Another Sleepy 1st Period Dooms Capitals Against Lowly Flyers: By The Numbers

Photo: @Flyers

There seems to be a motif to the Washington Capitals‘ play this season: sleepy, slow starts that result in digging out of deficits that are too deep to recover from. That was certainly the story today against the Philadelphia Flyers in a matinee matchup that saw the Caps lose 2-1.

The month of February hasn’t been too kind to the Capitals either, falling to a 4-5-0 record this month. The next two tilts don’t get any easier, with home games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Carolina Hurricanes.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some key statistics that help explain why the Caps suffered this result. The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Reference. If you’d like to learn more about the terms used in this post, please check out our analytics glossary.

Slow Start

The Capitals’ woes started early in today’s tilt, with Claude Giroux scoring a goal a mere 11 seconds into the contest. According to Hockey Reference, the Capitals are now 6-8-5 when giving up the first goal of the contest. They’re now 3-2-2 in games where they allow the first goal on the road. That record is skewed because the Capitals are one of the best road teams in the league.

Outside of that eyesore of a statistic, the Capitals’ play in the first period was the equivalent of going to work on Monday morning with a decaf coffee instead of a triple espresso:

This was such a bad showing that I had to manually edit the Y-axis of this graph to go up to 100 to show the full picture of just how bad it was.

The percentage share of these are bad, but I think the raw data is worse. The Caps allowed 26 Corsi shot attempts to their 9, 17 Fenwick shot attempts to their 7, 13 shots on goal to their 5, 10 scoring chances allowed to their 3, 4 high danger chances against to their 1. Oh, and the most important one: 2 goals against to their 0.

The Flyers scored 2 goals to win this game. The Capitals certainly pushed in the second and third periods, but the Flyers were able to hang on.

Where did the 5-on-5 scoring go?

The Capitals failed to score a 5-on-5 goal today. Through the Capitals first 23 games, the Caps were the highest scoring team during 5-on-5 play in the NHL with 60. Now, through 54 games, the Capitals are 7th in the league with 118. While at a glance, that doesn’t appear to be concerning. But, in the 31 games since the Caps’ first 23 games, they haven’t even matched the pace they were scoring during the first 23 games.

Injuries are obviously a factor here. The Caps have effectively been playing with four true top six forwards all season. In the past 10 games, the Capitals are 21st in the NHL in GF/60.

Here’s the a chart from Natural Stat Trick that shows the Capitals’ ability to score goals for above expected on a rolling 10 game average:

The Capitals are really struggling to convert on chances. As mentioned earlier, the Caps had an impactful drop in five-on-five goal scoring after the first 23 games and it came to a head in January.



The Capitals are clearly missing out on goal scoring during five-on-five play. It’s the most important game scenario to be successful, because it takes up the bulk of the game. It’s becoming more and more apparent that the Capitals are missing a top six scoring forward.

If Anthony Mantha is going to be on the LTIR until the playoffs roll around, the Capitals should make a move for a top six scoring winger. Interestingly enough, the forward with the highest rate of GF/60 during five-on-five play with at least 500 minutes of ice time is Filip Forsberg, who is being shopped by Nashville.

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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12 Responses to Another Sleepy 1st Period Dooms Capitals Against Lowly Flyers: By The Numbers

  1. Anonymous says:

    I wanna take a positive look. Could it be the Capitals took 4 periods to snap out of their week long break?

  2. Jon Sorensen says:

    If GMBM really means the Caps are “all in” during the final years of Ovi-Backy, we should be very busy at trade deadline.

  3. Jon Sorensen says:

  4. Franky619 says:

    This management can’t make the tough decisions, parting with core players. Defense is a mess, most Dman aren’t good enough or physical enough plus Laviolette system just exposes their lack of skills. Backstrom ‘s contract is holding back GMBM from bringing in talented forwards or keeping valuable players( Dillon ). Unless Ovy plays like the MVP the next 4 seasons Caps are going down the basement.

  5. Pepeê says:

    The way I see it there is 2 options. 1 GMBM stands pat hoping the players/coaches play their way out of this funk just to lose to Florida or Carolina in 5 games in round 1. Or 2 GMBM makes a coaching change or a locker room shaking trade to wake the team up and hopefully get hot to go on a deep run.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I have a gut feel the Caps are going to be very active at the trade deadline. GMBM has maintained Caps are “all in” during final years of Ovi-Backy. To me, that means they will need to make significant upgrades at the deadline.

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