2 Steps Forward 1 Step Back

Posted on February 04, 2014 by Adam Stringham

A heart breaking collapse was avoided thanks to another big game for the Great Eight on Super Bowl Sunday. The theme of squandered leads seems to be a common one for the Capitals this year, their ability to give up goals within two minutes of scoring is well documented.  Even when the Capitals do not immediately give up a goal, they still have trouble holding leads. The Washington Capitals rank 27th in the league in winning % when leading at the end of the first period. The Caps have held the lead after 20 minutes 15 times, but have only 9 wins to show for it.

The Capitals have not lost a game in regulation that they have led when entering the third period. That stat may lead some to believe that the Capitals are good at holding on to leads; especially if those leads are taken later in the game. I decided to take a deeper look.  

For my analysis shootout wins and losses are combined due to their unpredictable nature. The Capitals have led in 36 games this season. The following 2 charts are based upon the period in which the Caps first established a lead in a game. The Capitals first established a lead in the first period 21 times, second period 12 times, and third period 3 times.  

Capitals Leading in First Period

Photo Credit: Adam Stringham

As expected leading in the first period does not seem to have a huge impact on winning the game, the Capitals lose just as many games in regulation as they win. The Capitals have 6 wins, 6 losses, 2 OTW, 0 OTL, and 7 SO when they lead in the first period.

2nd Period Lead Typically Indicates the Outcome of Games

Photo Credit: Adam Stringham
The numbers for the second period are also as expected, a second period lead appears to be a good indicator of the outcome of the game.  The Capitals have 7 wins, 1 loss, 1 OTW, 2 OTL, and 1 SO when they take their first lead of the game in the second period.

When the Capitals take their first lead of the game in the third period they have: 0 wins, 2 losses, 1 OTW, 0 OTL, and 0 SO. These numbers really surprise me, I imagined that if a team took their first lead of a game in the third period they would be able to capitalize on that momentum swing.

To get a better look at the third period, and any momentum swings that could occur during it, I combined all instances where the Capitals took a lead (regardless of whether they had taken a lead earlier in the game) or tied the game in the third period. These parameters resulted in 19 unique events.

Taking a Look at When the Capitals Take a Lead or Tie a Game in the Third Period

Photo Credit: Adam Stringham

Of the 19 events, 9 constituted taking the lead in the third while the other 10 constituted tying the game. When the Capitals took the lead in the third they had: 3 wins, 3 losses, 2 OTW, 0 OTL, and 1 SO. When the Capitals tied the game in the third they had: 0 wins, 1 loss, 1 OTW, 0 OTL, and 8 SO. For my purposes I did not put a time restraint on any goals scored in the third period.

The Capitals inability to close out games that they lead in the third period represents a serious problem for a team that is trying to make up ground in a playoff chase. Even when the Capitals won they allowed their opponents to earn a point 63% of the time. Regulation and overtime wins is the first tiebreaker when determining which teams make the playoffs, the Caps are in the bottom third of the league in that category. It is much harder to gain ground on opponents that you are giving away points to even when you beat them. The Capitals will need to remedy this disturbing trend if they plan on making the playoffs.

Despite being 16-0-2 when leading after two periods; the Washington Capitals have not been a dominating force when taking the lead, or tying the game, in the third period. At this point in the season the Caps can ill afford to continue taking 2 steps forward and 1 back with each OT or SO win.

Not fun fact: The Capitals are 3-2-2 when the maximum lead the team holds in a game is 2 goals. Only 8 times this season have the Capitals taken the lead and held on to it to win in regulation (without ever losing the lead).

Thanks to Extra Skater

Here is some extra data I compiled when I was looking at the Capitals trends, the discrepancy between Sh% and Sv% in Reg. Wins vs Reg. Losses is very interesting. I think GMGM may have been using that save percentage in Reg. Losses when he spoke about the Caps goaltending costing them 10 points in the standings. I do not agree with his assessment, but I do remember the impact Huet had on this team when they acquired him at the trade deadline. 

Discrepancy Between Sh% and Sv% in Reg. Wins vs Reg. Losses

Photo Credit: Adam Stringham

next up:

Czech-ing It Twice

February 04, 2014

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