After Friday’s Caps’ 3-2 win over the Ducks, Adam Vingan of NHL.com put out this tweet:
On Dec. 4, the Capitals trailed the Islanders and Penguins by 12 points each. Two months later, they trail by one and two, respectively.
— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) February 7, 2015
(If you’re not already following Adam on Twitter, please do so now.)
That’s a pretty impressive run for the Caps. Here’s each Metro team’s record from December 4 to February 6.
A few days removed from Adam’s tweet, the Caps now sit three points behind the Islanders and two behind the Penguins. Let’s take a look, at the team level, at some of the possible underlying factors behind the Caps’ substantial gains in the standings since early December.
No team has seen much of a change in possession, measured here by score-adjusted shot attempts. The Islanders have seen the biggest change, improving by half a percentage point, but both segments show them to be an elite possession team.
To the surprise of no Caps’ fans, Braden Holtby‘s play in net has been a huge part in drawing closer to the teams above them. The Caps’ team save percentage was 23rd in the league in the first segment, but it has been second since December 4. While the Pens’ goaltending has gone from elite to average, the Islanders continue to thrive despite mediocre play from their goalies.
The Caps’ ability to find the back of the net has been another reason they’ve shot up the Metro standings. The Caps’ PDO (save percentage plus shooting percentage) is second in the league during this span at 103.6.
The Caps power play was scoring at a clip that was second to only the Penguins prior to December 4. Since then, they’ve been average, thanks in part to a chunk of games where they struggled with both faceoffs and zone entries while up a man. The Pens PP was first prior to December 4 and is 30th since, while the Islanders pace of PP goals has remained consistently above average.
The Caps goals against pace, while down a man, has slowed considerably since December 4. The Pens have been a very good team in this regard all season, while the Islanders have struggled.
Using a wide lens, goaltending, shooting percentage, and penalty kill have all helped the Caps to gain ground on the Penguins and Islanders since December 4. But this is far from an exhaustive look at the topic, so feel free to add other angles and details in the comments.
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