Screen cap: Capitals
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. Today’s focus is on Sonny Milano.
The refined look attempts to glean additional insight into what worked and what didn’t work on a line by line case, and identify specific “needs” the team might have for the upcoming season.
Previous line assessments:
Sonny Milano recorded 11 goals and 22 assists in 64 games played with the Capitals this season. He posted a personal expected goals for percentage of 49.72%.
The following graph plots all forward line combinations deployed with Milano 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 Milano-Backstrom–Wilson line was one of Milano’s best lines (xGF% of 68.75) that was deployed for a significant amount of time (49.05) at five-on-five. However, Milano made positive contributions to several lines.
The Milano-Kuznets0v-Mantha line also did well last season, posting a line expected goals for percentage of 52.09% in 77.25 of five-on-five ice time. It was Kuznetsov’s best line last season, something we seem to say about Milano lines.
Tje Milano-Strome-Oshie line also worked well, but it’s unlikely we will see a lot of this combo in the future. As we’ve previously notes, Strome has worked well with the top line/Ovechkin and it’s unlikely we see much variation from that in the near future.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The Milano-Kuznetsov-Wilson line was deployed for a significant amount of time, but for whatever reason, were unable to generate much success. Milano’s time spent on this line really plunged his otherwise impressive expected goals for percentage.
CONTEXT AND CAVEATS
To Milano’s credit, he was used as a spark plug to bolster a number of struggling line combinations deployed by Laviolette last season. Where he fit best took a back seat to trying to help other lines find their way. That’s value that’s difficult to document statistically, but is apparent in the numbers above.
The Capitals announced on February 4 they had extended Milano for three-years at $1.9 million AAV. After a season of data, this could be another economical gem by MacLellan, but only time will tell on that.
“I think I fit pretty well in here. They gave me a chance when other teams didn’t so I was definitely grateful for that and I just think it’s clicking,” the 26-year-old explained.
By Jon Sorensen
I’m still trying to figure out why Milano’s numbers are so good. He isn’t a speed demon, He isn’t a big body, he isn’t a real sniper, he isn’t a noticeably great puck handler or passer…
I think part of what helps him succeed is his willingness to go to the net in any/all circumstances. That willingness to go to the hard places is rare enough, particularly among the Caps’ top forwards, that it might have earned him a nice living for the next few years.
But it could also be the flow…
Interesting you mention that, GR, as I’ve had similar thoughts for a while. In my opinion, he finds open ice, quickly, and has decent vision of the ice and the play unfolding. He’s not fast, but quick to move up ice and get the play going. He is pretty,good around the goal as well, which you note. Just my $0.02.
Similar past Caps? Those who prospered by Going-to-the-Net or “hard places”
Brett Connolly — Mike Knuble — Brooks Laich — Brian Bellows — Craig Laughlin — Gerry Meehan
I’m not sure Milano is like any other Cap I can remember.
Knuble was a great net crasher, bigger than Milano but not as good a skater.
Connolly was also bigger, a better skater than Milano and had a legit NHL shot, but rarely employed his excellent skillset effectively for long. Several teams saw the physical talent and thought they could get more from him, but none did for more than the season that Trotz got from him.
Laich was an excellent skater (at least until he had core injuries), bigger than Milano, but had marginal hands. He did crash the net reasonably well. And he talked much better than Milano. 🙂
Bellows, Laughlin and Meehan played in the pre-lockout era, when hooking, holding and general obstruction were not only allowed, but encouraged, so speed was not as important in the game. I think Milano is probably a better skater than any of them, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to play in today’s NHL. Bellows, when he played for for the Caps, was a great grinder, net crasher, etc, with excellent hands. Laughlin was pretty slow but also had really good hands. I don’t think Milano’s hands are as good as Bellows’ or Laughlin’s.
I don’t remember Meehan, but he played when the game was just way different than it is today.
Concur GRin430! Great analysis
That wild FLA 4OT goal on Freaky Friday, per NHL daht cahm: “Sam Bennett picked up the puck along the wall after Jaccob Slavin’s clearing attempt hit the referee and passed to Tkachuk in the right face-off circle for the game-winning goal.”
Before 1998 the Tkachuk turnover-goal wouldn’t have happened because there would only have been a single referee, behind the play instead of in the middle of it
Anyone else for going back to Three Zebras? Too many stinking penalties already? How about retiring the Goal-canceling Offsides Review?