A Few Signs Of Improvement For The Capitals


It’s tough to talk about signs of improvement when a team is 9-11-3, but facts are facts. The Capitals are most definitely (finally) showing some signs of crawling out of the crater they created for themselves at the beginning of the season.

While wins and losses rule all other stats, there are certain stats that provide insight as to how a team is performing, overall. Here are a few key stats that reflect an overall improving trend for the team, even without Dmitry Orlov, Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom.

[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.]

Shots Per Game Average Differential

Other than goals, the most basic of stats is shots. Shots for and shots against tell us how a team is doing in total. The following plots the Capitals differential in shots for and and against averages (SF/GM-avg – SA/GM-avg) for the first quarter of the season.  [Click to enlarge]

The Capitals differential in ‘shots for’ per game average and ‘shots against’ per game average has been steadily improving since a season-low on November 1. In fact, they have been outshooting opponents by a significant margin in their last handful of games. Something to keep an eye on as we go through the Pacific Northwest slate of games.

Scoring Chances For Percentage

Scoring chances for percentage simply provides a percentage of the team’s scoring chances in relation to the opposition’s scoring chances. Anything over 50% means a team is generating more scoring chances than the opposition. [Click to enlarge].

The Capitals recently crossed over the 50% threshold and their scoring chances for percentage continues to climb. In general, if you are creating more scoring chances than your opposition, the wins will come over the long haul.

Expected Goals For Percentage

Another key metric to track during any season is expected goals for percentage. In short, the metric gauges shot potential (expected goals) for every shot attempt taken by a team. Again, anything over 50% means the Capitals are generating more expected goals than the opposition.

While the team remains below 50% for the season, the trajectory of their expected goals for trend is positive and projects to pass 50% in the coming games.

SUMMARY

The aforementioned stats are just a few of the primary metrics that indicate an overall improving trend with the team. It’s true that they will need to convert the stats into wins, but that should come.

We’ve mentioned before, but it bears repeating. The Capitals most difficult part of their 2022-23 schedule is in the first half of the season. It’s unfortunate that the difficult part of the schedule coincides with key injuries, but it is what it is. They need to just hang on and be in the mix come January when injured players begin returning and the schedule eases.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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13 Responses to A Few Signs Of Improvement For The Capitals

  1. Anonymous says:

    Encouraging. They’ve converted to wins recently, but they need to keep that up.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The schedule has been brutal. Good to hear easier days are ahead.

  3. Mark Eiben says:

    I won’t be surprised if they lose to Vancouver tomorrow. Canucks are finally hitting their stride right now.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Good to see the underlying stats improve. I wonder how much the influx of new players getting used to a new team has also contributed to a slow start. It takes a while to build top six chemistry to the point you can just execute the plays without thinking.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      That’s the million dollar question, how much of a boost will they get and how much will they need to makeup when key players return.

      • Anonymous says:

        Worst case scenario we end up like the Islanders last year whose season was lost due to that weird lengthy road trip and Covid early. If that happens maybe trade out a few expiring contracts, get a higher pick than usual, resign Strome and Milano if his play holds up. (I also quite like Gustafson, wouldn’t mind if he was back). See who in Hershey is ready to go. As a fan, that sounds pretty fun and interesting as far as retools goes 😅

        • Jon Sorensen says:

          I thought of the Islanders as well. Their season was over from the start. Most of it out of their control (long road trip to start, etc.). But I don’t think it’s over for the Caps.

  5. novafyre says:

    As the late great John McKay said, “Three or four plane crashes and we’re in the playoffs.”

  6. Anonymous says:

    Baby steps.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The “eye test” says they are generating more shots, getting a better push in the last few games.

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