The Washington Capitals have seen 10 different players record goals in the first three games of their opening round series with the Florida Panthers. T.J. Oshie has a pair of goals and Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller, John Carlson, Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Garnet Hathaway all have a single tally.
So who has been generating the most offense of those players?
One method of assessing a player’s ability to generate scoring opportunities is through “expected goals”. Expected goals is a statistic used in several sports that weighs shot attempt characteristics with the likelihood of a goal being scored. In other words, the stat correlates a specific shot attempt type, location and other characteristics with conversion rates based on historical data from that exact shot location.
The following graph plots each of the Capitals skaters individual expected goals for (ixG) normalized for 60 minutes of ice time. [Click to enlarge].
Statistically, Tom Wilson is atop the list of individual expected goals per 60, simply because he has a goal in just 1:31 of ice time. Makes sense. However, second on the list is Garnet Hathaway, which may be a surprise to some. If you’ve followed Hathaway’s play and the play of the fourth line over the last two seasons, it’s probably less of a surprise.
Other notables are Lars Eller, Anthony Mantha and Johan Larsson. Here’s why.
One way to begin adding context (color) to the “expected goals” statistic is to assess the overall scoring opportunities a player might have. This starts with percent of zone shift starts in the offensive zone.
The following chart plots the overall offensive zone shift start percentages for each of the Capitals skaters for the first three games of the series. [Click to enlarge].
As you can see by the chart above, Garnet Hathaway is posting very impressive expected goals numbers all while starting just 23.53% of his shifts in the offensive zone. That makes sense as well, as he and the fourth line are looked to for defense. But that amplifies how well Hathaway is moving the play from the Capitals defensive zone into the offensive zone when he is one the ice.
Johan Larsson, Lars Eller and Anthony Mantha should also be commended, as they each have less than 50% of their shifts start in the offensive zone, but are generating decent to good expected goals numbers.
The aforementioned players are not only looked to for defense, but also scoring, and they are doing just that. Kudos to Hathaway, Larsson, Eller and Mantha.
By Jon Sorensen