The Capitals took on the New Jersey Devils Thursday night in their first road contest of the season, and rode the momentum they generated during their home stand to a 4-1 victory. The Capitals have been performing extremely well at even strength this season, and that trend continued Thursday night with four goals scored during 5-on-5 action.
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 Devils:
The Capitals didn’t exactly dominate any metrics tonight, other than goals for percentage (GF%).
The Devils aren’t exactly pushovers in the possession game — they have a season rate of 52.16 CF% and a 53.03 FF%, not to mention they’re currently seventh in the NHL in expected goals for percentage (xGF%). This is all to say that the Devils are a much improved team over last season, but the Capitals definitely got the better of them scoring during 5-on-5 play.
The Capitals posted another shutout during 5-on-5 play, and have only given up two 5-on-5 foals through four games so far this season. That’s not exactly a sustainable figure, but it’s currently the fewest goals allowed during 5-on-5 play in the league so far.
Solid goaltending from Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov definitely help there. Caps could still improve in the high danger chance suppression, since they’re currently sitting in 22nd in the NHL with a season rate of 45.9 HDCF%.
Here’s how each line performed:
Another day, another great performance by the Dowd line. A key to their success as a defensive focused, shut-down line is that they typically make their skilled opponents play a lot more defense than offense. The Dowd line put up 12 Corsi shot attempts during 5-on-5, doubling the six they allowed. Getting that level of shot generation and suppression from your so-called fourth line is an impressive showing of depth.
The Eller line is where advanced analytics can get a bit funky. They were one of the worst lines on the ice for the Capitals in these metrics, but potted two 5-on-5 goals. That’s just the way hockey works some times, but there still doesn’t seem to be very much chemistry on that line. The issue is finding a change that might move the needle in terms of line combinations that doesn’t disrupt the chemistry that the Sheary-McMichael-Oshie line generates.
The Kuznetsov line was slightly better than the Eller line, but a stat line like this for the Kuznetsov line is pretty much par for the course this season. It’s almost a certainty that the line combinations will be juggled a bit more when Backstrom comes back into the lineup. Having a player like T.J. Oshie on the third line is a matchup problem for other teams, so hopefully he stays in that role to give the Caps a bit more depth scoring.
Here’s how the defensive pairings fared:
The Orlov – Jensen pairing continues the trend from last season: analytical dominance. There’s not much to break down from their performance, other than an xGF% of 71.1 being an elite tier showing. Here’s to hoping these two stay together for the long term, especially since Orlov and Jensen are the only two to pot five on five goals this season.
On top of that, the van Riemsdyk – Schultz pairing continues to impress. Individually, TvR is quietly putting up an elite analytical season. He has a 62.50 CF%, a 65.08 FF%, and a 64.36 xGF%. Along with that, Schultz is performing at a high level individually, with a 58.06 CF%, a 58.46 FF%, and a 56.53 xGF%.
The Fehervary – Carlson pairing has been up and down through the first three games of the season. From the eye test, Fehervary has been performing well and showing flashes of being a solid NHL level defenseman. This pairing just tends to get hemmed in their own end a whole bunch, and the matchup with the Devils last night was no different. They gave up 22 Corsi shot attempts against to only 10 Corsi attempts for, and 15 scoring chances against compared to 8 chances for. At this point, this line is staying together because they haven’t been noticeably terrible on ice, and they have yet to give up a goal at 5-on-5 play. Also, the other two pairings are operating at a high level, so no reason to make a change for the sake of a change when you’re 3-0-1.
It was another strong showing for the Caps offense during five on five play, scoring four while also shutting out the Devils during five on five play. The win over the Devils marks the ninth win in the nine last matchups with the Devils.
The Capitals will have a test against the Calgary Flames on Saturday. The Flames are coming into the matchup with the third best CF% in the league at 56.62% and have only given up three five on five goals in three games. If the Caps can repeat their past four showings at even strength against a strong 5-on-5 team, it may be a nice early season trend we’d like to see turn into a full season trend.
By Justin Trudel