Red), High-Danger Save Percentage (HDSV% – Blue), Medium-Danger Save Percentage (MDSV% – Cyan) and Low-Danger Save Percentage (LDSV% – Green) for the Capitals and Bruins at even strength through the first three games of the series.

With a tight series such as this, it’s really no surprise to see the numbers for goaltending are also very close. This is a huge credit to the Capitals’ defense and the three different goaltenders who have been between the pipes for the first three games of the series.

The Bruins are doing a tad better at high-danger saves, but again, the difference is minor.


FINISHES

The Capitals have been outperformed at the end of games, and that’s been the difference in the series. Here are a couple of examples of how things went for the Capitals at the end of Games 2 and 3.

Game 2 Shot Attempts

In Game 2 the Capitals scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period. After that it was all Bruins with regards to shot attempts, as you can see in the chart above. The drastic difference in shot attempts partially reflects the Capitals’ defensive posture with the lead, which takes us back to the philosophical debate of how to play a game with a one-goal lead – continue attacking, or play more of a defensive shell.

Even when the game was tied, the Bruins continued to control possession, and ultimately scored the game-winner in overtime.

The Bruins also owned the end of Game 3. The graph below details the Expected Goals for each team, which reflects cumulative shots by location and historical percentages of success from each shot attempt location.

Once again the Bruins mashed the gas pedal in the late goings and eventually got the victory and a 2-1 series lead.


SUMMARY

The Capitals have the oldest team in the NHL. Whether that’s an issue late in the season and/or late in games is really unknown at this point, but the team appears to be running out of gas late in games, statistically, against the Bruins in this series. The Capitals also had significant issues in the third periods of games during the regular season, which also seems to have carried over to the postseason.

Game 4 is set for Friday night in Boston. Then the two teams will return to the District for Game 5. As dire as it may seem right now, a Capitals win in Beantown on Friday will return the home ice advantage back to the Capitals, with Game 5 set for Sunday in the District.

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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