Last night the Caps polished off a highly unsuccessful California road trip with a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. This was the first Shattless game that the Caps have played since acquiring Kevin Shattenkirk, as the veteran defenseman sat for the first game of a two-game suspension.
Reasonable minds can disagree about how concerned we should be after the team’s fourth straight loss and Alex Ovechkin’s tenth straight goalless game, but the players are looking to course correct as Brooks Orpik called them out and they had a closed-doors meeting after the game.
The Caps’ seemed out of sync from the get-go in this game, with their execution sorely lacking. This was evidenced in their missed shots. Halfway through the game the Caps were hanging tight with the Ducks in terms of shot attempts, actually ahead 21 to 20 at five-on-five. Shots on goal at that time were 14 to eight, however, in favor of Anaheim.
We love Nate Schmidt, and we are giving him this award after stepping back in the lineup for Shattenkirk. Really this could go to the pairing of Schmidt and Brooks Orpik, who were plus-12 in shot attempts at five-on-five, the only Caps pairing above zero. They were on for one goal for and none against, and they saw at least a couple of minutes against every Anaheim skater. It’d be hard to argue that a player had a bad night when he saw the ice tilted that much.
We’ve talked a lot about how excellent Braden Holtby has been this season, but guess who is currently fourth in the league in five-on-five save percentage among goalies playing at least 700 minutes. That would be Philip Grubauer. With a .939 team save percentage at five-on-five the Caps are first in the league in that statistic, with quite a margin to second-place Chicago at .934. The Caps also still lead the league in goals against per 60, by an equally large margin. Grubauer is a big part of that dominance in net and stinginess in allowing goals. Here is a table of the five best goalies this season in the above 700 minute five-on-five stats:
There will always be a “chicken or the egg” discussion around Grubi, and the debate centers around whether the Caps’ solid team defense props up his numbers or if it’s the other way around. Well, we can begin to hint at the answer by looking at Corsica’s “expected goals” statistic, which uses shot quality to model how many goals a team should be allowing, on average. The Caps are 14th in the league in expected goals against, compared to first in actual. This doesn’t mean the Caps’ defense is actually bad, but it does suggest that both Holtby and Grubauer are more than pulling their weight. With a string of netminders that includes Varlamov, Neuvirth, Holtby, Grubauer, and the sure-thing prospect Ilya Samsonov (along with useful prospects Pheonix Copley and Vitek Vanecek), Washington is indeed a goalie factory.
Stats courtesy of Corsica.Hockey and NaturalStatTrick.
Headline Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI.
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