In a game that featured a bunch of odd bounces resulting in goals, the Capitals took the momentum back from the Canucks in the third period to overcome a 4-2 deficit entering the final frame.
The Canucks controlled the pace of play and momentum in the second frame, but were unable to contain the Capitals’ offensive attack. This tilt also featured Alex Ovechkin’s first multi-goal game of the 2022-23 campaign, and John Carlson and Dylan Strome’s first goals of the season.
In this post, we’ll take a look at some pertinent statistical data points that can help provide some insights into where the Capitals succeeded and where improvement opportunities lie.
The Capitals were a bit underwhelming through the first two frames of the tilt against the Canucks. Typically, in these posts, we compare the two teams’ performances for the entire game during five-on-five play. In this case, it’s clear we saw two different Capitals teams during the first 40 minutes and the last 20 minutes of this game:
The first period saw below average possession rates, specifically in Corsi (CF%) and Fenwick (FF%) shot attempt generation. Those relatively lower CF% and FF% rates in the first period carried over to overall shots for percentages (SF%) being rather underwhelming.
With that, the Capitals generated zero high-danger chances (HDCF%), and that resulted in zero goals scored during five-on-five play and an expected goals for percentage (xGF%) of only 35.91.
The fact that the Capitals were able to escape that period with a 1-1 deadlock is actually quite amazing, and the goal that Darcy Kuemper allowed in the final seconds of the first was among the flukiest goals I’ve personally seen.
The second period was much of the same, or even worse in some cases. The Capitals generated a lower rate of Fenwick shot attempts, overall shots, and scoring chances, but matched the Canucks in HDCF with 6 a piece.
At the start of the third period, the tides turned tremendously. The Capitals dominated all of the statistical categories, scoring three goals during five-on-five play and allowing none. The Capitals we saw in the third period played with intensity and purpose–something we all want to see much more of down the stretch.
Another thing the Capitals did really well tonight was focus on more shot attempts in the most dangerous spot on the ice, the low slot:
The bulk of the shot attempts occurred below the circles and nearly in front of the goal. Two goals were scored from short range. The theme of the Caps continuing to attempt shots from outside the faceoff dots has continued through this young season.
Five-on-five forward line performances
With Connor Brown leaving the game early with a lower body injury, Peter Laviolette was forced to make some line changes to account for only 11 forwards on the bench. With those line changes, the Capitals’ success increased. Here’s a look at the forward line performances:
I would be extremely surprised if Laviolette didn’t pencil in the trio of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov (if he’s not suspended for that egregious slash on Kyle Burroughs), and Conor Sheary as the top line against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. They were on the ice during five-on-five play together for a mere 3:40 and generated 10 Corsi shot attempts, 8 Fenwick attempts, 8 shots on goal, and 3 goals scored. The 90.65 xGF% and 100 HDCF% is certainly amazing.
The other line that performed admirably was the Marcus Johansson, Lars Eller, and Aliaksei Protas line. That trio skated the most together of any line during five-on-five play (10:45) and boasted really strong possession and scoring chance suppression numbers.
The other two lines are up in the air at this point if you keep the previously mentioned lines together. The Sheary, Nic Dowd, and Garnet Hathaway line has been dreadful this season. Through four games, they have a 40.32 CF%, a 45.45 FF%, a 39.29 SF%, a 40 GF%, 42.17 xGF%, 40.74 SCF%, and a 50 HDCF%. They’ve also allowed 3 high-danger goals against and haven’t converted a high-danger goal, offensively. Is it time to break up the fourth line?
In our previous post-game analysis against the Montreal Canadiens, we spotlighted Protas’ performance. He has yet to disappoint statistically. He posted a 61.54 CF%, 58.33 FF%, 63.64 SF%, 100 GF%, 65.79 xGF%, 80 SCF%, and 50 HDCF%. Protas leads the team in CF%, FF%, SF%, and HDCF%.
The fact of the matter is that we need to see the third period iteration of the Capitals much more this season. There might not be long stretches where they’re quite as dominant as they were tonight, but those turbo-boosted periods where they take over games is something that separates a team from being a mere playoff participant to being a true Cup contender.
With the performances of the lines after Laviolette shook them up in the third period, it’d be rather surprising to see the Capitals enter Thursday’s tilt with the Senators with the same line combinations.
By Justin Trudel