Diminishing Returns: Capitals Shot Differentials Continue Declining Trend

Earlier this week I touched on the Washington Capitals stagnating shots on goal per game average, as the team currently sits at 15th best in the league and has been ranked 15th for most of 2022. Today I wanted to build upon that post and visit the overall status of the Capitals ‘shots for’ and ‘shots against’ averages per game, as we close-in on the postseason.

[Data utilized in this post is provided by Natural Stat TrickMoney Puck, Evolving Hockey, NHL.com and NoVa Caps’ Advanced Analytics model. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the terms utilized in this post you can check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.]

Shots On Goal Differential

While the Capitals flatlining shots on goal average could be perceived as a concern or nothing really to be concerned about, the Capitals shots on goal differential is indeed a bit of a concern. The issue is the slowly growing average in shots on goal against. As a result, the Capitals’ overall differential (SF/GM – SA/GM) has been steadily declining since New Year’s Eve. [Click to enlarge]

The good news is that there are a few statistical ‘signals’ that the average is flattening out at around +2.0, which is still in the decent range. However, it’s still too early to confirm if this is where things will bottom out.

Shot Attempts For Average (CF%)

So,while shots on goal (detailed above) have flatlined and the Capitals shots on goal against has been steadily climbing, we should also look at overall shot attempts for (Corsi). Remember that Corsi includes all shot attempts (not on goal, blocked shots, etc.) As expected, the Capitals CF% (ratio between Capitals shot attempts and the opposition’s shot attempts) has also been steadily declining, starting on January 15th. [Click to enlarge].

The Capitals CF% tells a somewhat expected and similar tale as the shots on goal statistic, with a decline beginning two weeks later (January 15). The potential leveling off is also somewhat apparent at around 50.28%. That’s not earth-shattering, but it’s above 50% and that’s ok.

Shot Attempts Per Game League Ranking

So what does this mean in the big picture sense? The answer is multifaceted. First we can look at where the Capitals stand in the league with regards to shot attempts. The next graph plots the Capitals ranking throughout the season.

Much like the Capitals shots on goal differential ranking, the Capitals fall squarely in the middle of the pack. There has been a slow decline in the ranking since the end of February (from 12th in the league to 15th in the league).

Additionally, since there has been no real improvement in the shots metrics since the return of Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha, one could surmise that this is the reality of the 2021-22 Washington Capitals. Could the numbers improve in the waning games of the regular season? Absolutely. Could things change in the postseason. No question. But for now, the Capitals are middle-of-the-pack when it comes to generating and suppressing shots.

All of this also points to a higher premium on goaltending, and well…that’s for another post.

In the next post I’ll build on the this post and the previous shots post and take a closer look at the Capitals play in the high-danger areas, and assess what that could mean for the postseason, where gritty, grinding goals from in close have a higher premium.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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4 Responses to Diminishing Returns: Capitals Shot Differentials Continue Declining Trend

  1. novafyre says:

    I think it is too late — the rosters are set, the playbook has been sent to the printers.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Probably a very telling stat, offensively.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s interesting that there was no improvement with the return of key players after injury. Also interesting there was no significant dip other than downward trend while Backstrom, Oshie and Mantha were out.

  4. steven says:

    I tink it is a combination of things one this team has always been a team that looks for the perfect pass and the perfect shot. Also as this is an older team they have fewer tricks to show the league that they ahve not already seen. Teams areprepared for them and makes getting shots harder. The same with passes. Other teams know their tendencies and are getting in the passing lanes more thus stopping or intercepting passes and preventing shots from being taken. Other teams wathc film and learn how to stop this team.

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