Capitals Fall Short Against The Leafs, Five-On-Five Struggles Continue: By The Numbers

Photo: @Capitals

The Washington Capitals are having their fair share of struggles recently, falling for the third-straight game after losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-3 Monday night. Ultimately, struggles winning puck battles along the boards and beating Toronto’s forecheck doomed the Capitals’ efforts despite one of the best showings from a Capitals’ penalty killing unit in a long time.

The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference, and MoneyPuck. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our analytics glossary.

Prior to entering this game, we called out that if you’re going to bet on tonight’s game, hammer the over:

The over/under for this tilt was 6.5 goals. With Toronto’s penchant for both scoring and allowing goals, we pretty much figured this would happen, but by much different means: the Capitals kept the league’s top power play unit off the board. Oh, not just off the board, but didn’t even allow a shot against. The Capitals outshot (and outscored) the Leafs while the Leafs had the man advantage.

In a game where the Caps looked like they were a step or two behind the speedy Leafs, the penalty kill was where the Caps feasted. Unfortunately, the struggles during five-on-five play continued.

Not only were the Caps dominated in the scoring column during five-on-five in the first period 3-1, the Capitals were thoroughly dominated in the third period during five-on-five play:

The Caps had a total of five Corsi shot attempts in the third period during five-on-five play. That was in 11:57 of playing time. The Leafs more than tripled that with 16. The Leafs generated nine scoring chances to the Caps’ two, and generated six high-danger chances to the Caps’ one. The tough piece to swallow here is that the Leafs are not a good defensive team during five-on-five play. They’ve given up the 9th most five-on-five goals with 116 in 53 games.

Tonight was just yet another game where the Caps struggled to score during five-on-five play. Here’s the rolling five game average of fice-on-five goals for scored by the Caps, via MoneyPuck:

This is certainly not a good sign. It’s becoming more and more clear that the Caps are lacking a top six scoring wing, and with Anthony Mantha coming back, maybe it can get better. Perhaps that’s why General Manager Brian MacLellan has yet to pull a trigger on a trade to acquire another forward.

Conclusion

The Capitals are now 6-9-5 when allowing the first goal and are 3-7-3 at home when allowing the first goal. Slow starts on the scoreboard are starting to be a real curse for this team. Not to mention the Caps are now 1-9-1 when trailing after the second period at home, and 2-14-4 overall. It’s almost getting to the point where you can turn the game off after the second period if the Caps aren’t leading or tied entering the third period.

Long story short, something significant needs to change with this team, because it’s clear that it’s broken. The Capitals’ extreme struggles during five on five are not promising.

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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25 Responses to Capitals Fall Short Against The Leafs, Five-On-Five Struggles Continue: By The Numbers

  1. Franky619 says:

    This has to be the worst D squad put together during Ovy era. So,so,so soft.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      What about the disappearance of the 5-on-5 scoring? That’s not defense or goaltending.

      • Franky619 says:

        Chasing the game all the time makes it much harder to score. Playing from behind all the time means the other team will regroup defensively, close the neutral zone take less chance create less turnover. When leading( wich has not happened a lot in 2022) things open up more odd man rush more breakaway opportunities. Also they have no confidence in their goaltender which affects the way they attack, seems to me they always worry the puck is gonna end up in their net. They are not all in when attacking.

        • This is unequivocally true so far. The Capitals are not a good team when playing from behind. When trailing by a goal, the Capitals are allowing a higher rate of GA/60 than they’re scoring GF/60 (48.84 GF%). So, the Caps are more than likely to give up another 5 on 5 goal than they are scoring one.

          This highlights what you’re saying, the Caps get down a goal, chase the game, and their opponents clog the neutral zone. This exacerbates the Caps’ issues getting the puck in the zone with control.

          Interestingly enough, the Caps are 5th best in the NHL in 5 on 5 GA/60 this season when the game is tied. On the flip side, the Caps are tied with Dallas for 14th place in GF/60 in the same game situation.

          • Jon Sorensen says:

            This is thin and completely disagree. Why are they playing from behind, chasing the game all the time? No scoring. They will eventually fall behind no matter what, if they aren’t scoring.

