After a measly performance at home against the Ottawa Senators on Super Bowl Sunday, the Capitals bounced back in Nashville, an arena the Capitals haven’t fared well in recent years. Entering tonight’s matchup, the Capitals were 5-9-1-1 with a points percentage of .375 in Bridgestone Arena.
Behind this effort was a superhuman performance from Ilya Samsonov in net, giving us all a glance at why the Capitals’ front office and coaching staff see so much potential in him.
In this post, we’ll be taking a look at some key performance points in tonight’s matchup. The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference. If you’d like to learn more about the analytical terms used in this post, please check out our analytics glossary.
Scoring First Hides Possession Woes
The Capitals have had tremendous success this season when scoring the first goal. After scoring the first goal tonight, the Capitals are now 21-9-4 when scoring first and 12-5-2 when scoring first on the road.
The really interesting piece is that other than scoring the first goal and leaving the first frame with a 1-0 lead, Nashville controlled the pace of play. Here’s a period by period breakdown of five-on-five statistics:
The Capitals were chasing the play in the first period a bit. The Predators were generating a lot of shot attempts by moving the puck from high to low and looking for traffic in front of the net. You can see that concentration of shot attempts here in the shot attempt heat map from Natural Stat Trick:
The concentration of shot attempts from the point above the right circle was the second highest concentration of shot attempts made by the Predators. The most was in the middle of the slot, primarily coming on rebounds. The Predators had a strategy in mind of putting as many pucks on net as possible.
Ilya Samsonov came to play tonight. After a mediocre performance against the Senators, Samsonov pitched a gem tonight. He faced 34 shots, saving all but one. Samsonov had an expected goals against total of 2.65 in all situations tonight, and ended up giving up only one. That’s pretty fantastic considering he faced eight high-danger shots against, and nine medium danger shots against. The only goal Samsonov allowed tonight was on a high danger chance that resulted from a redirection off of Nashville’s Michael McCarron in the low slot.
Samsonov had plenty of timely saves that kept the Caps in the game. Even though Samsonov gave up a goal early in the third period to tie the game, the Caps were hemmed in their own zone for nearly the entire first four minutes of the third period, and it really could have been worse than just one goal allowed.
The Capitals rode a hot goalie and timely goal scoring to a victory against Nashville tonight. As noted, the Capitals improved to 21-9-4 overall when scoring the first goal of a game, and 12-5-2 when scoring first on the road.
Interestingly enough, the Capitals are now 8-2-1 while being outshot on the road, and are 10-4-3 overall in that regard. In overall importance for first period success for the Caps, they’re now 16-5-1 when leading after the first frame, and 8-2-0 when leading after the first on the road.
By Justin Trudel