Photo: Amanda Bowen
The Caps enter Monday’s Game Three with a 2-0 series advantage. The guys in red need to win two of the remaining five games before the Flyers win four. Obviously, we’d all appreciate a quicker victory.
The series so far has been a great example of why this Caps team is so tough to knock off in a seven-game series, and something we hit on repeatedly in the Sunday snapshot throughout the season: Even if a team manages to outplay the Caps at 5-on-5, as the Flyers have done, especially in Game Two, the Caps still have Braden Holtby as well as elite special teams units that can help cover up for games in which the 5-on-5 process is deficient.
Here’s a snapshot of the numbers through two games. These numbers are 5-on-5 only, which accounts for 86 minutes of play through the two games.
|Goals||Shots on Goal||Shot Attempts||Scoring Chances||High-Danger Scoring Chances|
The Caps have won the goals battle, which sure is helpful, and they also have the edge in high-danger scoring chances. But the Flyers have the edge in total shots, shot attempts, and scoring chances.
Some of this is score effects. The Flyers’ 54.8 percent share of the total shot attempts drops to 52 percent once you weight by score state.
So, is the Flyers’ edge in 5-on-5 possession something to be concerned about over the rest of the series. Well, kind of. Yes, the Caps will increase their chances of winning this series with better puck possession. This isn’t to say they can’t win as a 48-percent possession team, but having the puck more at 5-on-5 will obviously only improve their chances.
But there’s caveats here and it’s something that JP touched on when he talked to Dimitri Filipovic on the Hockey PDOcast last week. Puck possession is expressed in a percentage. Over the course of an 82-game season a percentage is a fair representation, but over a short series using a percentage makes the gaps look larger than they actually are. For example, the Flyers currently have 52 percent of the score-adjusted shot attempts. Over the course of a season, a 52 percent possession team is likely to fare much better than 48-percent possession team (the Caps through two games). But in the series, using the raw numbers, that advantage for the Flyers is just 79-73. That’s not a big deal.
Again, JP was the one who brought this topic up this week, and here’s a further point from him:
Point being, as I was saying on @hockeypdocast, give me a talent edge (Sh%/Sv%, sp teams) over CF%, in general (but 61-37 isn't general).
— Japers' Rink (@JapersRink) April 17, 2016
In other words, the Flyers’ advantage by six shot attempts over 86 minutes of hockey hasn’t been enough to overcome the Caps edge in talent and special teams, areas that are more likely to have a high-impact during a short series than they are over an 82-games season.
The Caps’ special teams have been truly special, another reason they have a 2-0 series lead without having the better of the puck possession. The Caps are three for eight with the man-advantage during the series, and their penalty kill unit has killed off all eight shorthanded situations they’ve faced. Holtby has been a big part of the reason for the penalty killing success. In 12.5 minutes of 5-on-4 play, the Flyers have 16 scoring chances, 8 of them high-danger scoring chances.
Another thing to look at is the high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5. The Caps have the edge there, despite not having the better of the puck possession overall. As the scoring chances chart from Game Two shows, that battle was pretty even.
The Caps are playing with fire if they intend to continue to maintain a hold on the scoring chances lead with such a difference in puck possession. But so far, so good in that regards.
For a look at how things have played out at 5-on-5 at the individual level, here’s a look at Muneeb’s chart through two games (he tweets these out for every game, so you should be following him if you aren’t already).
A few takeaways:
The Caps have a 2-0 series lead despite not being overwhelming at 5-on-5. This isn’t taking anything away from the Caps or any sort of warning that troubled times are ahead. While it sure would be nice to see the team grab a bigger share of the 5-on-5 possession, there are plenty of reasons to think they’ll be just fine moving forward, even without an improvement in that area.
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