The Capitals followed up their win on Saturday night by pouncing on the New Jersey Devils, tallying six goals enroute to a 6-3 victory. The Capitals weren’t excellent during five-on-five play in this game but the special teams units picked up the slack and propelled the Caps to their fourth victory of this young season.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the statistics behind the Capitals win over the Devils. The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHLAnalytics Glossary.
Here’s how the Capitals’ five-on-five metrics panned out against the Devils by period:
I mentioned in the introduction to this post that the Capitals weren’t necessarily excellent during five-on-five play against the Devils. On the other hand, the Devils have posted excellent numbers during five-on-five play, leading the league in Corsi For percentage (CF%), Fenwick For percentage (FF%), Shots For percentage (SF%), Expected Goals For percentage (xGF%), Scoring Chance For percentage (SCF%), and High Danger Chance For percentage (HDCF%).
The Capitals didn’t fare very well in shot attempts or shots on goal during five-on-five play, but were still able to outscore the Devils, 4-3 in five-on-five goals. That’s the funny thing about hockey: the most important statistic is still goals scored. These so-called “underlying” statistics tell us trends for long-term success.
Now, if you showed me these numbers and blocked out the GF% column, I’d probably tell you the Caps lost, and probably convincingly so. Typically, teams that control shot attempts, scoring chances, and expected goals at this level of dominance that the Devils showed tonight end up winning the game.
Charles In Charge
There’s a couple reasons why the Capitals were able to pull out the victory tonight: high-level goaltending and special teams play. Charlie Lindgren was excellent between the pipes, posting a .925 save percentage on 40 shots on goal.
The Capitals took penalties when the Devils had momentum, and the much-maligned penalty kill unit kept the Devils off the board.
Here’s what the shot map looked like during five-on-five play tonight:
The Capitals were still allowing a bevy of shot attempts (and all three goals) from the most dangerous area on the ice–directly in front of the goal. This is another instance of the Capitals’ opponent having a high-volume heat map of shot attempts where the Capitals didn’t muster many shot attempts. As we all know, high-quality goaltending can steal the show.
Forward line performance during five-on-five play:
Here’s how the forward lines fared tonight:
Although the fourth line of Beck Malenstyn, Nic Dowd, and Garnet Hathaway posted rather paltry underlying statistics again, the “eye-test” showed that they were reinvigorated by Malenstyn joining the trio. Malenstyn better fits the mold the fourth line plays with, so that could be a reason why they played better tonight. Being on the ice for two goals for helps that line out as well.
The Alex Ovechkin, Dylan Strome, and Conor Sheary line posted solid figures everywhere but in SF% and GF%. They had solid possession time, but were unable to get shots through to the net.
They had their chances to score, including an Ovechkin breakaway early in the first period and a rush chance where Ovechkin of all people passed up a prime opportunity to shoot to try to set up Sheary on the one-timer on the weak side. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that Ovechkin needs to shoot those 100% of the time.
The other two lines struggled and weren’t very effective tonight. When I was re-reviewing the table above, I thought I made a mistake transcribing the statistics when I saw the Marcus Johansson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and TJ Oshie line had an xGF% of 2.63. Nope, I transcribed correctly. We could see those two lines reworked in advance of Thursday night’s tilt with the Dallas Stars.
It’s always fun to score six goals in a victory but achieving that type of win with a rather paltry performance during five-on-five play makes it a bit more fun. The Capitals were able to pull out the victory because the special teams and goaltending came to play tonight.
That’s the impact of having a high performing power play and penalty killing unit has on any given game. On top of that, when you get this type of goaltending performance out of your backup netminder, you’re in pretty good shape.
These kinds of wins aren’t really sustainable, though. The Capitals have yet to play a full 60-minute effort during five-on-five play. The tide needs to turn towards strong possession and chance generation in order to be a realistic playoff contender moving forward.
By Justin Trudel