The Washington Capitals gathered two hard-earned standings points against Pittsburgh tonight, grabbing a shootout win over the division rival Penguins. The tilt had ebbs and flows in momentum, with each team dominating a period each, and matching up fairly evenly in the third.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the underlying statistics during five-on-five play and evaluate how the Capitals performed against an evenly matched opponent in Pittsburgh. 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 analytics glossary.
Possession And Chance Generation
Here’s how the Capitals performed tonight by period, and during regulation overall while playing five-on-five:
I mentioned in the introduction that each team really dominated one period each, and for the Capitals, that was the first period. The Capitals thoroughly dominated possession and scoring chance generation through the first frame, controlling 69.23% of scoring chances (SCF%), 80% of high danger chances (HDCF%), and 64.5% of expected goals (xGF%).
The Capitals, although dominant in that first frame, failed to pierce Casey DeSmith during five-on-five play. Alex Ovechkin was able to solve DeSmith on a power play in the first period, though.
The Penguins entered the second period with none of the momentum, yet they snatched the reins of the game right out of the hands of the Capitals. The Penguins owned every statistic shown above in the second period except for HDCF%, where they split those chances evenly. The Penguins were able to do what the Capitals weren’t able to do in their dominant period at five-on-five play, and were able to score a goal to knot the game at one.
The Penguins ended up holding onto the possession metrics in Corsi shot attempts (CF%), Fenwick shot attempts (FF%), and shots for (SF%). The Capitals countered with higher quality scoring chances, reflected in SCF% and HDCF%. With an excess of quality scoring chances, the Capitals were able to grab the majority of expected goals in the third period. The Capitals failed to put the game away in regulation after Marcus Johansson put them ahead, 2-1.
Here’s how the Corsi attempt differential looked over the course of regulation:
Effectively, this just displays what we’ve just discussed. The Caps had seized momentum in the first period, especially in shot attempts, but relinquished that advantage as the game went on. There was a slight uptick about halfway through the third period, but the Penguins quickly reversed this.
Overall, the Capitals need to improve in overall puck possession and controlling the puck. Their first period performance is the mold to build off of for the future, but this inconsistency has plagued the Capitals in stretches all season. There’s a delicate balance in creating shot attempts and generating quality and high danger scoring chances. Puck possession is not the end-all-be-all (we’ve all seen games where teams win 1-0 after being outshot tremendously), but we can say categorically that the teams with better possession metrics fair better than those who struggle.
Forward Line Performance
Here’s how each forward line performed tonight: [Click to enlarge].
You can probably expect the lines to be thrown in the blender again after this performance. Ovechkin, Strome, and Oshie struggled to maintain possession and posted the worst xGF% of the four lines deployed tonight. That’s not exactly what you want from your top line, especially when it has arguably the greatest goalscorer of all time playing on it.
The only line that had really strong numbers across the board was Hathaway, Eller, and Aube-Kubel. That trio was mostly matched up against the Penguins’ top line of Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby, and Bryan Rust and still put up rather gaudy possession numbers and controlled 65.52% of expected goals.
Interestingly enough, the Sheary, Kuznetsov, and Mantha line and the Johansson, Backstrom, Milano line controlled the lion’s share of xGF too. That’s mainly correlated to their ability to generate (and suppress) scoring chances.
On To The Next One
The Capitals got some important standings points against a Pittsburgh team that’s only trailing the Capitals by one standings point (with three games in hand). It would have been ideal to take this game in regulation to avoid handing the Penguins the loser point, but two points is always better than one (or none).
With the Capitals’ next game on Sunday against the offensively gifted Toronto Maple Leafs, the Capitals need to focus on chance suppression and controlling the puck. The more time you spend in the offensive zone, the less opportunities the opponent can have to score.
By Justin Trudel
They played worst with each period, couldn’t score a 4 on 3 pp in ot?????. Lucky Pitts backup gave up a softy to MOJO. Got to play the whole game like the first period
I think Caps controlled most of first period, Pens controlled second period and the third was a push.
Surprised at Hathawat’s low minutes…again. I wonder what that’s about?
Glad Caps won. But they made Casey DeSmith, who is normally Pitt’s backup goalie, look like Dominick Hasek which seems to be the Caps’ norm. DeSmith is currently their starter since Tristan Jarry is out injured. But Caps are just not very effective in shooting these days. So many games we hear of the Caps outshooting the other team but the goalie “stole” it for the other team.
Todays game was basically a stalemate, with two rival teams playing each other evenly. At least the Caps won today. But they need to do something about their lack of shooting ability.
Like you, I’m tired of hearing all about the other teams’ hot goalies.
These two teams are so evenly matched right now.
To trade Eller would be a tragedy imo. A good team is made up of a broad range of talent enabling them to meet various challenges. I think Eller is one of those who we would miss because other centers don’t do what he does. Perhaps Protas could fill his skates because I think he’s the closest thing to what Eller filling that slot without missing Eller.