It’s a simple philosophy on the surface. Shoot the puck more than the opposition and you should score more goals, right? Well, not exactly. The type and location of shots, and a wide range of other shot characteristics factor in, but the basic premise is essentially sound for winning hockey games. At minimum, it’s a useful indicator of how a team is performing.
As we’ve noted several times this season, the Washington Capitals began the season cratering in the shots for and shots against differential, with an average that bottomed out at -5.20 shots (giving up 5.2 more shots than they were taking per game on average) on November 1. [Click to enlarge]
We’ve also discussed how the Capitals fought back during the months of November and December to reverse the dismal start to the season. They climbed above the even mark for shot differential in early December and have been steadily climbing…until the last eight games. [Click to enlarge].
The more worrisome part is that the recent dip in performance has come against teams with an average winning percentage of .471% over those eight games. Underperforming against weaker teams could mean a wide range of things, but if nothing else, it does raise an statistical eye-brow.
[Note: additional stats provided in the table above include contextual data pertaining to the Capitals expected goals for percentage per game (xGF%). The additional metrics add much-needed context to a stand-alone game score for xGF%. More on these new augmented metrics in the coming days.]
EXPECTED GOALS FOR PERCENTAGE
We touched on the Capitals recent “wobble” earlier this week, noting that the teams shot metrics were dipping, and against lesser-quality teams. The following graph plots the Capitals expected goals for percentage and the opposition’s winning percentage for all 44 games played to date. [Click to enlarge].
Three of the Capitals last eight games have seen the team’s expected goals for percentage below 50% against teams with a winning percentage below .500. That’s a concern, if things don’t turn around soon.
[The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and the NoVa Caps Advanced Analytics Model (NCAAM). If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary]
As mentioned, January is the easiest month of the Capitals 2022-23 schedule with regards to strength opposition. Now is the time to gain some ground. Can the recent dip be attributed to the absence of John Carlson. Certainly, to some extent. How much, if any, is up for debate.
The recent underwhelming performance is not what was to be expected, particularly against weaker teams. However, like the start of this recent dip, things can turn on a dime and quickly improve. Saturday night against the Flyers would be a perfect time for that turnaround.
By Jon Sorensen