Ok sorry about that title…kind of. Mostly because now that song is stuck in your head, and that’s a punishment I wish on no one.
But onto the subject of this post. I’ve been working on this for a few days now, and kind of wanted to get it done before the Caps snapped their losing streak. Mostly because that’s what compelled me to do this. I felt like they weren’t playing as horribly as a 7 game losing streak suggests. I knew they had some strong possession games, but kept losing games by what seemed like an endless supply of bullets with which to shoot themselves in the foot. I could not get it done in time though, as work was less forgiving on my schedule, and apparently my wife still likes spending time with me 3 months into this marriage thing…weird.
So I wrote some Matlab code (sorry Mom – I’m currently applying the tools I learned whilst getting my Master’s in Aerospace Engineering to pointless sports material) to generate some plots of just about all aspects I could think of for the Caps this season. I wanted to investigate all possible avenues to explain how they were doing fancystats wrong.
The code has obviously not been peer reviewed and has a large portion of manual input in regards to the stats used. So there is definitely a strong likelihood that I have some wrong data published below. All data input into the script is taken from ExtraSkater and NHL.com. So on to the plots. I’ll put the season cumulative plots first, then some 10 game rolling plots. I’ll only provide commentary on some that look interesting. Take what you want from them.
This is is essentially how many points the Caps are away from a 95 point pace at any given game number. Puts some perspective on the damage that losing streak did. A 92 point season is the accepted value for playoff limits.
This demonstrates just how the Caps have actually done a lot to improve their even strength possession metrics. It also goes to show that their PDO isn’t that abhorrent as a season total metric. In fact their total PDO is still over 100.
These show that the big contributor is the lack of offense (big surprise). Their Sv% isn’t terribly low, but you’d have to expect with the skill level on the offense for the Caps, their total Sh% should be a bit higher perhaps. Or we should just accept that this is the Caps’ true level of PDO (not every team is 100, some are lower some are higher – the Caps may be one of the lower teams), and we shouldn’t put too much stock in the hope that it will tick up significantly.
They’re making some progress on closing that shot differential. The shots against are coming down and that’s definitely a good thing. But if all these things are moving in the right direction how is a 7 game losing streak explained? Which brings us to…
Special Teams! Man talk about regression…that STI (special teams index: PK + PP), once leading the league has been in a free fall. It looks as if their insanely high PK Sv% and PP Sh% wasn’t gonna last forever. It is encouraging however to see that the shot production in the power play is pretty steady, and the shot prevention in the PK is actually on its way down. I won’t offer much more analysis than this could be a big problem with the Caps losing streak. That whole Bowman index of 2 might have been a mirage.
This is just to show a bit of a summary of all the different aspects to the game.
Ok and now on to the 10-game rolling performance plots. These will lend some more insight into more localized stretches of play.
Man a shutout really does a lot to a 10-game moving average of the team’s save percentage. I guess you have to assume they were a little unlucky when looking at the 10 games leading up to the end of the losing streak.
Man…an 85% STI is not good. Nor is a PDO on special teams of 90. That definitely could contribute to some losses. They were doing a good job of limiting shots on the PK too, and maintaining a good level of shot production on the power play. It’s also interesting to see the number of power plays per game not increase when the Caps have improved their possession game. You’d think with them holding the puck more it’s harder to commit fouls.
So if going off this plot alone, the Caps losing streak is strictly a function of the low PDO and the terrible STI. But take whatever you want away from this. I’m not gonna make any claims to know what’s really wrong with these guys, a good team should be able to overcome some bad luck by limiting the stupid mistakes, and by actually coming out ready to play 60 minutes. These are two things I have not been able to say about our dear Caps. So maybe saying this team is a good one is not a factually supported claim. But hey if they keep moving in the direction they have been I’m hopeful.
If Oates has actually changed the system (and it looks a little like he did) – then maybe we can see the same kind of turnaround we did last season. I don’t know if there’s enough time though. The stubborn moves throughout the first half of the season may doom this team.