Season Trends For The Washington Capitals Over The Course Of The 2021-22 Season

It’s often helpful to take a “big picture” look at a team’s performance for a range of statistical categories over the course of a season. The wide-angle look can shed some light on how the team performed during certain stretches of the season.

As a result, one of our final assessments for the Washington Capitals 2021-22 season focuses on the rolling averages and rankings for various key metrics for the Capitals during the course of the 2021-22 season.

METHODOLOGY

This post will look at the standings, scoring, special teams, faceoffs, shooting percentage, possession metrics and goaltending statistics and rankings over the course of the 2021-22 season.

[The data and statistics used for this post are courtesy of Natural Stat TrickHockey Reference, NHL.com and NoVa Caps’ Advanced Analytics model. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.

STATISTICAL TREND ANALYSIS 

The post will plot an array of stats and rankings for the Capitals after each game of the 2021-22 season.

Points/Winning Percentage

The first chart plots the Capitals rolling winning percentage over the course of the 2021-22 season. [Click to enlarge].

The Capitals winning percentage peaked in late-November at .750% and hit a low-water mark on March 3 (.591%). They were in a steady swoon between those two dates, but rebounded, slightly, after March 3 to finish the season at a very respectable .610%.

Power Play

The next graph plots the Capitals cumulative power play efficiency after each game during the 2021-22 regular season. [Click to enlarge].

The Capitals power play bottomed out at 13.2% on January 26. The resurgence, which began on January 26, coincided with the return of Nicklas Backstrom to start, followed by T.J. Oshie, topping out at 20.2%. The power play dipped again in April, ending the season at 18.8%.

Penalty Kill

The next graph plots the rolling success rate of the Capitals penalty kill for the 2021-22 regular season. [Click to enlarge].

The Capitals penalty kill, led by now reported “former” Capitals assistant coach Scott Arniel, was fairly solid for the entire season, and finished at a respectable 80.4%, which was 12th-best in the league. A mid-season dip to 78.0% coincided with an overall slump by the team in the same timeframe.

It will be interesting to see who takes over the reins as the coach of the penalty kill next season, should the Arniel departure rumors hold true.

Faceoff Winning Percentage

Next up we take a season-long look at the Capitals and their rolling success rates in faceoffs over the course of the season. [Click to enlarge].

Easily one of the worst performance areas for the Capitals during the 2021-22 season was faceoffs. The team was 32nd (worst) in the league from December 29 to January 20, dropping to a season-low of 45.3% on December 31. They finished the season with a slight surge to 47.1%, which was 30th-best in the league.

There is great debate as to the resultant overall value of winning faceoffs. There are a number statistical assessments that have shown little to no correlation between faceoff success rates and wins, and even faceoff success rates to immediate follow-up goals. Regardless, the team has to be looking at ways to improve at the dot this off-season.

Team Shooting Percentage

The next chart tracks the Capitals cumulative shooting percentage over the course of the 2021-22 season. [Click to enlarge].

The Capitals shot the puck well to start the season, averaging around 11% a full month into the season, well above league average. The team’s shooting percentage leveled-off with a season-low of 8.76% on April 3. The team saw an increase in the percentage for a majority of the final month, finishing with a respectable 8.97%, the 7th-best rate in the league. Once again, not much to complain about here.

Shot Attempts For Percentage (CF%)

The next plot depicts the Capitals rolling ‘shot attempts for’ percentage (CF%) over the course of the season. [Click to enlarge]

As we turn our sights to a few of the advanced metrics we begin to see another recurring theme, and that’s a hot start and steady decline during the second half of the season, even as the Capitals get key players back from injury.

The Capitals were dominant in shot attempts for in the first half of the season, and hit a rate of 52.27% on January 15. Since that date, the team was in steady decline until mid-April, where there was a late surge to finish the season.

Expected Goals For Percentage (xGF%)

The next chart looks at the Capitals ‘expected goals for’ percentage over the course of the 2021-22 regular season. [Click to enlarge].

Similar to other key possession metrics, the Capitals expected goals for percentage had a high-water mark in the first half of the season (December 17: 53.09%) and saw a steady decline through March 9, where things began to even out. They never dipped below the 50% threshold, and finished the season with a 50.58% rate, 15th in the league.

High-Danger Goals For Percentages (HDGF%)

The final possession metric graph plots the Capitals high-danger goals for percentage for the 2021-22 season. [Click to enlarge].

Again a good start to the season was followed by a steady decline. The team’s HDGF% actually dipped below 50% in late March and remained below 50% for most of the remainder of the season. This has been a solid stat for the Capitals in recent seasons, so it’s concerning that they have dipped below 50%.

Team Save Percentage

The final season trends graph is a snapshot of the Capitals team save percentage at even strength during the 2021-22 season. [Click to enlarge].

While much was made of the lack of a definitive number-one starter in goal for the Capitals, the team average tends to tell a better, overall story. The Capitals finished the season with a .916 team save percentage for the season. That was 16th in the league.

Like a majority of the aforementioned stats, the team average started well, topping out at .935% in late November, then the average experienced a steady decline through the end of the season, finishing at .916%.

Closing

The rolling averages for the Capitals 2021-22 season tell a fairly consistent story. The team got off to a very strong start, probably better than most expected and projected. The hot start was followed by a long and steady decline (return to normalcy) with a brief resurgence towards the end of the season.

The steady decline was more of a regression to realistic averages for the Capitals, rather than some form of underperformance, as the team finished in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories. In the end, the return of Nicklas Backstrom, Anthony Mantha and T.J. Oshie helped, but wasn’t a deciding factor.

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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6 Responses to Season Trends For The Washington Capitals Over The Course Of The 2021-22 Season

  1. Lance says:

    Nice article, Jon. That shows the Caps are a middlin’ team. It feels like we’re on a downward trend. It wouldn’t surprise me if we miss the playoffs next year and draft in the top 10. Please don’t go trading away 1st round picks BMac!

    We do have some talent coming up. If we can trade vets for picks we shouldn’t be significantly worse than we are now. Beyond that, we have to unearth a few young superstars by hook or by crook.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Interesting trends. Somewhat surprised they don’t align more with the injuries and return from injuries. Middle of the pack is about right, we need sizable changes this offseason.

  3. novafyre says:

    We also started the year as a younger team and then the average age crept up as veterans returned.

    Heaven is where the top teams are holding their cards liking their hand. Hell are the ones who folded and went on vacation after 82 games, now looking to rebuild. Purgatory is where the Caps, Pits, Islanders, Boston are. Middle of the pack. Just made the playoffs or just missed. That’s where the hard decisions are.

  4. Diane Doyle says:

    A potential changing of the guard for Eastern Conference powers could be in progress. The more typical powers of the Metro (Caps and Pens) were in third and fourth. The upstart Canes and Rangers were in the top slots. The Atlantic Division was similar with upstart Panthers in first. Bruins, perennial power, were fourth and a wild card team.

    • Lance says:

      Good point, Diane. We need to get some young stars and Boston and Pittsburgh is trying to do the same thing. Who is the last all-star the Caps drafted or traded for? Kuznetov? Maybe Forsberg + Wilson. That’s 10+ years ago unless I’m forgetting someone. The Caps have drafted well overall but no stars unless McMichael or LaPierre get there.

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