We continue our analysis of the performance of the Washington Capitals forward group for the 2022-23 season by taking a closer look at the performance of each and every line combination deployed last season as they relate to each individual forward. The refined look attempts to glean additional insight into what worked and what didn’t work and identify specific “needs” the team might have for the upcoming season.
We began the deeper dive on Capitals forwards last week by first looking at Alex Ovechkin’s line combinations. Since the initial assessment we have also reviewed each and every line combination deployed for Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, and T.J. Oshie. Today we review each and every line combination deployed with Nic Dowd last season.
Dowd recorded 13 goals and 12 assists in 65 games played last season. He ended his 2022-23 campaign with a personal expected goals for percentage of 52.21%, which was 6th-best on the Capitals. It should be added that Dowd lost his steady right-winger in Garnet Hathaway at the trade deadline, but as you will see, the fourth line still did well with the replacements. Dowd also uncharacteristically dealt with a significant injury last season.
The following graph plots all forward line combinations deployed with Dowd for the 2022-23 season at five-on-five (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]
Note: The thin horizontal red line above bifurcates the positive and negative expected goals for percentages for all of the line combinations.
The Sheary-Dowd-Protas line was by far Dowd’s most efficient line, but was only deployed for 21.35 of time on ice at five-on-five. Once again we see the Sheary affect on a line and their overall performance.
The Protas-Dowd-Aube-Kubel line was Dowd’s most frequently deployed line combination with above 50% expected goals for percentage. This could very likely be the Capitals fourth line on opening night in October.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The Sheary-Dowd-Aube-Kubel line was Dowd’s most consistent line last season, logging 69.23 of time on ice at five on five. However, the line did not,perform as well as other fourth-line combination from last season, as well as season’s past, posting an underwhelming 45.10 expected goals for percentage.
CONTEXT AND CAVEATS
The Capitals fourth line was arguably the Capitals best line under the Laviolette administration, at least with regards to possession metrics. The fourth line’s primary job is to neutralize the oppositions top line, and generate offense when possible, and the fourth line has done that consistently well.
It will be interesting to see how the fourth line transitions under a new head coach, and what the line will look like on opening night. I’m putting my money on Protas-Dowd-Aube-Kubel getting the job to start the season, but don’t be shocked if Beck Malenstyn is also in the mix beginning in training camp.
We will next look at line deployments for Anthony Mantha last season, and wrap the series of posts with the overall optimized lines.
By Jon Sorensen
Go Beck the Check! Bears vs. Wolf Pack at 7:30 PM
Still maybe the most underrated Capitals forward.
Agreed. He plays the 4C role extremely well, but I think he could move up to 3C and still be considered effective, depending on what the coaches want from a 3rd line.
The Caps situation at C is really an unknown at this point. Strome and Dowd will definitely be back, but in what roles? Will Kuznetsov be in DC? Will Backstrom be there, and if so, in what capacity, with what capability? What are they going to do with McMichael?
If Kuznetsov is moved and Backstrom regains his form, McMichael, Protas or Dowd could move into the 3C slot, with one of the others, or maybe even Sutter, filling the 4C opening.
If Backstrom is also gone or can’t play at a 1C or 2C level, they will be weaker up the middle, or at least significantly less experienced at 2C, barring a trade or FA signing. If Backstrom isn’t the 2C, then I think Protas probably has the best chance of filling that job from within, since I haven’t seen anything from McMichael at the NHL or AHL level that shows he’s a bona fide NHL 2C. Protas, on the other hand, seems able to drive play from the wing, which is more difficult than doing so from center. I’d like to see what he could do as a C before settling for McMichael.
Unfortunately I don’t believe the Caps have anything they could offer the Hawks or Ducks to move up and pick Bedard or Fantilli, which would also help fill the 1C or 2C position, no matter what they do with Kuznetsov and/or Backstrom.
Should’ve tanked WAAAAYYYY harder for Bedard-er. 🙂
He comes da Judge!
best line he ever was on was Hagelin Hathaway Dowd most consistent line they ever had
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