The Importance of Even StrengthPosted on April 29, 2014 by Adam Stringham
The Washington Capitals were mediocre at even strength during the 2013-2014 season. The Capitals ranked 16th in the NHL in GF/GA (5v5) with a ratio of .979. Undoubtedly some of that mediocrity can be attributed to the former coach Adam
Oates, but the players can not be absolved of all responsibility. How important is even strength success to building a winner, and more importantly, a champion?
Using stats.hockeyanalytics.com I compiled 7 seasons worth of GF/GA data; what I found was not surprising. Better play at even strength leads to better point percentages. For the majority of the seasons analyzed the Capitals had a dominant power play and a lackluster penalty killing unit. Here is how non 5v5 situations modified the Capitals GF/GA.
For the majority of the seasons analyzed the Capitals were actually better at 5v5 play than they were when all other situations were added to the mix. The Adam Oates years are particularly of interest, notice that 12-13 was the season that had the biggest increase when all situations were added (indicating a reliance on the power play). With that being said, the Capital's were only truly a force at even strength during the 2009-2010 season. During that President's Trophy winning season the Capitals scored 1.576 goals at even strength for every one that they gave up, it is noteworthy that the Caps' had a PDO of 103.34 during that campaign. The only team with a better GF/GA ratio in all of the seasons reviewed is this year's Boston Bruins (1.591).
Despite putting together quite a few respectable seasons only once did the Caps have a GF/GA (5v5) ratio greater than 1.2. There have been 6 Stanley Cup champions over the seasons shown on the graph above; and five of those six champions had a GF/GA (5v5) ratio greater than 1.2.
The only champion who had a ratio below 1.2 was the 11-12 Kings (1.00). Japers' Rink pointed out to me that the Kings made a coaching change halfway through the season. Under Sutter (the coach they changed to) the Kings had a ratio of roughly 1.19, and if you eliminate the first week for system adjustment the Kings were also above 1.2.
Some More Numbers
1. Over the seasons analyzed: 27 teams had a GF/GA (5v5) ratio greater than 1.2. That's 27 out of 210; or 12.86%.
2. In seasons with a champion (so not this year) that percentage is 12.22% (22/180).
3. 8 of those 22 teams advanced to the Stanley Cup Final (36.36%), and 5 of them won the cup (22.72%).
None of this means that a team has to have a GF/GA (5v5) of 1.2 to win the Cup, but it does appear that recent champions have been built on 5v5 dominance rather than special teams prowess. If the Capitals are planning on winning the Stanley Cup they need to become a better even strength team, that's something to keep in mind when thinking about potential coaching replacements.
Thoughts of the Week
1. George McPhee was a good general manager and he will quickly have a job again in the NHL.
2. I believe Sergei Fedorov is a dark horse candidate to be the next Capitals' GM. He is currently a GM in the KHL and has a good history with Ovechkin. On an unrelated note; despite only playing for the Capitals for a few seasons there is a picture of Fedorov in the Capitals' press box.
Thanks to Andy Hom for his help with this article.
Follow me on twitter @Stringhama and @TalkTheRed
Having a good GF/GA (All Situations) does not appear to hurt your chances of winning either.