In their first matchup with a team from the Western Conference since March 1st, 2020, the Capitals firmly handled the Stanley Cup favorite Colorado Avalanche 6-3. The Capitals controlled the pace of play in all situations, and ended up scoring five goals at even strength.
Let’s take a look at a few of the key advanced analytics for the overall 5-on-5 performance between the two teams. If you’d like to learn more about the advanced analytical terms used in this post, please check out our glossary. Statistics in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.
Here’s the overall metrics from 5-on-5 play against the Avalanche:
There’s only really one word to describe this performance by the Caps, and it’s dominance. At every level, the Caps owned the advantage, generating more shot attempts, more goals for, more high danger chances, and more overall scoring chances. The only period that was even relatively close was the third period, where the Caps only had 47.83 CF%, but still generated more high-danger chances and the only even-strength goal of the period.
Here’s how each line performed:
The best overall line for the Caps was the Sheary-McMichael-Oshie line. They were dominant in every shift, and we’re just unlucky that their effort wasn’t rewarded with a goal. T.J. Oshie really generated chances with his creativity on the rush, but the line wasn’t able to tally.
The Mantha-Eller-Sprong line is a confounding one. They don’t seem to have the chemistry that the other three lines have, but ended up scoring tonight, and putting up much improved advanced stats compared to their performance against Tampa.
For example, the Eller line put up a 40 CF%, 28.57 FF%, 0 HDCF%, 50 sF%, 20 SCF%, and a 9.37 xGF%. The paltry 9.37 xGF% against Tampa was definitely elevated tonight, entering the low 60s. It’s either a matter of time that this line breaks through, or they’re broken up.
Here’s how the defensive pairings fared:
The more and more we see from the van Riemsdyk-Schultz pairing, the more impressive they are together. To put their season in perspective, through three games, they are putting up a line of: 60.78 CF%, 61.76 FF%, 63.64 SF%, and a 64.99 xGF%.
Realistically, all three of the pairings’ performances were dominant. It’s fairly uncommon for a team’s entire defensive corps to look this solid. Usually there’s a considerable drop-off from a team’s top pairing to their third pairing, but that’s not the case so far this season for the Caps. Seems like all three pairings are well balanced and can generate scoring chances on the rush and defend effectively.
If we see more performances like tonight’s this season from the Caps, it’ll be hard to miss out on the playoffs. At this point, it’s unlikely that we’ll see major lineup changes, and it’s even more likely that we’ll see Connor McMichael back in the lineup for the tilt in New Jersey on Thursday.
Overall, the Capitals look like a much more refreshed team after an early exit from the playoffs last season, mainly due to the build up of injuries to the team’s veteran core. If the Caps can stay healthy and continue to get solid goaltending from both goaltenders, the potential for a playoff run is there.
By Justin Trudel