Photo credit: Jamie Sabau
I’m writing this late on Friday night after the Capitals have lost their fourth game in a row. My process for putting these stats together usually starts with scraping data from ExtraSkater.com and then reviewing the previous weeks’ reports. I noticed the title I chose for last week was “Need Points Now.” The Capitals got two of eight points this week.
So that’s bad. I’m tempted to be plucky, to point out again how the team’s underlying play– as measured by its shot-attempt differential– predicts future success. The team truly is improving, but at this point in the season it also matters what the rate of that improvement is, and what is its expected ceiling, and how much time they have left, and how likely they are to reverse the trend.
My guesses: not fast enough, not high enough, not long enough, and kinda likely.
The Capitals aren’t a good team right now. It’s fatuous and unfactual to put it another way. I have maintained and still maintain that they can be better. What I no longer know is if it matters.
That was fun. Let’s do the numbers.
Side note: I’m in New York City as you read this, getting ready to watch Caps at Rangers with my friend Johnny, who first radicalized me as a Caps fan. Johnny and his dad, who passed away almost exactly two years ago, used to drag me along to Chinatown to watch Chris Simon and Peter Bondra and some guy named Adam Oates play hockey. We had front row seats, right by the zamboni. That was all it took for me to become a lifer. As I crunch these numbers, I’m thinking about how much joy even a modestly good team can bring a kid who needs something to believe in. And I’m hoping on Sunday night I will feel just a fraction of the joy I did back at that home opener in 1998.
These are the numbers as of noon on Sunday, January 19th. The sample is restricted to 5-on-5 play while the score is close. That means within one goal in the first two periods and tied in the third. That way special teams, blowouts, and comebacks don’t color the data. Stats of note are highlighted in powderpuff pink and discussed below.
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