The Washington Capitals came up short against the Chicago Blackhawks despite Conor Sheary’s late game heroics to tie the game. This was a matchup that was determined by a 34 second span in the second period, where the Blackhawks scored a flurry of three goals. Two of those goals came on the Blackhawks’ power play. Overall, the Blackhawks scored three of their five goals in the game on the power play on six opportunities.
Special teams had a pretty large effect on this game. The Capitals were able to score on one of their three power play opportunities, most notably accounting for Alex Ovechkin tying Dave Andreychuk’s in career power play goals. It’s going to be hard to win any game where you give up three power play goals.
Let’s take a look at a few of the key metrics for the overall 5-on-5 performance between the two squads. If you’d like to learn more about the analytical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics glossary. Statistics in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.
The advanced stats from tonight’s tilt (which do not include overtime), provides evidence that the Capitals really lost this game outside of overall five-on-five play. Realistically, in most circumstances, if you control 60+% of the shot attempts, shots for, scoring chances for, and 70+% of high-danger chances for and expected goals for, you’re going to win.
The Capitals dominated play during five-on-five play. The breakdown in the second period was mainly caused by a huge swing in momentum due to a power play goal scored during the waning seconds of a two-man advantage, another immediate power play goal on the ensuing power play, and another five-on-five goal.
To add to the five-on-five dominance, Ilya Samsonov was nearly perfect during five-on-five play. He posted a .944 save percentage. His only goal against during five-on-five play was a high-danger chance against, in which he saved three out of four shots.
Let’s take a look at overall skaters’ performance during five on five play:
Nicklas Backstrom made waves with his first game of the season after recovering from a hip injury. He posted very strong possession and scoring chances, and bodes well for when the Caps get more of the regular skaters back in the lineup.
Most everyone posted rather solid numbers, with some notable exclusions: Justin Schultz and Trevor van Riemsdyk. TvR gets somewhat of a pass due to the fact that he’s just coming back from the COVID-19 protocol list, and is likely rusty. Schultz on the other hand, really had his struggles. His possession numbers were paltry, and he was routinely on the ice for scoring chances against and high danger chances.
TvR, Schultz, Nic Dowd, Carl Hagelin, and Beck Malenstyn were the only Caps skaters with an expected goals for percentage below 50%. They were also on the ice against the Alex Debrincat, Dylan Strome, and Patrick Kane line the majority of the time that they were on the ice, so that certainly doesn’t help.
The Capitals played a complete game during five-on-five play, but really struggled with discipline and staying out of the penalty box. The Caps’ special teams faced their issues, especially on the penalty kill, and that was the difference in tonight’s matchup against the Blackhawks.
The bright side of this is that the Caps played a really strong game during five-on-five play with some pretty considerable players still out of the lineup. With Backstrom finally back in the lineup, the Caps are a few steps closer to skating a healthy lineup again.
By Justin Trudel