The Capitals effectively outclassed their Metropolitan Division rivals in Pittsburgh Sunday night, riding an early string of goals from Martin Fehervary and Garnet Hathaway to an all around dominant effort at both ends of the ice, thoroughly beating the Penguins 6-1
Let’s a look at a few of the key advanced analytics for the overall 5-on-5 performance between the two rivals. 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.
There’s not much to say here other than the Caps dominated in most aspects of the game, from puck possession and shot attempt generation, to high-danger chance creation. The Capitals actually went into the first intermission trailing in these metrics (43.48 CF%; 38.89 FF%; 46.67 SF%; 45.45 SCF%; 28.57 HDCF%; 29.28 xGF%). The second and third period is where the tide was really turned from a tight 2-1 rivalry game to a 6-1 laugher.
Outside of the score and outcome of this game, one of the best parts about tonight’s matchup was that the Capitals came into the third period with a three goal lead and did not sit back. They didn’t park the bus, go into the turtle, whatever you want to call it. They attacked.
They padded the lead. They ran the score up. The best teams don’t wait around for their opponent to try to storm back into the game. They have the killer instinct to put the game away, and we saw a glimpse of that tonight.
Here’s how the forward lines fared:
The most important thing here is that there were no lines that were severely underwhelming or were routinely taken advantage of tonight. Each line at least split high danger chances generated versus allowed, and all but the McMichael line evened up on scoring chances and had an advantage in expected goals for.
The Caps only scored two of their four even-strength goals while forwards were skating with their normal linemates. Most notably, Ovechkin’s beautiful crossing pass to Garnet Hathaway in the first period was an example of this.
Here’s the defensive pairings:
The only thing that’s shocking here is how much the Orlov – Jensen pairing seemingly struggled. The context with that is the Orlov – Jensen pairing were routinely matched up with the Rust – Crosby – Guentzel line for a majority of their time on the ice. Harder matchups, especially with some of the best offensive talent in the league in Crosby and Guentzel (Rust is no slouch, either), their numbers will suffer.
The other side is the Fehervary – Carlson pairing was excellent. Tonight may have been Fehervary’s best game in the NHL in his young career. The other contributing factor to the success of this pairing is the fact that they were deployed less frequently during 5-on-5 play.
John Carlson played less during 5-on-5 play (14:09) than Carl Hagelin did (14:31). Fehervary played 14:52. At this point, the Fehervary – Carlson pairing should continue to see a bit more sheltered and managed ice time, because their effectiveness goes up considerably when they’re not on the ice the most of the three pairings.
The Capitals thoroughly handled the Pittsburgh Penguins in their first matchup of the season. Both teams are dealing with considerable injuries and health issues to major contributors in their lineup, but the Capitals showed that they were the deeper and better team tonight.
This performance is a sight for sore analytics eyes after a relatively lucky result against Columbus where the Blue Jackets controlled most of the play on the ice. The Capitals will go on a west coast road trip this week, and will face the Seattle Kraken for the first time ever next Sunday.
By Justin Trudel