Monday, January 12, 2009

The Sweet Spot -- Where the Caps Make Their Fortune?

Defense wins championships.

That’s what goes on every blackboard in every locker room when playoff time comes around. You can’t win if you can’t play defense. There is another aspect to this that sometimes gets lost. You have to win the tightly fought game, too. Shootouts and track meets are entertaining, but the proof in the pudding is in those 2-1 and 3-2 games teams play – the ones where not a lot of goals are scored and the margins are tight.

The first obvious measure one might take a look at is one you can click to find at – “goal games.” There you will find that the Caps are a very good team in one or two goal games (a combined 20-6-5). They’re not so good in the blowouts – 7-7 in games decided by three goals or more.

But there is a perhaps a more subtle way to look at this, too. Can the Caps win “shootouts” – those games where teams exchange goals frequently? It is becoming clear that the Caps, despite their prolific offense, isn’t a team that can win track meets. In fact, there is a “sweet spot” for the Caps in terms of total goals per game for both teams playing. If you break the Caps’ games thus far into total goal segments, their record looks like this:

The Caps are a very average team in games that push past six total goals scored (8-7-1). But in games at or below the NHL average for goals per game, the Caps look like a much more formidable team, especially in those 4-6 goal games where most of the NHL and the Caps seem to live. In that category, the Caps are 14-2-1.

Offense is pretty, but defense – perhaps more to the point, “discipline” – wins games. If the Caps get away from that, if they get into an “up-and-down” mindset in their approach to games, they get away from what has made them successful in the first half of the season. It isn’t too early to get into that mindset that games will be close, that they won’t be goal-scoring bonanzas. Those are the games the Caps can – and do – win.

1 comment:

JP said...

Great stuff. So much for that "The Caps are going to have to win a lot of 6-5 games with Theodore in net" garbage.