Late last month we took a look at the performance of each and every forward line combination that was deployed by the Washington Capitals over the course of the 2022-23 season. As we begin to further drill down on what worked and what didn’t work, in order to better understand the Capitals player needs this off-season, we can begin by looking at all of the line combinations deployed for each individual player and the overall performance of each of those line combinations.
The following graph plots each and every forward line combination deployed with Alex Ovechkin for the 2022-23 season (sans lines that included Marcus Johansson, Lars Eller and Garnet Hathaway).
The graph includes the total time each line was on the ice (TOI), the percentage of offensive zone faceoffs each line was on the ice for (OZFO%), the expected goals differential (xGF – xGA) and the expected goals for percentage (xGF%) deployed at five-on-five. [Click to enlarge].
[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]
The thin horizontal red line above bifurcates the positive and negative expected goals for percentages for all of the line combinations.
Line combinations above of the thin red line indicate line combinations that posted positive (greater than 50%) expected goals for percentages and expected goals differentials. Purging lines with minimum time on ice, we see a few line combinations that worked well for Ovechkin.
The Ovechkin-Strome-Sheary line combination was the most common line deployed that had positive results, booking 268 minutes of five-on-five ice time and an xGF% of 52.36%. We will likely see more of that line IF the Capitals are able to-re-sign Connor Sheary.
The Ovechkin-Strome-Aube-Kubel line was the second-most deployed Ovechkin line combination that yielded positive results. We will definitely see more of that line combination in the 2023-24 season.
The Ovechkin-Strome-Oshie line only totaled 26 minutes of five-on-five ice time but was also very efficient. Regardless, Ovechkin-Strome is the common theme in all of the aforementioned successful line combinations.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Former Capitals bench boss Peter Laviolette kept trying the Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Wilson line, which has been decent in recent seasons, but not for the 2022-23 season, recording a cumulative expected goals for percentage of just 36.8% and the team’s worst expected goals differential of -2.09 at five-on-five.
The Ovechkin-Strome-Wilson line was also given ample chance to prove their way, but fell well below 50% in 74 minutes of five on five ice time.
CONTEXT AND CAVEATS
It can be argued that Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom played less than half a season, and therefore their metrics are somewhat incomplete.
It should be noted that line combinations deployed for just a few minutes of ice time but produced excellent numbers shouldn’t be completely ignored, should be further explored, but for the purposes on this simple stats snapshot, were deemed irrelevant.
‘It’s likely that the Capitals new head coach will run through quite a few of the combinations list above to see what works, but hopefully the new head coach will reference past data sets. At least to start.
Next up, we will take a look at each and every line combination deployed with Evgeny Kuznetsov.
By Jon Sorensen
I would say the Ovi-Strome-Willy line looked, felt, and often was quite productive. But whatever they produced offensively was offset by what they gave up and their inability to contribute defensively. I am left to wonder what they could do with a healthier Wilson, more like his form toward the end of the season, plus with an Ovi who was not as “playing through some stuff”, as he was most of the time after Wilson returned from LTIR. But while they both can hit, and even their forecheck and backcheck was effective at times, their overall defensive skills leave much to be desired. Whenever they’re back in their own zone, that spells trouble. If this means a more defensively-skilled center to compensate (and who could that be, any clues? 🙂 any new faces, maybe?), perhaps that would work, but… that’s just wishful thinking for now) Anyway, this line can do some damage, but… as long as they don’t lose the puck, so the sooner they’re off the ice, the better, is what it looks like at least for now 🙂
It certainly could have to do with lack of comparable speed for Willy, and why Sheary and Aube-Kubrick did well with Ovechkin and Strome. The added defense with those two players also affected their overall possession metrics.
Wilson performed well on other line combinations, so I’m less likely to blame his injury. But it’s certainly part of the overall results.
I thought about both of them. Sheary had such a bad second half of the season (after Backy and Willy’s return messed up the lines and chemistry, so it seems?), that I don’t know if his brief spurt at the end is enough for him to stay… He does bring value, but does he bring enough consistency now? NAK obviously also comes to mind, but does he have enough skills for a top-6 centerman (which is where a line with Ovi and Willy would be)? Still, at least it’s a good option from time to time, as needed.
Did anyone on NovaCapsFans not see the Non-goal last night TOR vs FLA?
“Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly saw his potential game-tying goal against the Florida Panthers disallowed after the referee deemed the play dead prior to blowing the whistle.” [Yahoo Sports] Fishy as all get-out!
Leafs Nation was already pretty steamed about their team’s inabilies. But they were clawing their way back into the series. The 15-minute-long review showed with little doubt that Morgan Rielly’s shot crossed the goal line, with inches to spare. But NO! The play had been “declared” dead, even before a Ref’s whistle. The Fix Was In, extending Maple Leafs futility to 56 years.
One of Gory Bottmann’s all-time worst legacies is the Offsides review rule. In our twisted world, some NHL fans actually like it. Team “X” busts their butts to score a goal, hard to accomplish in the NHL. Team “Y” has dozens of coaches and staff glued to their notbook computers, even on the bench, searching for that 4 millimetres of offside that might be revealed by twelve different TV camera angles. More often than not, they get it, and a goal gets wiped off the books.
This yet-another-idiotic-review-rule provides a huge windfall to Team Y’s all over the league by rewarding ineptitude — the team giving up a score, and two linesman who made the call. Actually three ineptitudes — the NHL owners and NHLPA who hand their sport over to Big Brother’s electronic garbage. MLB liked the NHL’s stupidity so much that now we have the greatest of all sports insanities — the Pitch Clock. It’s a Brave New World.
Of course you hate the pitch clock
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Caps gotta sign Sheary.
Agree. Very low key player, at least according to fan base, but he gets it done.
Ovi-Strome-Sheary = $$$