The Caps will play the New York Islanders in round one of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The action kicks off Wednesday from Verizon Center. Here’s the entire NHL playoff schedule.
The Isles are a really good 5v5 team. Their possession numbers on the season are strong. They have one of the best players in the league in John Tavares. This is going to be a tough series for the guys in red.
This is a look at how the possession numbers shake out. Included along with the season-long numbers for each team are the numbers over the last 25 games of the season, as possession metrics over the span have been shown to tell us a lot about how a team might fare in the playoffs.
First, here’s a look at shot-attempt percentage (SA%). The numbers are 5v5 only and adjusted for score effects.
|Season SA% (rank)||Last 25 games SA% (rank)|
|Caps||51.9% (12th)||52.0% (12th)|
|Islanders||53.5% (5th)||51.3% (16th)|
Over the whole season, the Isles are clearly the better possession team. However, over the last 25 games, they’ve slipped a bit. Caps possession looks more consistent.
But the Isles drop could be the result of injury. Nick Leddy, the team’s best relative possession player (plus-4.52 percent), missed some time during the stretch run. Mikhail Grabovski, the team’s best relative possession forward (plus-3.24 percent), hasn’t played since mid-February, but has practiced with the team recently and is nearing a return.
While the Isles’ recent dip in possession is a good sign for the Caps, getting those two players healthy could address the issue.
Possession is made of two components: shot generation and shot suppression. Here’s a look at how good each team is at generating shots.
|Season SAF/60 (rank)||Last 25 games SAF/60 (rank)|
|Caps||53.5 (16th)||53.5 (16th)|
|Islanders||60.5 (1st)||60.2 (3rd)|
Both teams have been pretty stable. The Isles are the best team in the league at generating shot attempts for, whereas the Caps are more middle of the road.
J.P. recently wrote that the Caps could benefit from opening up the game, and increasing their pace of shot attempts. Perhaps just a coincidence, but the Caps’ strongest effort vs. the Isles this season happened to be in the game with the most “wide-open hockey.”
Given that it’s playoff time, and Barry Trotz is the team’s coach, I doubt the Caps will heed J.P.’s advice. But the numbers show us that maybe they should. Further on that point, a more open style of play would likely mean a more meaningful role for each team’s goalie, which wold further benefit the Caps.
|Season SAA/60 (rank)||Last 25 games SAA/60 (rank)|
|Caps||49.6 (6th)||49.2 (8th)|
|Islanders||52.7 (17th)||57.1 (24th)|
The Isles’ dip in possession can be traced to the amount of shot attempts they have allowed over the last 25 games of the season. On the season, they are pretty average, while over the last 25 games, they have been pretty poor. The Caps have been a very good shot suppression team this season, as well as during the stretch run.
The fact that the Isles’ worst stretch of the season came within the last 25 games of the season could further point to the fact that the Caps should open up their style of play in the series.
The Isles’ recent struggles in possession could be halted with a fully healthy Leddy and with Grabovski’s return.
They are a great possession team, mainly due to their ability to generate a ton of shots. The Caps, meanwhile, are a solid possession team mainly due to their ability to suppress shots. Interestingly enough, the Caps, given how they found success vs. the Isles this season, as well as their advantage in goal, would likely benefit from playing a more open style of play, a style the Isles play more regularly.
Next up will be a look at goaltending and special teams.
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