Photo: Nick Wass/AP
By now you already know that the Caps play the Flyers in round 1 and the series starts on Thursday. Given that they’re the one seed, the Caps will be picked by many as heavy favorites in the series. But don’t let the Flyers’ low seed fool you. They are a capable, scrappy bunch who have played some of their best hockey of the season over the last two months or so.
In the regular season, the Caps compiled a 2-0-2 record against the Flyers with both wins coming in regulation.
For today, we’re going to look at how both of these teams perform at 5-on-5 and what that may be able to tell us about the upcoming series.
First, here’s a look at the score-adjusted shot attempt numbers for each team.
|SA% (NHL rank)|
Over the course of the season, the Caps have the edge in 5-on-5 possession. But, for a fuller picture, here’s a look at the rolling, 20-game average for each team, courtesy of Corsica:
We all remember the two Caps swoons here, right? There was December when Braden Holtby carried the team on his back and then the period in March when the Caps were worrying us that they may be headed for an early spring exit. Around that same time, the Flyers were playing their best hockey of the season. Both teams enter the playoffs with a solid process over their last 20 games. On a lower-level, the Caps have been firing on all cylinders recently whereas the Flyers, while still playing fine over the long haul, appear to have peaked a bit in terms of possession.
Puck possession is made up of two components, shot attempts for and against. Here’s how each team fared in those departments this season:
|Shot Attempts For/60||Shot Attempts Against/60|
|Caps||54.8 (8th)||50.7 (11th)|
|Flyers||53.7 (15th)||53.4 (17th)|
There’s no big surprises here considering where each team ranks in overall puck possession. The Caps are above average in both categories, whereas the Flyers are in the middle of the pack. One thing worth noting is that the Flyers’ uptick in possession in March was due to an increase in shot attempts for. Whereas their shot attempts against remained relatively stable, they saw a large increase in the offensive portion of puck possession:
Another major component of 5-on-5 play is PDO, which is a meaningless acronym that is a team’s combined save percentage and shooting percentage. In short, it can be a quick and dirty measure of puck luck. Here’s a luck at how each team has been running in that department:
The Caps maintained a really high PDO for much of the season, sitting around 102.0 until a late dive brought them down to a more sustainable 101.1. But, could the Caps be in line for a better run of puck luck than they’ve seen over the last 20 games of the season? It’s certainly possible, as their true talent level is certainly above the ~98% PDO they posted over the last 20 games of the season.
The 5-on-5 numbers line up pretty similarly with my feelings about this series as a whole: The Caps are the better team, but not by as much as the standings might suggest. And, while the Caps started playing better towards the very end of the season, the Flyers put together a really, really good second half and certainly look like a more legitimate threat than they did a few months ago.
Your turn: What do you think about the 5-on-5 aspect of this series?
All visualizations from Corsica.
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