Midday Breakaway: Cashing In On Opportunity

A common advanced statistic currently utilized in the hockey analytics community is the “expected goals” stat. The stat is beneficial to assess a players ability to generate scoring chances and compares the rate to historical averages for specific shot type and locations.

The expected goals stat includes the shot location, and uses league-wide averages (historical shot data) to determine the likelihood of that shot being a goal based on the historical data for that exact location. In other words, the stat gives a sense of a player’s shot quality by looking at the odds of scoring a goal from that location.

One use of the expected goals (xGF) stat compares its value to actual goals scored as a means of assessing a players ability to “finish” or convert on scoring chances. In other words, are the goals scored above or below historical averages. [This is simply goals scored minus expected goals, or GF – xGF, and is also known as goals differential.]

Here are the Capitals goals differentials (GF – xGF) at even strength from last season: [Click to enlarge]

Data: Natural Stat Trick

To no surprise Alex Ovechkin led the team last season in goals differential. Tom Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Anthony Mantha also far-outpaced their expected goals for the season.

As we’ve previously discussed in a number of posts, Connor McMichael’s goals differential was the worst on the team, and is an area he must improve upon. He’s generating scoring chances, he just needs to convert.

The goals differential stat is a good stat to monitor throughout the season, and will be a very good stat to monitor for Connor McMichael this season.

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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10 Responses to Midday Breakaway: Cashing In On Opportunity

  1. Dan+Hornbaker says:

    This is always good info. If I remember correctly, you wrote a bit about this last year and are willing to give CM a pass on his low rating partially due to his age. Which if I am correct in “quoting you”, I’d agree. While this stat is very interesting and I believe provides meaningful information, I do think giving younger players s bit or a pass makes sense as they are adjusting to the speed of the game at that level. Great sigh that Connor is getting the opportunities in prime spots, and it seems logical that perhaps he rushed the shot sometimes and it would seem to be reasonable to expect him to be more comfortable with time and space and to finish off a higher percentage of those opportunities.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Greetings Dan, hope all is well.

      I completely agree with your take on McMichael as it relates to this particular stat. Personally I think he was trying to be too fine with his intended shot locations and just missing corners, etc. That will come with experience. And yes, generating opportunities is the most challenging part when you jump from juniors to NHL. That’s not an issue for him, and another positive sign.

  2. Lance says:

    Connor McMagic just has to keep firing away. Don’t think to much. He has a great shot he just has to rip it when he gets an opening. A lot of them will go in.

  3. DWGie26 says:

    I agree Lance. Part of that low stat is trying to find his game at NHL level and how he is being coached. The Caps (whether Trotz, Lavi, or others) put an emphasis on a two way game, particularly for younger players trying to find their way into the lineup. He should have more confidence this year to carry the puck and drive chances.

    the other thing that plays into this in linemates. That is why i would love to see a line of Snively-McMichael-Oshie. You could also try Sheary on the RW. This would allow McMike to shine in the puck driving category with finishers. Also, McMichael excels when he is in front of the net and those players would open that up for him as well.

    I’m excited to see his game continue to progress this year. And when he does, that doesn’t mean he could have last year. it is a process. “Trust the Process”. Haha

    • Lance says:

      I can see 25 + 25 for CMac this year. If he’s playing 2C he has to be good on faceoffs, play solid D and contribute every night offensively. It’s a tall order but I believe in the kid. Came through Dale Hunter’s team. Loves to play hockey.

      • DWGie26 says:

        I personally don’t think he is ready for 2C this year. But I do think he can take 3C and continue to evolve. Be more consistent as you say. If he gets to 20 that will be a big growth. I think within 2 years he can get to 25+25 as i suspect he will get more PP time.

        I believe in him too and he is saying all of the right things about competing for time, earning a spot, learning. In two years, he will be 23 and a key middle 6 center and we’ll all be happy.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m with you. 3c has always been ideal for him to start out.

        • Lance says:

          Good post, DWG. It’s tricky with CMac because he has to be good enough to contribute offense and solid enough defensively to get ice time. If he’s not ready for 2C what does Lavi do with him? 3C might actually be harder for a young player because of the defensive responsibilities. It’ll be interesting.

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