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.
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:
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.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) February 26, 2022
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 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