Converting On Opportunity: Which Capitals Skaters Are “Finishing” Their Scoring Chances?

Photo: AP/Reinhold Matay

Creating scoring chances is half the formula to scoring goals. The second half, which is just as important, is converting on the chances that are created. Generating scoring opportunities is important, but if you can’t capitalize on those opportunities, the opportunity becomes irrelevant.

One of the many statistics we can utilize to assess a player’s overall performance is “finishing” – the differential between actual goals scored and expected goals scored. In this post we will take a look at the current finishing stats for each of the Capitals skaters with a quarter of the season now in the books.

[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.]

CREATING OPPORTUNITY

Before we look at finishing, let’s first take a look at the scoring opportunities created by each of the Capitals skaters. One way we can do that is to look at the expected goals for (xGF) for each player. We can normalize the stat per 60 minutes of ice time to derive a comparable value for each player.

The following graph plots the individual expected goals for per 60 minutes of ice time  (ixG/60) for each of the Capitals skaters at even-strength (5-on-5). [Click to enalrge].

Sonny Milano currently leads the team with 1.332 xG/60. Next up is Alex Ovechkin (.883), Dylan’s Strome (.847) and Anthony Mantha (0.824).

So that tells us who is creating chances (expected goals). But as previously noted, creating is one thing, converting is another.

TEAM FINISHING

We can begin to assess each of the Capitals’ skaters’ finishing stats by first looking at the goals scored above expected by the Capitals when each player is on the ice.

The following graph plots the goals scored by the Capitals while each player is on the ice minus the expected goals scored (GF – xGF) while that player is on the ice at 5-on-5. [Click to enlarge].

There have been three goals scored by the Capitals when Beck Malenstyn has been on the ice, but the total expected goals generated while he has been on the ice has been 0.85. Thus, 3 – 0.85 = 2.15. In other words, the team has scored 2.15 more goals than expected when Malenstyn has been on the ice. However, he has played just five games for the Capitals, so his sample size could be considered relatively small.

Sonny Milano continues to reside near the top of the list. There have been seven goals scored by the Capitals while he has been on the ice, while there have been 5.64 expected goals for when he has been on the ice. In other words, the team has scored 1.36 more goals than expected when Milano has been on the ice. That’s good “finishing”.

Milano has played 11 games for the Capitals, but so far he’s been an excellent addition to the team. Defense will probably always be a concern for him, but so far, his offense has far outweighed his defensive liabilities.

INDIVIDUAL FINISHING

The next stat we can utilize is the difference in individual goals scored (GF) and individual expected goals (ixG) for each player. The following graph plots the individual goals scored minus the individual expected goals for each player. [Click to enlarge]

Beck Malenstyn has scored one goal and has recorded an individual expected goals for of 0.32, (1 – .32 = .68). That means that Malenstyn is scoring more than expected. Again, a rather small sample size for him, but encouraging numbers for him right out of the gate.

Conor Sheary tops the list at 2.52, meaning he has scored 2.52 more goals than expected. Nic Dowd (1.32) and Lars Eller (0.92) also reside near the top. Sheary continues to exceed all expectations, especially considering he is a 20-goal scorer and earning just $1.5 million per season.

CAVEATS AND CONTEXT

As always, I like to close by reminding folks that the aforementioned stats are just a few brushstrokes in the total analytical painting for each of the Capitals skaters. No one stat, or even a few stats, should render an overall decision on a player.

The lack of 5-on-5 goals heavily impacts a few of the player’s stats. Gustafsson (no 5-on-5 goals), Alex Ovechkin (just three 5-on-5 goals), Evgeny Kuznetsov (just one 5-on-5 goal) and Dylan Strome (just two 5-on-5 goals) would all see rapid improvement in their finishing stats with the addition of an even-strength goal.

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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6 Responses to Converting On Opportunity: Which Capitals Skaters Are “Finishing” Their Scoring Chances?

  1. Anonymous says:

    If you told me at the start of the season that Kuznetsov (1) and Ovechkin (3) had a total of 4 5-on-5 goals at the quarter pole, I would have though both got injured early in the season.

    • Anonymous says:

      Kuzy is never gonna be a 30-goal scorer, like many had hoped. He’s barely a 20 goal scorer so far in his NHL career. He’s actually looking like a Nicklas Backstrom at this point in his career.

    • Chris C says:

      To be honest Alex scores a lot on the pp.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why didn’t anyone claim Sonny Milano?!?

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