The Capitals matchup with the Florida Panthers was hectic from the get-go, with presumptive starter Ilya Samsonov not being quite ready for puck drop, requiring Vitek Vanecek to assume the net for the first 1:45 of the first period. After giving up three goals, Samsonov was again relieved by Vanecek. On top of that, the Panthers’ Sergei Bobrovsky exited the game after the first period due to an upper body injury.
On top of the goalie conundrum, Anthony Mantha left the game in the second period after colliding with John Carlson in the neutral zone during the power play. The shorthanded Caps then rallied to tie the game in the third period on Connor McMichael’s first career goal.
The Capitals forced the game to overtime, and promptly laid an egg. The Panthers dominated the extra frame, and dropped the Caps. The Caps are now 0-4 in the extra frame this season.
Let’s a look at a few of the key advanced analytics for the overall 5-on-5 performance between the two squads. 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. To note, these statistics do not include overtime play, since it is played three on three.
At a glance, these numbers are really skewed in the Caps’ favor. These are indicative of a strong performance, but it was really driven by immense play in the second period, especially regarding high danger chances (HDCF). The Caps generated nine high danger chances compared to zero from the Panthers in the second frame, and the Caps were able to dent the twine three times during 5-on-5 play in that frame.
The first and third periods were much closer to even. In those periods each team generated five high danger chances, but the Caps were outscored two to nothing during 5-on-5 play in the first, but outscored the Panthers one to nothing in the third.
Let’s take a look at the lines’ performance:
The lines were a bit more complicated following the Mantha injury in the second period. The keys are that the Hagelin – Dowd – Hathaway line picked back up right where they left off prior to Dowd’s injury induced absences. The Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Wilson line was strong once again, and have been one of the more consistent lines for the Caps all season.
The Mantha – Eller – Sprong line was dominant prior to Mantha’s injury. It’s a shame, because it was probably the best showing the trio has had this season so far. They controlled all of the high danger and overall scoring chances on the ice, a ridiculous 96.15 xGF%, and generated a goal on Daniel Sprong’s breakaway assisted by Mantha’s beautiful stretch pass.
McMichael and Leason were both on the ice for a goal for, but it was with Ovechkin. McMichael’s first career goal was assisted by Ovechkin, which is a solid trivia answer.
Let’s take a look at the defensive pairings:
All three pairings were good tonight. It’s no surprise that the Orlov – Jensen pairing was likely the best overall, since they’ve likely been the best pairing from game one to game ten so far this season. Controlling 73.29 xGF% in a game where you’re playing a team that’s 8-0-1 is certainly a great performance.
One point of concern is that the TvR – Schultz pairing has had some drop-off in xGF% and scoring chance suppression. Over the last two games, the pairing has had a 35.73 xGF%, a 31.25 SCF%, and a 40 HDCF%. In the eight games prior to the previous two games, they had a 60.45 xGF%, a 63.74 SCF%, and a 53.66 HDCF%.
The Caps are at risk of being down a third top six forward if Mantha is out due to the upper body injury that kept him out of the second half. If Mantha is indeed out at least for the next game, Laviolette will need to trust the younger players more. Mantha did not play about half of the third period, and only had 1:55 less in 5-on-5 time on ice than McMichael.
The Caps will need to hold on until Backstrom, Oshie, and Mantha return to the lineup. The good news is, the Caps played inspired hockey against one of hockey’s best teams in the Panthers.
By Justin Trudel