Capitals Double Up The Devils: Post-Game Analysis

Photo: IG/@Capitals

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.

Five-on-five performance

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

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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9 Responses to Capitals Double Up The Devils: Post-Game Analysis

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes we get “outliers”. This game was tough to understand from the start, but Lindgren was indeed the difference. When do we start talking goalie controversy?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Beck helps with the foot speed issue. Maybe next game Protas CM Mantha?

  3. Jon Sorensen says:

  4. Jonathan says:

    It’s been said that winning games you’re not supposed to is a sign of a good team. Perhaps that’s the case here, but time will tell. But “not supposed to” may be misleading here, because there was some important things done in this game this is important to winning.
    1) Goaltending both for and against. While you can control for, you can’t control against. The Caps probably got lucky on that this time.
    2) Special teams play. PK and SHG. PP 1/3. The SHG resulted from a lazy turnover. You can’t count on lazy turnovers.
    3) Finishing. Despite only 22 chances.
    4) Physicality. An astounding 31 hits vs 13.

    I think luck played into the game for the Caps, but there were important factors that went in their favor because of their own efforts.

    I particularly liked seeing Beck M. with Dowd and Hathaway. Those two haven’t had a good start to the year, so it was nice to see them have some success together, and Beck had 6 hits! and a nice primary assist to Dowd. He’s certainly earned more playing time with those two. If that line can get some sustained momentum, it would help quite a lot to having a winning streak. They have mojo rights on the rest of the team.

    • Jonathan says:

      Four players had at least 4 hits, and more players could have been even more physical. Protas could have been more physical (1 hit). Ovi could have (2). Mantha could have (1). They have the capability to physically dominate.

  5. Jonathan says:

    It was nice to see good play out of Jensen and Fehervary.

    • Anonymous says:

      I was there and the eye test is absolutely different from analytics. It felt that Caps just played a different system – they were letting Devils to get around but not giving up too much in front. Goalie was great of course but the passing and decision making by Caps was very good. 2nd and espeacially the 3rd goal just sucked the life out of the building. That interception by Sheary was a brutal mistake bu Bratt that just wuited the building. Then, Ovi scored on the powerplay and it felt like the game aas over. All the Caps had to do is defend in the 3rd which they did. They played a smart game. Although the 1 st line needs to be changed. Ovi needs goals!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I was there as well. Agreed that while there were several high danger chances, most of the shots were from the perimeter. Also, I have watched games in many arenas and even in the first period I noticed that the Caps shots on goal were not always being counted. Was so strange but very obvious. I didn’t share this thought, just happened to notice. Then in the 2nd period my daughter said, how was that not a SOG and I was like so you noticed too. She said yeah they have missed several. Just strange. I’m not saying this because I care, Caps (opponents) “having” less shots hurts the Devil’s stats more than the Caps…our shooting % was great last night.

    Anyway, solid arena and good experience. I’ll see them back home in Dallas Thursday and Seattle in about a month so looking forward to the games.

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