Photo: John McCreary/NHLI via Getty Images
The Capitals showed some resiliency in Saturday’s matchup against the Calgary Flames. After trailing by three goals in the opening frame, they closed the gap to force overtime. Unfortunately for the Caps, they ended up falling in the extra frame with Elias Lindholm’s hat trick tally.
Although it’s an early season matchup, the ability to close a three-goal deficit in a game — where your apparent starter is pulled after the first period for a momentum change, and salvage a standings point — is a good sign of things to come. Let’s take a look at a few of the key advanced analytics for the overall 5-on-5 performance between these cross-conference teams.
To note, the overtime advanced analytics are not included in this post, since we’re looking solely at 5-on-5 play. 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.
Let’s take a look at the overall advanced stats from the tilt against the Flames:
Oddly enough, the first period, in which the Flames scored all three of their goals in regulation, wasn’t even a terrible showing by the Caps, statistically. The Caps owned 69.31% of expected goals for (xGF) in the first frame, generated a higher share of scoring chances (63.64%), but still were handily trailing in the scoring column.
The momentum started to shift in the second when Kuznetsov had a brilliant play on the penalty kill and scored a shorthanded goal. Martin Fehervary and Alex Ovechkin tallied 5-on-5 goals in the second period as well, leveling the score.
The third period was much more of a stalemate. The Caps held on to get the game into overtime and salvaged a standings point in a game where they trailed by three goals in the first period. The Caps only owned 46.88 CF%, 38.1 FF%, 38.46 SF%, 25 SCF%, 50 HDCF%, and 41.31 xGF%, but escaped the third period unscathed.
Now let’s take a look at how each forward line performed:
It was not a typical showing from the Dowd line against the Flames. They were unable to hem the Flames’ top lines in their defensive zone, and the typical shutdown trio gave up the most Corsi shot attempts against (15), the most Fenwick shots against (8), and the lowest xGF% (46.21). Luckily, it’s a long season, and there’s quite a large sample size proving that this line is much more effective than not.
The Sheary – McMichael – Oshie line was fantastic, generating three high danger chances without allowing a single one in return. The line unfortunately wasn’t rewarded with a goal on the scoresheet, but overall they were very effective. More times than not, a line that puts up these types of metrics ends up scoring a few goals.
The Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Wilson line was also effective. They were on the ice for both goals scored during 5-on-5 (Ovi being the one of the scorers). They generated more scoring chances and high danger scoring chances, and had a solid showing in the puck possession game.
The common thread we’ve seen through the first five games of the season is that the Mantha – Eller – Sprong line isn’t exactly humming along. With 42:27 of time on ice together, they have a 46.75 CF%, a 46.30 FF%, a 48.48 SF%, a 45.54 xGF%, and a 35 HDCF%. Their only saving grace is that they’ve been on the ice for three 5-on-5 goals, and have only allowed one. The tough piece is, what players would you swap from other lines and ensure the lines that have performed well all season stay that way?
Let’s take a look at the defensive pairings:
Another day, another strong showing from the TvR – Schultz pairing. After 56:42 of time on ice together, they’re still posting elite metrics: a 58.14 CF%, 58.18 FF%, 58.97 SF%, 75 GF%, 60.51 xGF%, and a 50 HDCF%. Laviolette would be hard-pressed to separate these two from each other.
The Fehervary – Carlson pairing has been hot and cold, analytically, throughout the season so far, and they were hot Saturday, with Fehervary scoring his first career goal in the NHL. Posting numbers in the 70s for these metrics is dominant, and we should hope to see a lot more of that.
Orlov and Jensen had a pretty rough showing against Calgary. The pairing is still one of the Caps’ best throughout the season, with the two defensemen being on the ice for six r-on-5 goals for and only one against. The Orlov – Jensen pairing is also the pairing that has seen the most ice time during 5-on-5 play so far, so it’s clear that the coaching staff likes what they see from this pair from the eye test.
Although it was a loss, the fact that the Capitals were able to salvage a standings point out of a game where they were trailing 3-0 in the first period, was commendable. Ilya Samsonov was very solid in relief of Vitek Vanecek, posting a .929 save percentage and shutting Calgary out during the final two frames in regulation.
The Capitals are still putting up solid underlying stats, so we aren’t seeing a drop-off in performance early this season. If the Capitals continue to control possession and win the scoring battle during five on five play, they should be well on their way to success this season.
By Justin Trudel