Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Comparing the Tens – Through Twenty Games . . . Part I, The Team

With apologies to the folks on the official site, I’m of a mind to compare ten-game segments of the season, because I think doing so provides a clearer picture of individual player performance (plus, The Peerless has to do this less often, which appeals to his innate laziness). In the first segment, we’re going to look at the team’s performance over the first ten games versus that of the second . . .


First ten games: 3-3-4, 10 points
Second ten games: 5-3-2, 12 points

The object here is to obtain 12 standings points in each ten game split. If you do that and win the odd two games at the end, voila! . . . 100 points. The Caps fell short in the first ten due to an inability to convert shootouts (it’s still a problem), “losing” three points for that reason. The second ten games achieved the goal, but it is those two points sitting at the end of that line – both extra-session losses to Boston (one a shootout, one an overtime loss) – that stick in the craw. On the plus side, the club won at Calgary (a hard place to play), at Philadelphia (breaking a winless streak that dated to the Pleistocene Age), against Ottawa (still at least a good team on paper), against the Rangers (a 100-point team least year), and against Florida (a division opponent).

On balance, standings wise, the second ten has to be considered a success . . . just perhaps not as much as one as it could have been. That shootout loss to Boston, at home, could prove important in the season’s last few games if the club is fighting for a playoff spot.

The Special Teams/Power Play:

First ten games: 9-54 (16.7 percent)
Second ten games: 8-53 (15.1 percent)

The differences aren’t statistically significant. They are consistently mediocre – 17th overall after 20 games. Of those 17 goals, 14 come from three players – Alex Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus, and Alexander Semin. That those three would have 14 power play goals isn’t surprising. That only three other players have any is . . . well, perhaps not surprising, but a source of concern. Here is why . . . San Jose leads the league in power play efficiency. They have 6 goals from three defensemen. The Caps are 17th in the league – they have one goal from a defenseman (Jamie Heward). This is not an argument for a defenseman-based power play; the Caps have too much talent at forward for that. But there isn’t much of a threat from back there at the moment, either. It is very likely a reflection of how green the club is back there. Steve Eminger, Shaone Morrisonn, and Mike Green have 326 games of experience among them – less than full two seasons apiece. One might be looking down the road to see if these fellows get more opportunities and make more of what they get.

The Special Teams/Penalty Kill:

First ten games: 49-61 (80.3 percent)
Second ten games: 45-53 (84.9 percent)

There are several ways to look at this. First, fewer man-disadvantages is better. More than 13 percent fewer over the second ten games is a nice improvement. Still, giving up 5.3 opportunities a game is an area that can stand improvement.

Second, the Caps gave up 0.4 fewer goals per game in the second ten (0.8/game versus 1.2/game). Shaving almost half a goal off the goals against in any area is a plus, and this is a product of the fewer advantages opponents have.

Third, and this reaches back to the power play numbers – differential . . . the differential of power play goals to power play goals allowed in the first ten was -3 (9 for, 12 against).. In the second ten, it was even (8, both for an against). In the second ten, the special teams result allowed the Caps to play more at even strength, which plays toward their strength of being a hard working team that can apply pressure in a forechecking situation (although . . . read below).

Fourth, the Caps are just getting better at killing penalties. Even with the lower number of disadvantages, the Caps are killing off a larger share of what they face. Last year, the Caps killed fewer than 80 percent of the man-disadvantages they had – 28th in the league. That they’d be ranked 17th this morning – and moving up the charts – should be cause for optimism.


First ten games: 22 goals scored/20 allowed
Second ten games: 19 goals scored/25 allowed

OK, here’s the deal. This looks worse than it is. Carolina outscored the Caps, 6-0, at even strength in their two games in this stretch. That’s the difference (it might also be the difference in the teams, but that’s a discussion for another time). The Caps are generally competitive with most teams they face when skating even. At this stage of the development, “competitive” beats last year’s “plucky.”

In general:

The club is doing “better than expected.” If Caps fans had been polled in August and asked, would you consider an 8-6-6 mark after 20 games “excellent,” “good,” “fair,” or “poor,” I suspect most of the answers would show up in the “good” category. With that, The Peerless offers his 20-game grade for the team:


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