Capitals Overcome Slow Start, Down Penguins in OT: By The Numbers

Photo: Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

From a statistics standpoint, Tuesday night’s overtime win against the Penguins was one of those games where you look at the breakdown of possession stats during five-on-five play and wonder how this game was even close. At the end of the day, hockey is a sport where games can be decided by the random bounce of the puck.

Although the vast majority of the statistics we use to measure the quality of a performance shows that the Penguins had the advantage, there’s a story to be told here as to why the Capitals were still successful.

Statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick. If you’d like to learn more about the terms used in this post, please check out our analytics glossary.

From an advanced analytics’ perspective, this game was a tale of two games: what happened in the first period, and what happened after that. Here’s a look at the shot differential during five-on-five play by period:

The Capitals paltry two shots on goal in the first period during five-on-five play was certainly not a high-water mark for this squad. The Penguins also generating 19 Corsi shot attempts during the first period compared to the Caps’ five.

That’s not a recipe for success on most nights. The second period was still not good, but the Capitals entered the third period tied 3-3, with the unique opportunity to have a reset with the game tied.

The shots on goal differential turned positive, but that’s not all:

The Capitals really laid an egg in the first period, but in the second and third, generated seven high-danger chances for compared to four high danger chances against. So even with the shot differential heavily favoring the Penguins in the second, the Capitals controlled high-danger opportunities. That’s why the Capitals entered the third period tied.

The third period was by all measures extremely even, but the Caps still had the advantage in expected goals for percentage (xGF%):

Any period where you exit with a 2-2 tie after the first twenty minutes with a 12.18 xGF% is a net win. The Capitals controlled the majority of expected goals during five-on-five play after the low marks in the first.

  • Realistically, what we can conclude from the game tonight is that the Capitals didn’t generate a large quantity of chances, but generated a high percentage of high danger chances proportional to the amount of shot attempts and shots on goal they generated.

This can be a dangerous game to play, though. First periods like the one we saw tonight are not a recipe for success. Without solid goaltending, a shorthanded goal, and a nifty goal on the power play, the Caps might be looking at a notch in the loss column instead of an overtime win.

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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6 Responses to Capitals Overcome Slow Start, Down Penguins in OT: By The Numbers

  1. Anonymous says:

    We don’t know how we pulled this one off. Too many penalties and rather pedestrian even strength play by both teams. Typical crazy Caps-Pens game.

  2. Leslie+Galen says:

    All i can say is we damn well better not march out that penalty parade tomorrow night cause apparently The Oilers have the best PP in the league 😱

  3. DC Scappeli says:

    Scorlov for the win!!!!

  4. Just Win Caps says:

    A missing stat: Goalie interference that wasn’t, oh wait, professional whining and referee bias endlessly aided the Pengooos. Crysby’s seminars with the team has tears and bloodshot eyes are automatic after an opponent scores.

  5. Marky says:

    This is why hockey is great. Caps were barely hanging on sometimes but they showed a lot of guts and effort and were rewarded. They turned their luck around with hard work.

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