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Time for another edition of Capitals StatTalk

January 16, 2014
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Our Arik Parnass takes a look at the numbers for the Capitals of late, as Washington prepares to face the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday night at Nationwide Arena. Have a look below. 


Capitals StatTalk January 16


9 – That’s the number of consecutive games in which the Capitals have registered a higher Corsi number (total shot attempts) than their opponent at even strength with the score “close” (within one goal in the first two periods or tied in the third). As I’ve discussed in past editions of StatTalk, even strength possession numbers are not only a good indication of which team played the best, but do a better job of predicting future standings than the look of the current league table.


Prior to this streak, the Capitals were near the bottom of the league in this metric, surviving mostly on power play success and very good goaltending, but the team has discussed improving its 5-on-5 play for some time now, and it looks like the extra focus may be paying off. Also of note is that it was early on in this streak that Head Coach Adam Oates split up the tandem of Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, providing more even-strength balance, and forming a new duo of Ovechkin with Mikhail Grabovski, which has paid dividends. The emergence of Dmitri Orlov also certainly has something to do with this improvement.


During this run of strong play, the team’s Corsi-for rate in such situations has been around 57%, which if maintained for this whole season would be second in the NHL, sandwiched between the last two Stanley Cup champions. Obviously every team will have games in which it manages to lead in shot attempts — the Caps have had two prior four game streaks this season — but nine games consecutively is a feat that even the two aforementioned powerhouses have each only accomplished once this season. It’s not easy to dominate play for that many games in a row — and it certainly doesn’t guarantee victories, nothing does — but it’s another step in the right direction for a team still fighting to join the Eastern Conference’s upper echelon.


1 – Mike Green’s rank in power play shooting percentage in the NHL among defenseman who have played at least 50 minutes at 5-on-4 this season (23.1%). Generally, high shooting percentages are more a product of variance than skill, there is still much research to be done on how this affects special teams, where great players have more room to create higher-quality shots. Green managed to shoot at 22.2% last season in Oates’ system as well, so there may be significant skill involved in that number. Still, an ability to get shots through is a good indication of a successful power play, and getting in the position to get good shots tends to be a more sustainable skill than actually putting pucks in the net.


Green is a particularly interesting case because of his time-share on the power play with John Carlson. Green had been the number one option opposite Alex Ovechkin for upwards of seven years when he was hurt earlier this fall. At that point, Carlson took over top duties and ran with them. Over the past few weeks, the two have been largely splitting time, as Oates waits for one to establish himself as superior. So let’s take a look at how successful each has been this year. We won’t look at Corsi-for in this case, because possession is pretty much a given on the power play, and having your shots blocked in those situations is more a credit to the defense than an indication of strong play from the offense. We will therefore look at Fenwick-for (unblocked shot attempts), shots-for, and goals-for, all per 20 minutes of ice time. In brackets you will find the player’s rank in that particular metric out of the 95 defensemen who qualified.



Mike Green

John Carlson


25.5 (29th)

29.5 (6th)


17.1 (50th)

22.5 (3rd)


4.0 (1st)

3.1 (3rd)


Here you can see the impact of Green’s elevated shooting percentage quite clearly. Carlson seems to be the elite scoring chance producer here, but let’s dig one level deeper. For much of Carlson’s time with the club, he has been given second-unit action, meaning he may have faced lesser competition and maybe played with weaker teammates. Let’s examine that, at least for this year. TMGF20 stands for “teammate goals-for per 20 minutes” and predictably OppGA20 means “opposition goals-against per 20 minutes”. They’re both weighted averages, and are obviously only calculated in these special teams situations.



Mike Green

John Carlson


3.0 (9th)

4.0 (3rd)


2.1 (80th)

2.0 (31st)


The teammate numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt considering that much of the sample is skewed by the fact that their teammates’ numbers are impacted by their own, but it still seems clear that Carlson has played more time with the first unit, and thus played against slightly tougher penalty killers. 


So what can we conclude from this? Well Green has been the more successful of the two point men from a goals-for standpoint, and it’s quite possible that his skillset meshes with Oates’ system to the point where he can maintain a high shooting percentage, but it’s also possible that he is due for some regression. Over the long term, it probably makes sense to give Green a little more power play time because Carlson is more crucial at even-strength, but these two are both among the league’s best defenseman while a man up, and there isn’t much to separate them. Keep switching up the looks.


Thanks to Extra Skater and Hockey Analysis for the numbers.