The Washington Capitals returned to work on Monday following their COVID-extended week-long holiday break. They are currently scheduled to next play on Wednesday night when they host the Nashville Predators at Capital One Arena. In the meantime, we can wrap-up our holiday-break analysis of the team through the first 31 games of the 2021-22 season. Today we look at shots, or more specifically, individual player shot metrics.
A reminder, as always, if you have any questions or need further definition of any of the statistics or terms used in this post, you can always reference our NHL Analytics Glossary.
Total Shot Attempts
No surprise here. Alex Ovechkin has shot the puck the most and nearly double that of the next closest Capitals skater (John Carlson). A couple of notables include Nick Jensen, who has climbed up the list this season, and Connor McMichael, who is also firing the puck in good quantity. Later in this post we will look at how accurate these shots have been. (Reminder, this is based on total shot attempts, not total shots on goal). [Click to enlarge].
Goals Per Shot Attempt
The second graph plots goals per shot attempt. It simply divides the players’ total goals scored this season by total shot attempts this season.
Mike Sgarbossa’s numbers are impressive, however, recall that one of his goals was somewhat of a fluke. I’d expect his numbers to come regress slightly over his next few games.
Percent Of Shot Attempts On Goal
The next graph plots the percentage of all shot attempts that are on goal (shots on goal). Connor McMichael has been the most accurate among the regulars, while Alex Ovechkin has been the least accurate among forwards, with Justin Schultz bringing up the rear for all skaters. [Click to enlarge]
The following graph simply plots the even-strength shooting percentage for all Capitals skaters through the first 31 games. The red lines represent the league average, approximately 9.46 percent, and the dividing line for Capitals players above and below the league average. [Click to enlarge].
Excluding Garrett Pilon, who scored a deflected goal on his one career shot in the NHL, Tom Wilson has the highest shooting percentage among the Capitals regulars. T.J. Oshie and Nic Dowd are tied for second, closely followed by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin. Again, those left of the vertical red line are shooting better than league average.
General Shot Accuracy – Percent Of Unblocked Shots That Miss The Net
The next graph plots the percent of unblocked shots that missed the net for each player. [Click to enlarge].
The interesting player here is Tom Wilson, who has the highest percentage of shots missing the net, yet he has the highest shooting percentage (above) among all skaters. This simply means that when his shot is within the goal limits he has the highest conversion rate, but overall he has the highest percentage of shots that miss the net. The same general statement can be applied to Alex Ovechkin.
Goals Above Expected (G-ixG)
The next graph plots goals above expected. This simply takes the actual goals scored by a player and subtracts the individual expected goals (ixG) for the player based on shot attempt locations, shot types and historical conversion rates. [Click to enlarge].
Alex Ovechkin, and all of those in the positive, have been outperforming their expected goals totals for the season, meaning they have found the back of the net more than expected goals models predicted, based on all of their shot locations.
Percent Of Unblocked Shots That Missed The Net Above Expected
Another valuable metric for gauging shot accuracy and how a player is performing with their shot is the measurement of the percent of unblocked shot attempts that missed the net above expected. [ Click to enlarge].
Conor Sheary, Tom Wilson, Carl Hagelin, Evgeny Luznetsov and Alex Ovechkin are all missing the net more than expected models predict. All other Capitals skaters are below the model’s prediction values.
Expected Goals Per Minute Of Ice Time
The next graph is provided for additional context. Expected Goals (xGF), as noted above, is a statistic that weighs a shot attempt or scoring chance with the probability of a goal being scored. The stat correlates a specific shot attempt location and type with conversion rates based on historical data from that exact shot location.
To no surprise, Alex Ovechkin is generating the most Expected Goals per minute of ice time. However, Mike Sgarbossa, who has played in seven games so far this season, is second. That may be a surprise to some, but he has two goals and assist in those seven games and has posted impressive possession metrics in the games he’s played. Rookie Connor McMichael is third, which is no surprise. He just needs to convert and he will.
With any luck the Capitals will re-start their 2021-22 campaign on Wednesday when they host the Nashville Predators. The team will hope to continue their impressive shooting percentages and conversion rates as they head to the All-Star break.
[All stats are presented at even-strength (5v5), unless otherwise noted, and courtesy of the NHL, Evolving Hockey and Natural Stat Trick). The first trends analysis (through the first 18 games) can be found here.]
By Jon Sorensen
Excellent analysis, as always. Sgarbossa has impressed. I’m surprised he looks to be the “extra” tomorrow night.