Photo: Doug Pensinger
With the All-Star break upon us, I’m going to use the opportunity to check in on a few stories from earlier in the season and give a quick update. Specifically, I’m going to look at the Caps shot generation and suppression, as well as special teams.
At the beginning of December, I wrote about the Caps needing more shots. While the Caps overall possession game had been solid, their shot generation left room for improvement. Looking at teams’ shot generation over the past five seasons, I divided teams into five tiers. Here’s a quick refresher on the chart (for a more thorough refresher, check out the full post):
|Made Playoffs||Made Conference Finals||Won Cup||Average Points|
At the time of the post, the Caps were in near the top Tier IV. Since December 1st, the Caps have generated 56.6 shot attempts per 60 minutes of 5v5 play, a rate that puts them in the bottom of Tier I. On the year, the Caps 55.5 shot attempts would place them in Tier II. So, the Caps shot generation has improved a decent amount since the post back in December,
One caveat is the Caps’ struggle to generate shots when playing with a lead, to the tune of 49.8 shot attempts per 60. Japers’ Rink touched on the Caps’ possession struggles when leading throughout the season, and Peter added some insight to the topic earlier this week.
In mid-November, I gave credit to the Caps improved shot suppression under Barry Trotz. The Caps’ shot suppression since my initial story has not been as good, as they were giving up 50.2 shot attempts per 60 then, and have given up 53.4 shot attempts per 60 since. It may seem like a small difference but it’s the difference between a top-five shot suppression team and a middle of the road one.
Again, score situation is a caveat worth noting. At the time of the post, the Caps had played with a lead in 36.6 percent of the time, whereas since they’ve led 38.2 percent. So, while the Caps are not suppressing shots as well, they’re also defending against comebacks more. An adjustment in the deployment of defensemen would likely help stabilize the Caps’ play when leading.
Mid-Novermber was also when I looked at how the Caps power play might be one of the best in recent memory. Here’s the chart I used to display this:
|Team||Season||Unblocked Shot Attempts/60|
The Caps’ pace has slowed a bit. The team is now generating 94.8 unblocked shot attempts per 60, which would rank 3rd among all teams since 2005. This is still an elite power play.
Lastly, earlier in the season I looked at how the Caps penalty kill is really good, but it could be even better. At that point in the season, the Caps were 9th best in the league at limiting opponent’s unblocked shot attempts (71.9 per 60) while down a man, but had just the 23rd ranked PK (77.1 percent), largely because their PK save percentage sat at 82.14 percent, 27th in the league.
The result since this post have been mixed. Caps goaltending since then has, as expected, improved by a lot. Caps’ goalies are now 15th in the league, stopping 87.9 percent of shots while the team is down a man. But the Caps penalty kill is giving up a lot more unblocked shot attempts since the post, falling to 21st in the league with a rate of 76.9 unblocked shots per 60. The PK results have been pretty similar in the interim, sitting 21st in the league at 79.5 percent.
While the penalty kill is drastically improved from last season, there’s reason to be concerned over the increase in pucks heading towards the Caps’ net when down a man.
Instead of closing this out with a wrap up sentence, I’m going to go Peter Hassett style and close this out with a song. Being that it is All-Star weekend, here’s Hum with their 1995 hit “Stars”
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