            • I suppose I should clarify: the piece that is true is that the Capitals are not good playing from behind and teams can clog up the neutral zone. The issue is that they’re mediocre in 5 on 5 scoring when the game is tied.

              Defensively, they’re fine when the game is tied. The issue is precisely on scoring goals when the game is tied.

        • Jon Sorensen says:

          Not being able to establish longer offensive zone times taxes a defense. How they feel about their goaltender has no impact on their ability to create offensive zone time.

          • Franky619 says:

            Maybe it’s not about the confidence in their goaltender but not matter how well you play offensively the play’s gonna come back in your zone eventually and Caps are a mess in their own zone. They were amongst the highest scoring team in the until January and still they had problem protecting a lead. How many times have they squandered a 2 or 3 goal lead. Under Trotz a 1 goal lead was enough to win a game.

            • Jon Sorensen says:

              That’s simply not true, the Capitals Blueline was playing extremely well in the first part of the season. Orlov and Jensen were high in all of the key stats. Same with Fehervary.

              • Franky619 says:

                No lead is safe with this team. Even early in the season defense was shaky, goaltender had to stood on their heads to protect leads? How many time have teams been able to come back from 2 or 3 goal deficit against the Caps. Only difference is early in the season Caps would score one more now they give up one more or 2 or 3.

      • Franky619 says:

        Good defense lead to good offense. Great article, as usual.
        Frank!

  2. Anonymous says:

    The best defense is a good offense. More puck possession means the other team is playing D. The Caps looked a little better than the past few games, they were getting to the net more, but they just couldn’t cash in. They definitely had some chances.

    Funny, someone posted about Mantha being cleared for light contact, that it’s great, but really nothing has changed since all he does in games IS light contact anyway for a guy his size! 😄

    Ah well, I sense a first round exit. And worse, a sweep. Or more crushing would be if CBJ catches up to them. A good thing CBJ lost to the Pens the other night.

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly. No offensive pressure leads to poor defensive coverage. If you can’t keep it in the ozone, teams are gonna score on you.

      • Jon Sorensen says:

        Here here! Defense was sound in the first part of the season. What’s changed?

        • Franky619 says:

          Defense was never sound, no lead was safe. Any team could come back from a 2-3 goal deficit with a good forecheck.

          • Jon Sorensen says:

            You simply aren’t paying attention, particularly to the first part of the season, before 5v5 scoring dried up.

            • Franky619 says:

              I’ve been paying attention to the Caps for the last 17 seasons, you win nothing when you can’t defend. Look at tampa before their first cup, they also thought they could outscore anybody, dictate the game impose their style. Now they have no problem winning games 1-0. Washington lost 4-1 to the rangers last week. Pittsburgh won 1-0 against the rangers the day after.

              • Jon Sorensen says:

                You need to listen to GMBM’s presser today. Pretty much echos everything I’ve said here regarding defense. (Pasted at bottom)

                • Franky619 says:

                  No teams are outscoring their way to a stanley cup, only morons still think that way, Caps won the cup under Trotz playing a zone defense system, playing defense first then offense will come. Advanced stats made Caps look better than they really were because they were playing with the lead most games early in the season making it easier to defend. They would not even be in playoff position if a 36 yrs old vet had’nt been the best player in the league first half of the season. If GMBM thinks this team is playing good defensively under Lavy then Caps need a new GM. He clearly gets too much credit for the 2018 cup and not enough blame for the roster decision he made after.

                  • Anonymous says:

                    Spot on. Poor defense was overshadowed by favorable matchups and Ovis hot start. Same as last year. Fade out as season goes. GM has been disaster with contracts and coaching has been horrible. Failing D system and inept power play. Wash, rinse and repeat.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Best move at deadline would be new coaches. As I was ridiculed for saying earlier in the year when things were going good, the man on man d-zone coverage continually leads to open players in front of our goal and easy goals. Our Dmen are chasing forwards out to the blue line and our forwards don’t come down to the paint. Hasn’t worked for two years with this group. Biggest mistake ever was letting Trotz leave.

    • Franky619 says:

      Goaltending might have been weak, but Laviolette system does’nt help them at all. Very few teams play man on man defense and the Caps obviously don’t have the personnel to play that way. Zone defense, protect the crease much easier much safer and less taxing on player and goaltender.

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