Who are the real Washington Capitals?Posted on January 16, 2014 by Adam Stringham
Coming into this season the question loomed as to whether the Capitals were the superb team we saw during the second half of the lockout shortened season, or the mediocre one that limped out of the gate. The Capitals are 3-3-4 in their last ten and have fallen into third place in the Metropolitan division. The team’s number one goalie is in the midst of one of, if not, the worst stretches of 10 games in his career (.8396 save percentage in his last 10 appearances). Despite their recent inability to win, the Capitals appear to be shaping into the high level team that they are expected to be. The Capitals played two elite possession teams on two consecutive nights this week and managed to control the play. There were defensive lapses against Pittsburgh that led to the loss, but that does not take away from the strength of the game that the Capitals played Wednesday night.
Possession statistics such as Corsi and Fenwick are believed to be the best indicator of a team’s future success, most of the time those stats are further sorted into when the game is concerned to be “close”. For a game to be considered close for statistics the goal differential has to be within 1 during the first and second period, or tied during the third. The San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins rank 3rd and 11th respectively when it comes to Fenwick for %. The Capitals rank 22nd in the league in that category. Over the last ten games the Capitals have significantly improved their possession stats, leading me to believe that if the Capitals maintain their current level of 5v5 play the wins will start coming. The reason that the games against San Jose and Pittsburgh are important is because they show that the Capitals can out possess some of the league’s elite hockey teams (not just Buffalo and Minnesota).
Thanks to Extra Skater
The Caps have had a very up and down year in terms of their ability to possess the puck, but this graph (and the one below) show that these last ten games have been the most consistent positive stretch of possession that the Capitals have had all year. The team has been playing much better of late, and that can be seen if you compare and contrast the two Pens vs. Caps games this year.
The Bruins and the Penguins are the class of the Eastern Conference, and that showed when the Capitals were shellacked in Washington by Pittsburgh earlier in the year (the nice 0% on the graph). The Capitals looked like a completely different team in their most recent loss to Pittsburgh, they controlled play a large portion of the game and held a one goal lead on three different occasions (50.8% close FF %). To play that way against a motivated Pittsburgh team is encouraging, the Capitals will need to maintain this positive trend on the upcoming road trip.
The Capitals have been playing a heavily improved 5v5 game of late. This graph shows the Capitals average close Fenwick For (FF) % over the last 10 games after each individual game. The Caps are currently on the up and up and if the goals on the power play return, so will the wins.