Capitals Ride Strong Third Period To Comeback Win Over The Canucks: Post-Game Analysis

Photo: @Capitals

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 statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick. If you’d like to learn more about the terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.

Five-on-five performance

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

About Justin Trudel

Justin is a lifelong Caps fan, with some of his first memories of the sport watching the team in the USAir Arena and the 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. Now a resident of St. Augustine, FL, Justin watches the Caps from afar. Justin graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science from Towson University, and a Master's of Science in Applied Information Technology from Towson University. Justin is currently a product manager. Justin enjoys geeking out over advanced analytics, roster construction, and cap management.
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15 Responses to Capitals Ride Strong Third Period To Comeback Win Over The Canucks: Post-Game Analysis

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think the Ovi-Kuzy top line will be reinstated to start on Thursday.

    • steven says:

      I hope not. I think one thing that this team does it gets to comfortable in a bad way. Shaking thing up is sometimes good and necessary to wake players up. Wondering was Kuzy sick or hung over and that was why it was said he might not play last night?

      • Jonathan says:

        Whatever the reason, he had a good game except for his penalty, for which he apologized to the team for. I think that was a good thing. I believe that was before the 4 goal comeback.

    • I think that would have definitely been the case, but it seems like Kuznetsov is going to get a suspension handed out for his slash/high stick on Burroughs.

  2. Jon Sorensen says:

  3. Jonathan says:

    Keeping those lines together would look something like this:

    Ovi Kuzy Sheary

    Mantha Strome Oshie

    Johansson Eller Protas

    Brown Dowd Hathaway

    That 4th line looks good. The 2nd line is strong.

    • Jonathan says:

      the 3rd line. Johansson continues his outstanding start to the season and his play has justified the decision to keep him. I love his shot attempts; that’s really nice to see. And the attempts are good chances. I thought Protas should be on a line that has a good finisher because he’s still developing his finish at the NHL level, but he generates good offense, so I thought someone like Sheary, Ovi, Oshie would be great pairings, but this combo has shown great strength of their own with strong shot against numbers and possession numbers as you mentioned Jon, making this a great shut down line who can contribute a goal every once in awhile. Who knows how long they stay together, but if they continue those numbers, that’s quite a nice line to through out there vs top lines. Of course, the last two games the Caps have played perhaps the worst teams in the NHL, so numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Lets see what the numbers are against better competition. Than probably another Lavi switch.

    • Jonathan says:

      It’s interesting to see Sheary have such a great start to his season, and Dowd and Hathaway not. They haven’t been on the ice once or twice when Sheary scored. There’s been some goals allowed that looked preventable. Dowd and Hath have looked slow at times; not playing the typical fast game they’ve been known to show in the past. Brown has speed and tenacity; a natural replacement for Hag. He would be a great fit with the other two. He’d need to switch sides from rt to lf, but his skill set matches the needs of that line, and gives all three a chance to create a comeback. Brown hasn’t produced on the 1st line, so this would be a great move to give him confidence and highlight his best assets.

      • The fourth line struggling is a real reason why I thought losing Jonsson-Fjallby on waivers was painful. He probably has the closest skillset to Hagelin and had fit seamlessly on the fourth line last season when called upon.

    • Jonathan says:

      If Brown can’t make the next game; than I guess McM or Snively plays with the 4th line. Not ideal pairings; but they have some experience together too.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Nice to see those numbers above for TJ. He had 2 shots on goal and no points, but those numbers don’t express what a very nice game he had.

    • That’s what I love about advanced analytics — the game is so much deeper than just box score statistics. Oshie provides a lot to this team on the box score and in the possession and chance generation aspects.

  5. novafyre says:

    Waiting to see if Brown and/or Kuzy will be available for the next game.

    Coaches have particular expectations for each line. What does Lavi expect from each of his lines? What is each line’s role in his schemes?

    • I don’t think Kuznetsov will be in the lineup for Thursday’s game against the Senators with a potential suspension looming. Probably not the way we envisioned McMichael entering the lineup for his season debut, but it’ll be interesting to see where he slots in.

      In terms of roles, it’s pretty clear that he relies on the Dowd line for his “shutdown” line. They haven’t really been living up to that title quite yet. Laviolette wants every line to be defensively responsible, but I think Ovi gets a bit of leeway there.

  6. Jon Sorensen says:

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