Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images
In what may have been the Capitals’ strongest game during five-on-five play so far this season, the Capitals ran into a brick wall named Ville Husso, and suffered their fifth regulation loss of the season in Detroit. It was also a historical night for Alex Ovechkin, who tied Gordie Howe’s record for most goals with a single franchise.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the statistics from the game during even-strength (five-on-five) play. 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 NHL Analytics Glossary.
I mentioned in the lede that the Capitals had a really strong performance during five-on-five play against the Red Wings, and here’s how the metrics panned out for each period:
The Caps came out of the gate and really controlled the first period in terms of possession metrics. On top of that, they were able to generate the lion’s share of scoring chances (SCF) and high-danger scoring chances (HDCF). That momentum carried over into the second period, where the Caps scored their only goal of the night on an Ovechkin wrist shot from the face-off dot to the right of Husso.
The third period was not controlled by the Capitals. The Red Wings made a stronger push, racking up a majority of expected goals for (xGF) in the frame. That proved too much for the Capitals, who received a solid performance from goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
Realistically, it’s very hard to win games only scoring one goal. It’s not like the Capitals were devoid of chances to score, but Husso seemed to have the answer all night long. Husso posted a .966 save percentage during five-on-five play and a .971 save percentage in all game situations. Good goalies steal games, and Husso did just that tonight.
Here’s how the Corsi shot differential looked over the course of the game:
This solidifies two things that were previously mentioned: the Capitals seized control of the possession game from the outset, but were unable to continue that momentum into the third period.
While the Capitals were able to control the majority of Corsi shot attempts during five-on-five play, they were unable to continue stacking up that differential. This indicates that the Red Wings did a much better job in possessing the puck in the third period than they had earlier in the game.
Here’s the shot attempt heat map from tonight’s tilt:
The Capitals peppered shot attempts at Husso, but again, he had the answers in net tonight. The Red Wings really focused shot attempts in the low slot area, the most dangerous location on the ice, where Andrew Copp scored the game winning goal.
Ultimately, the Capitals need to do a better job at keeping more shot attempts outside the danger zone in the slot area.
Five-on-five forward line performance
Here’s how the Capitals’ forward lines performed tonight:
The Marcus Johansson, Dylan Strome, and Anthony Mantha line was fantastic tonight during five-on-five play. They didn’t allow a single high-danger chance against, generated the vast majority of scoring chances, and as a result, controlled 76.08% of expected goals for. The only downside was that they weren’t able to convert on any of their scoring chances.
The fourth line of Joe Snively, Nic Dowd, and Garnet Hathaway had a really strong performance outside of being on the ice for a goal against. Although they allowed the only five-on-five goal scored by the Red Wings, they posted what was likely their strongest performance so far this season in terms of possessing the puck and generating chances off of the cycle.
In what might look like the most confounding stat line for a forward line, the Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Conor Sheary line controlled the majority of shot attempts, but allowed the Red Wings to own 66.67% of scoring chances and 100% of high-danger chances. This is where percentages can be a bit misleading, because they only allowed one high-danger chance against and two scoring chances against. As mentioned previously, this line was the only line to generate a goal tonight.
The Aliaksei Protas, Lars Eller, and Connor McMichael line was certainly the black sheep of the bunch tonight. They were routinely out-possessed of the puck, and as a result, the Red Wings controlled 72.85% of expected goals while they were on the ice. Outside of the numbers here, McMichael had a few solid chances to get on the scoreboard tonight, but was unable to convert on those chances.
Sometimes you play a solid game and do all the right things, and it still results in a loss. That’s what elite goaltending gets you, and that’s exactly what Ville Husso gave the Red Wings tonight.
More often than not, if you control possession like the Capitals did tonight, you end up winning the game. The bright side of tonight’s loss is that there weren’t any huge glaring issues with a lineup that’s dealing with a bevy of injuries. The Capitals will need to lean on their healthy star players and goaltending to tread water until reinforcements arrive.
By Justin Trudel
Confess to be feeling rather depressed about the Capitals missing several glorious chances, not just tonight.
Yeah, all these close losses. I know it’s after the fact, but Caps could 8-2-2 or something of that nature.
That’s it! I’m following the pro Pickelball tour and giving up on hockey!
Ha! I saw Conor Sheary attended the DC Pickleball event recently. Maybe you’re onto something.
About the only reason to watch this team now is to see which record Ovie breaks next. Bad chemistry leads to bad passes and although you see players trying it is not consistent. Picklebsll, na…..next going to check out fall baseball at Md and then Md basketball and Lacrosse!!
Someone had asked us to look at Kuemper’s rebounds. Was busy and couldn’t get to it until now. My apologies.
you can tell he’s made vast improvement on rebounds since the first 3 games of his season.
very encouraging. DK is on fire.
This team reminds me of the little Engine that Couldn’t! They try and try but just cant seem to get it all together. Wonder if its more that just the injured players and old age; maybe bad chemistry and juju and not fond of playing for a lame duck head coach. With so many playing out their contracts you would think there would be more effort and urgency to things to show other teams that they deserve a contract and a nice salary. Maybe a change in HC and a trade of a few players would change things.
There seems to be a negative vibe around the team this year beyond the injuries. Lavi’s system is fun and works well if you have enough offensive skill to do it but our guys’ skills are not what they used to be. I love Kuzy but he’s not himself so far this year. Mantha is a 20 goal guy who somehow makes you think he’ll score 40. Strome and Ovie are playing well.
Overall, we don’t have the horses to play the way Lavi wants to play even when healthy. With 32 teams, the talent is spread so thin that I doubt Lavi’s system will work anywhere in the NHL nowadays. And Lavi ain’t gonna change his system.
So we’re back in Limbo. Just waiting and waiting.