Photo: Nick Wass
Editor’s Note: Derek Miller’s back with some pretty graphs. You can read more of Derek’s stuff at Capital Precession. Please give him a warm RMNB welcome.
Peter was willing to let me bore all you with a ton of plots again, so buckle up for the season-sized comparison. I’m going to look at a lot of the same plots/data I ran last time RMNB had me on, but this time I’ll include the Isles’ data with the Caps’. I’ll try to keep things consistent, where the Caps’ data will be the navy blue and red traces, while the Isles will be royal blue and orange.
I’m even going to provide you with my totally-not-expert opinion on who I think has the edge in certain categories. I already ran through just the Caps data in a season recap over on my blog, so hop on over there if you just want to look at that.
The format will be the same: I’ll throw together some related plots, with the season cumulative data on top, and below that, the 10-game rolling data. Then I’ll provide some commentary, and who I think has the advantage if it’s pertinent to the category.
Both teams played at a pace consistent with a playoff team for the better part of the season. The Isles were well on their way to a 105-point season until recently, when they gave the Caps the chance to leapfrog them in the standings. The Caps didn’t squander the opportunity, but they tried.
One note about this plot: When I did something similar last year, I had to manually shift the y-axis limits down because the Caps were playing at such a miserable pace in comparison. So that’s fun.
The Isles had a pretty impressive middle of the season. Fortunately for the Caps, that trend has started to slip a bit recently. Unfortunately for the Caps, the Isles could have a sizable boost if Grabovski and Hamonic can play. And there have been rumors that both are eyeing Wednesday to return. It is interesting to see just how much better the Isles are when comparing their Fenwick vs their Corsi, whereas the Caps are just about dead even. At least both measures have been slipping for the past 20 games or so. Now they’re just about even with the Caps.
Possession Advantage: Isles. I would have said they were even given the recent trends, but even with that, the Caps fall short of the Isles’ cumulative mark. Not to mention the five head-to-head games have gone resoundingly in the Isles favor when measuring shot attempts.
The Caps have managed to stay well above the 100 level, while the Isles have muddled below. I think the Caps are one of the teams that can control their PDO a bit more, and I don’t believe they’re just getting lucky. They have top-ten goaltending, and one of the more potent offensive talents in the league. One thing to consider is maybe the Isles have been a bit unlucky, and they might use the playoffs as a means to level out the percentages.
(Am I doing optimism right?)
Lately though, the Isles have been seeing a surge in their PDO, so let’s see what’s running things. I’m just going to look at all situations though, instead of both that and even strength. I don’t want to overload the graphs, or give you extraneous data to look at.
Overall, the Caps are better in both measures. They have a healthy lead in save percentage (I won’t say anything lest I jinx he who must not be named), and in shooting percentage. Holtby’s end-of-season skid (I feel silly calling it that, but that’s just how good he is) has brought him back to earth, giving the Isles the advantage recently. But the Caps have almost always had a better 10-game rolling average shooting percentage than the Isles.
Goaltending Advantage: Capitals. I’m gonna continue to pump Holtby’s tires, and I won’t say anything about those 134 shots in 2010 for the other guy…
Shooting Advantage: Capitals. Even with some of the talents in Long Island, I gotta give the Caps the advantage here. Ovechkin.
The Islanders are the best shot-differential team in the league. The Caps are at least positive, but they are not on the Islanders’ level. The Isles allow fewer shots, and generate way more per game. In the early stages of the season, the Caps were pretty formidable, but the remainder of the season has led them to more mediocre levels.
Shots Advantage: Islanders. Every way you cut it, the Isles are the best team at outshooting their opponent. At least when it comes to shots on net.
The Caps have had a very strong second half of the season. Staying above a 100 special teams index (STI, the sum of power-play conversion and penalty killing) in all 10-game segments after the midpoint of the season. The Isles have been a bit more inconsistent, although they have righted the ship a bit, and are on their own strong upswing. They still didn’t break 100 for the full season, but lately they have been very good in high-leverage situations.
Let’s see how often the two teams are penalized or draw penalties.
Aside from a very short period in the season, the Isles have always been on the right side of the whistle. The Caps are on the other end of the spectrum, except for one very brief period and one slightly longer period, they have been penalized quite a bit and don’t draw enough penalties.
Before I call an advantage, I’ll break down the special teams further.
The Caps are quite a bit better in just about all aspects of the power play, except maybe getting on the power play in the first place. The Caps make more of their opportunities count though, with a strong shooting percentage and with generating more shots. The YTD data demonstrates that the Caps generate almost the same number of unblocked shot attempts as the Isles do total shot attempts. Although, lately, the Caps shot generation isn’t much better than the Isles. It was quite a bit better 10 games ago, but not right now.
Power Play Advantage: Caps. Not sure how you can call it any other way. Best PP unit in the league, and the best PP weapon in the league. They could probably use a few tweaks to get the shot generation back up a bit, like maybe give Mike Green another look at PPQB.
The Caps are only better than the Isles in the PK department thanks to Holtby. The save percentage is solely responsible for the better results. The shot suppression is largely similar, even lately – as the Caps have been giving up more shots, the Islanders have been too. The Isles definitely have the upper hand in discipline though. Almost 1 PK less per game.
Penalty Kill Advantage: Caps, I guess. Provided Holtby stays consistent.
I took these from war-on-ice.com. I haven’t written anything to break down scoring chances, or the threat level of shots based on where they’re taken from, or how they’re generated, so I’ll just use the excellent work the WOI guys have done.
These are both 10-game rolling data. The red line outlined in navy blue is the Caps, the orange line outlined in royal blue is the Isles. The top plot shows how the teams split the percentage of scoring chances in games, the middle plot shows the rate of scoring chances the team creates, and the bottom plot shows how many scoring chances the team gives up. These are even-strength data, and adjusted for score.
There’s no real trend in the percentages to draw from, but the rate data is pretty interesting. It would almost appear that the Islanders are trying to close up their game a bit. They’re not playing as loose lately, and it’s resulting in fewer scoring chances against, but also fewer chances for. It’s almost as if they are adjusting for how the playoffs are perceived to be played. This is purely conjecture, but the Caps seem to be better suited for the postseason, since they’ve been playing this style for a while now, and it’s a style that many experts deem the best chance to win in the playoffs. We’ve seen run-and-gun hockey before, and it didn’t end well in the playoffs.
Scoring Chances Advantage: Caps. In the playoffs, where the neutral zone gets clogged, goalies stand on their heads, and every skater is blocking shots, it would seem that teams who can forecheck heavily, and grind down their opponents have the advantage. This is what things look like subjectively from a Caps fan’s perspective, so that’s what I’m going with.
I know it seems like I gave the Caps a lot of advantages here, and some of them may be optimistic, but the reality sets in when you realize the advantages I gave to the Isles are the important ones. These are the areas where the majority of the game is played. The Caps will have trouble drawing penalties if they’re chasing the puck over half of the game. And they’ll have to rely on Holtby posting stellar numbers, and Ovi shooting at an above average level, if they want to win while being outshot regularly.
Well that’s all I have. What do you guys think? Feeling good? Bad? Anxious? All three.
RMNB is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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