By The Numbers: Capitals Top Blue Jackets

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The Capitals earned a win in Columbus, securing a sweep of their first back-to-back set of the season. It was an interesting game, with Columbus taking an early lead, then proceeded to give up three-straight goals to the Capitals, then tying the game in a mere 22 seconds. The game tightened up significantly in the third period after how open the second period was offensively, with Conor Sheary breaking the tie late in the third.

Let’s 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.

The numbers here aren’t very pretty for the Capitals. Of most concern is the vast differential in high-danger chances, where the Blue Jackets put up 13 high-danger chances (and gave up two high-danger goals). The Capitals only mustered three high-danger chances, but was able to tally once.

The difference tonight? Goaltending. It wasn’t pretty for either team’s netminder, but Ilya Samsonov narrowly beat out Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo.

Korpisalo finished tonight’s matchup with a .852 save percentage during 5-on-5 play, with a .500 high-danger save percentage, and a .778 medium-danger save percentage. The Capitals didn’t muster a ton of chances in the high-danger areas of the ice, so Korpisalo should have performed at a higher level.

Here’s the shot map from tonight’s matchup during 5-on-5 play:

The Blue Jackets were concentrating the bulk of their shot attempts from the low slot, the highest danger location on the ice to shoot from. Meanwhile, the Capitals shot attempts were higher up in the slot, with the highest volume of shot attempts coming from the top of the left circle (the Ovi Spot).

Samsonov’s numbers were far from glowing (.885 save percentage), but had an .800 high danger save percentage, a perfect save percentage from medium-danger chances, and a .857 low-danger save percentage. Samsonov’s numbers weren’t glowing, but he faced a much harder body of work than Korpisalo did.

Let’s take a look at the forward lines:

It’s interesting to see how well the Sheary – McMichael – Sprong line did in shot attempt generation and suppression, but only received 8:26 in ice time together (third of four lines).

The Jonsson-Fjallby – Eller – Hathaway line received 11:10 in ice time, mostly bolstered by the fact that Hathaway tallied twice tonight. Their numbers were far from spectacular, but the proof was in the pudding for that line tonight.

The concerning piece is the lack of success for the Hagelin – Protas – Leason line. They  were by all measures rather horrid tonight. In 5:16 of ice time together tonight, they mustered one shot attempt, were on the ice for five scoring chances against (while generating none), and gave up four high-danger chances (while generating none). It’s no shock that they didn’t receive much ice time during this game, especially with Laviolette’s habit of shortening the bench in third periods with more young players on the roster.

The Capitals need stronger and more consistent efforts from all four forward lines they ice. With the rash of injuries hitting the team seemingly all at once, the remaining high skill players can’t be hitting overdrive this early in the season.

Let’s take a look at the defense:

Not a ton of bright spots here, either. The Orlov – Jensen pairing was the best pairing by the above metrics against the Blue Jackets, but received the lowest ice time out of the three pairings (TvR – Schultz: 15:16; Fehervary – Carlson: 14:52; Orlov – Jensen: 14:04). At this point in the season, it’s fair to assume that the Orlov – Jensen pairing is your top overall pairing, and should be receiving the most ice time during 5-on-5 play.

Both the Fehervary – Carlson and TvR – Schultz pairings were ineffective in suppressing high-danger chances against, which results in extremely low scoring chance generation and suppression. Giving up high-danger chances and scoring chances in general results in the opposing teams having higher rates of generating expected goals.


Long story short, the Capitals should treasure victories they grind out like this one, because this isn’t exactly the most feasible path to winning games, consistently. The Capitals need to tighten up defensively. Giving up beaucoup high-danger chances repeatedly is not a path to success.

All in all, the numbers don’t speak it, but Samsonov played a solid game, and was ultimately the difference maker, especially with thwarting high and medium danger chances. Samsonov faced more high danger shots tonight than Zach Fucale faced in high danger and medium danger shots against Detroit combined. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a W.

By Justin Trudel

About Justin Trudel

Justin is a lifelong Caps fan, with some of his first memories of the sport watching the team in the USAir Arena and the 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. Now a resident of St. Augustine, FL, Justin watches the Caps from afar. Justin graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science from Towson University, and a Master's of Science in Applied Information Technology from Towson University. Justin is currently a product manager. Justin enjoys geeking out over advanced analytics, roster construction, and cap management.
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