Photo: Patrick Smith
Pat documented this well over the weekend, but there’s no harm in repetition: the Washington Capitals look fantastic. After seven games they’re ranked third in puck possession, and they’re somewhere in the top five in standings points per game. They’ve got the second best goal differential in the league and they look like they’re having super duper mega fun times.
That does not mean they’ll win the Stanley Cup. Pardon me for pooping on the party, but at this point last season, the Caps’ score-adjusted possession was just 0.1 percent lower than it is right now. I think the Caps are a better team today than they were in October of 2014, but we’re still only eight percent of the way through the season. It’s too early to draw grand conclusions. This first month of hockey is like a funhouse mirror: nothing is quite what it seems.
Let’s start in Anaheim with your boy, Bench Boss Boose Boudreau, whose job is on the line after the Ducks started their season 1-5-1. I gotta think there are some real structural problems with the Ducks, but they’re not playing as wretchedly as their standing position suggests. They’re not getting outshot by much (they’ve got 49.4 percent possession, adjusted for score), but their scoring has been horrendous: converting just 2.7 percent of their shots into goals during 5v5. That’s one goal for every 37 shots, which explains their 0.86 goals per game.
No team but one (poor Arizona, last season) has ever finished a full season with less than a six percent shooting percentage during 5v5, so I bet Anaheim will rebound– quickly– and might be north of 9 percent by season’s end.
This is probably a good moment to mention that Washington’s 5v5 shooting percentage is tops in the league, 12.2 percent, and due for a drop. Their current goals-per-game rate is 4.14, and that’s too damn high, but then again, last season’s 2.89 was too modest for a team with this much offensive talent. Here’s to a modest drop-off.
I want to emphasize that Washington isn’t just winning games by dumb luck. They are positively pounding teams at 5v5 and during the power play, and even the PK isn’t that bad (like, middle of the league in limiting shot attempts). There’s a world of difference between Washington’s performance and less deserving teams, whom let’s talk about now.
These handsome bastards.
The New York Rangers currently rule the Metropolitan, but their success owes more to insane goaltending (95.5 during 5v5 and 93.9 overall) than fundamentals. The Rangers are getting outplayed, and unless they can turn it around, they will lose their perch on the division. I have a thought on who should take it.
Bob celebrates after his first and only win of the year.
It won’t be the Columbus Blue Jackets, whose historically bad start seems fatal. A panic after going 1-8-0 might be understandable, but I hope they don’t overreact. To me, the problem seems to be limited to poor* Sergei Bobrovsky, who is saving .852 in all situations. For comparison’s sake, I think you could get the ol’ north and south and still save about .800. Definitely off the force, Bob needs a break, which might also allow the Jackets to catch a break for once. Alan May predicted the Columbus would be a contender in the east, and I’m not convinced he’s wrong even now — but they’ll have a big hill to climb once dumb luck leaves them alone.
He’s basically holtbeasting back there.
And finally there’s Montreal, who don’t deserve their fortune. They’ve got an impeccable save percentage from Carey Price, .961 in all situations, and genuine systems play pushing their possession to 53.3 percent, fifth best in the league. I know that sounds like they actually do deserve to be the hottest team in the league, but I’m still not over the 2010 playoffs, so actually what they deserve is conjunctivitis and a tax audit.
* Poor is an odd word choice for professional athletes paid millions of dollars a year, but I’m set in my ways.
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