Since October, Pat and I have made a biweekly tradition of praising the Capitals’ depth this season. The Snapshot series is full of kind words in particular for Washington’s third* line of Lars Eller, Brett Connolly, and Andre “Dale” Burakovsky.
With that quality leading their bottom six, the Caps have accomplished a level of balance that no other team can meet.
Tyler Dellow, former of mc79hockey and currently of TheAthletic, shared this visualization. The bars are the gap in shot-attempt percentage between the top six and bottom six. You can find the Caps aaaaaaallllll the way to the right.
This is a graph of differences between top 6 and bottom 6 Corsi%. Teams on the left are really top heavy. Teams on right are more balanced. pic.twitter.com/ZIqgAsL9C3
— dellowhockey (@dellowhockey) March 31, 2017
Florida is far-and-away the most top-heavy team in the league, but teams like Connor McDavid’s Edmonton are up there too. They’ve got some good top-six talent, but their depth gets crushed.
Teams like Philly, Dallas, and LA are more balanced, where there’s less of a gap between the top and bottom six.
And then there’s Washington, who somehow fares better when the top six is on the bench.
There are two main things that jump out to me:
The latter is stunning. In the graph, the Caps are so far to the right that they’re actually out of balance in a manner opposite of most teams, and that’s because their top line doesn’t really tilt the ice. The Beagle line does better in shot attempts, scoring chances, expected goals, and actual goals than the Ovechkin line. That’s both praise for the fourth line and cause for Barry Trotz to swap his top-six centers.
Flipping Nick Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov might give the Caps a little more edge during 5-on-5, but it’s important to appreciate how much they’ve gained already. Last year’s most common third line was Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle, and Tom Wilson. In 240 minutes together, they had 48.3 percent of the shot attempts and 46.1 percent of the goals. This season’s third line gets 61.9 percent of the shot attempts and 79.2 percent of the goals.
Those are, frankly, impossible numbers for a line with 230 minutes together. Of 279 forward trios who’ve had at least 210 minutes together in a season since 2013-14, the Caps’ third line ranks tenth in shot attempts and fourth in goals.
That is pure dominance, and it will be the Capitals’ secret weapon in the second season.
Note: The Caps’ third line gets less ice time than the fourth line, so I guess maybe technically they are the fourth line? I don’ t know.
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