Reviewing The Capitals Performance Against The League’s Best Teams

The basic focus of today’s analysis post is straightforward and to the point. How have the Washington Capitals performed against the league’s best teams so far in the 2022-23 season?

This type of review can obviously shed general perspective as to a team’s overall performance over the course of the season, but can also provide additional insight otherwise unnoticed, as you will see in this post.


The first stat we will take a look at is the Capitals basic won-loss record against teams with a winning percentage better than .500, which essentially eliminates the bottom third of the league. [Click to enlarge]

The Capitals are 16-18-4 on the season against teams with a winning percentage above .500, although they have played two more games on the road. The Capitals have scored 104 goals and given up 117 against teams with a winning percentage greater than .500. Not great, but it’s just one metric.


Next we take a look at the Capitals performance against teams with a winning percentage above .600%, which essentially includes the top 10-11 teams in the league. [Click to enlarge].

The Capitals have a record of 6-9-2 against team’s with a winning percentage above .600%. They’ve scored 48 goals and given up 52 goals. Both stats are not terrible when you consider it’s play against the leagues top-10 teams. The goal differential also narrows, which is somewhat encouraging.


The final record comparison looks at the Capitals record against teams with a winning percentage greater than .650, which is essentially the top five teams in the league.

The won-loss record continues to even out (3-4-1), and the goal differential tightens. This is encouraging, as the Capitals have basically been an even team against the league’s best.

The aforementioned stats consider the Capitals performance over the 53 games played so far this season. But we can glean additional insight by refining that look and by adding critical context to existing possession metrics,


We began our look at adding context to established, mainstream hockey metrics with our first look at expected goals for percentage in relation to opponents winning percentage last week (here). Today’s post adds a little more context to the Capitals expected goals differential against teams with positive winning percentages.

Expected goals differential is simply the difference between expected goals for and expected goals against accrued in each game (xGF – xGA). [For a basic definition of expected goals, please see our previous post on “Adding Context (and Meaning) To The Expected Goals Hockey Metric”, or checkout our NHL Analytics Glossary.]

Capitals Expected Goals Differential vs .500% Or Better Teams

The first stat expands in the basic won-loss record and goals differential against teams above a .500% winning percentage by putting the expected goals differential for each game against teams above .500. The graphic also begins to breakdown by early and recent trends. [Click to enlarge].

Here is where the sun shines a little more brighter. The Capitals had an average expected goals differential of -0.352 in the first 19 games against teams above .500%, but have an average expected goals differential of +.306 in the last 19 games against .500 teams. Definitely trending in the right direction.

However, if we refine the focus a little more, and consider just teams with a winning percentage above .600% (top q0 teams in the league), the positive trend becomes even m0re glaring.

Capitals Expected Goals Differential Against .600% or Better Teams

The following plots the expected goals differentials for each game the Capitals have played against teams with a winning percentage above .600%. It also defines the Capitals average differential for the first nine and last eight games. [Click to enlarge].

The shift in performance by the team jumps off the screen. The Capitals had an average expected goals differential of -0.587 in the first nine games against top 10 teams. They have an average expected goals differential of +0.343 over the last eight games. That’s really encouraging.

[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]


Today’s post was a good example of how things might appear meager or underwhelming when looking at basic stats, but when context is added, a completely different picture begins to emerge.

So far we’ve looked at adding strength of opposition to existing hockey metrics in order to ascertain a greater resolution with regards to team performance. Next we will take a look at developing a multiplier for lineup fluctuations associated with scratches due to injuries.

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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9 Responses to Reviewing The Capitals Performance Against The League’s Best Teams

  1. KimRB says:

    A telling factoid about Bettman’s watered down NHL. All but 3 teams in the Eastern Conference are “above 500”

    Let the good times roll!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Very interesting breakdown of Caps play. Unique look.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If we could only see the full lineup for the next two weeks, we could make a more educated decision about approach. However, the Capitals peak performance so far this season came without many key players. Interesting puzzle.

  4. GRin430 says:

    I dunno Jon, the record and fancy stats against good teams show me pretty much the same thing their overall record and my eyes have shown: They were great in December, not so much for the rest of the year. They’ve had 3 great games (2 in December, one in January) against the very best competition, the rest… not so great.

    Were the 3 great games outliers, where the opposition wasn’t up to its normal level of play (in a minii-slump, victim of scheduling, etc.?) I don’t remember the exact situations, so that might be worth some research.

    Is it possible that this team could play in the postseason the same way they did in December? Maybe… but I just haven’t seen enough great play over most of the season to believe that they could win more than a game or two against one of the top teams in the east — and that’s probably who they are going to play in the first round IF they make the playoffs.

    However, if they torch the league in their final 29 games, then I retract my pessimism.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I fully get your skepticism and you have plenty of data to back up your stance. It’s not pessimism if you are right.

      They have 4 big “measuring stick” games coming out of the break, that I think will give us a better feel for the teams and decide how the team approaches the trade deadline

      It will be very interesting to see how things unfold over the next few weeks.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Caps are doing a good job at standing toe-to-toe with the big dawgs, particularly as of late. We need a full lineup and some consistency with lineups to see what we really got. Hard to believe it’s mid February and we’re still 👀 for that.

  6. horn73 says:

    It just points out that this isn’t a team to tear down and start a rebuilding process. I love where the Caps sit with such a great opportunity to remake this roster over the next 7 months, which they started with last week.

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