Capitals Falter Against The Hurricanes: Post Game Analysis

Photo: Twitter: @Capitals

In the prelude to the Stadium Series match-up against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, the Washington Capitals‘ offense struggled to provide run support for Darcy Kuemper, and fell 3-2. The Capitals were sorely missing their captain, Alex Ovechkin, who is taking time away from the team for personal matters regarding the health of a loved one. Best wishes to Alex and the Ovechkin family.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the on-ice performance of the Capitals during five-on-five play against the Hurricanes. 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.

On-ice performance

Let’s take a look at how the Capitals’ on-ice metrics fared through each period against Carolina:

Despite rather sub-par metrics through the first two periods, outside of shots for percentage (SF%) in the first period, the Hurricanes really stifled the Capitals’ offensive abilities and controlled the pace of play. The Capitals were fortunate enough to cash-in on two even strength goals in the first two periods to keep the game close.

Joe Snively, who wasn’t even expected to play tonight, powered the Capitals’ offense. Without Ovechkin (and Tom Wilson) in the lineup, it’s clear this team lacks proven finishing ability.

Outside of that, the Capitals were rather good at matching up with the Hurricanes in high-danger chances (HDCF%), but Carolina routinely dominated scoring chance (SCF%) generation in the first two frames. Those scoring chances are created by an excess of shot attempts.

The third period was a completely different story. We saw a hungry Capitals team yearning for a goal to tie the game up. Unfortunately, Frederik Anderson had all the answers and a Rod Brind’amour coaches challenge overturned what appeared to be the tying tally from Trevor van Riemsdyk.

Here’s a graphic from Natural Stat Trick that shows the turning of the tides from the first two frames to the third period:

The effort in the third period nearly resulted in an even differential in Corsi shot attempts. That’s quite the performance, and should be built upon for the rest of the season. Finishing opportunities and scoring more goals should hopefully follow.

That third period performance was impressive for another reason. The Hurricanes are an elite team when it comes to on-ice and possession metrics. Here’s a comparison in NHL ranks for each of the categories we covered earlier for both the Caps and the Canes:

If the Capitals can put up a performance like they did on the Carolina Hurricanes tonight, they can do it against anyone.

Forward line performance

Here’s how each forward line fared during five-on-five play tonight:

There was only one line that finished above the 50% threshold in expected goals for percentage (xGF%), and that’s the Joe Snively – Dylan Strome – TJ Oshie line. They were on the ice for two goals for and one against, but the reason they were by far the more performant team in xGF% is that they controlled all of the high-danger chances generated while on the ice together, and a majority of the scoring chances in general.

The Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Sonny Milano line was the most well-rounded line, posting strong possession numbers and controlling the majority of both high-danger and scoring chances. It’s unfortunate they were unable to find the back of the net, though.

The Conor Sheary – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Anthony Mantha and the Garnet Hathaway – Lars Eller – Nicolas Aube-Kubel lines really struggled, holistically tonight. If this is the forward group the Capitals are expecting to use on Thursday against the Florida Panthers, we may see some shuffling for those two lines.


The Capitals can definitely build off of their effort in the third period against a very good team in Carolina. The Caps need some positive momentum and standings points in a tight playoff race.

The Capitals now only lead Pittsburgh for the first wild card spot in the East by one point, and the Penguins have four games in hand. The tilt against the Florida Panthers on Thursday will be an important match-up, since the Panthers sit two points back of the Capitals with no games in hand. The Caps will need a regulation win to create some space between the teams chasing them in the standings.

By Juston Trudel

About Justin Trudel

Justin is a lifelong Caps fan, with some of his first memories of the sport watching the team in the USAir Arena and the 1998 Stanley Cup appearance. Now a resident of St. Augustine, FL, Justin watches the Caps from afar. Justin graduated with a Bachelor's of Science in Political Science from Towson University, and a Master's of Science in Applied Information Technology from Towson University. Justin is currently a product manager. Justin enjoys geeking out over advanced analytics, roster construction, and cap management.
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2 Responses to Capitals Falter Against The Hurricanes: Post Game Analysis

  1. hockeydruid says:

    I dont think that they faltered. They lost a goal on a questionable call and could not generate much after that. Snivley played better than I have ever seen him play for the Caps. He must be hungry for a better contract and to stay in Wash and not return to Hershey.

  2. James Lewis says:

    I agree. IMO the post season race is over for the Caps. We are not competitive with the Pens or Isles at this point. Management can use Ovi’s absence as an excuse, if they want, and make plans to retool this tired and too old team. We’re not without resources; we don’t have to fall to the bottom of the league. But we may have to endure a couple of years out of the play-offs.

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