Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Look At The Facts and Myths About The Type of Hockey The Caps Are Currently Playing

There seems to be a lot of banter and comments around the Caps blogsphere relative to the recent slowing performance of the Capitals and their inconsistency of late as well. There are lots of comments about performances where the Caps don't seem to exhibit lots of energy and effort when they play of late. I've generally disagreed with the folks making those statements but I began to wonder if my feelings were incorrectly placed so I decided to take a look at the Caps recent performance versus two things - their own month by month performance this season and the recent performance of the other teams in each conference who have a fair shot at post season play. I'm happy to report, my gut feelings seem, by and large, to be backed up by the statistics and data that I examined

So let's look at the recent (past 10 games) performances of the top 10 teams in each conference.

Western Conference
1. San Jose, 109 points - Last 10 Games: 0.650
2. Detroit, 107 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.650
3. Calgary, 92 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.400
4. Chicago, 91 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.500
5. Vancouver, 89 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.650
6. Columbus, 86 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.800
7. Nashville, 82 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.600
8. Saint Louis, 81 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.750
9. Edmonton, 81 Points - Last 1o Games: 0.550
10. Anaheim, 80 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.600.

Eastern Conference
1. Boston, 104 Points - Last 10 Games:0.550
2. Washington, 99 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.700
3. New Jersey, 98 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.550
4. Philadelphia, 92 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.600
5. Carolina, 91 Points - Last 10 games: 0.800
6. Pittsburgh, 90 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.800
7. NY Rangers, 87 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.550
8. Montreal, 86 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.550
9. Florida, 85 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.450
10. Buffalo, 82 Points - Last 10 Games: 0.450.

As you can see over the past 10 games, the Washington Capitals have better records than every one of the top 10 teams in each conference except four teams: Carolina, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Saint Louis. Yet many folks are worried about their "lackluster, unmotivated performance of late."

Truth be told the Capitals have played solid hockey over the past 10 games and finished the month of March strongly after an 0-3-0 start; overall for the month of March their record was 6-5-2 or 0.583. Putting that in context across a look back month by month this past season their performance was slowed by that poor streak in the beginning of March. The month by month play this season by the Capitals looks like this:

March: 6-5-2 = 0.583
February: 9-3-1 = 0.731
January: 7-4-1 = 0.625
December: 11-3-0 = 0.786
November: 8-5-2 = 0.600
October: 5-3-1 = 0.611.

So, yes March was from an overall perspective their worst month of hockey so far this season but their play over the past ten games, 0.700 hockey, is actually back above their overall season average of 46-23-7 which is 0.651 hockey. The Caps started March with 0-3-1, a four game loosing streak, their longest of the season so far, they also had four other 3 game loosing streaks this year. To look at their performance so far this season and call them inconsistent doesn't seem justified. They have the fourth best record in the NHL right now, they've accomplished that with more injuries than some of the other top teams and less injuries than others.

As for dominating and looking like a contender when they win, overall this season through their 46 wins, the Capitals average margin of victory was 2.19 goals. During the month of March the Caps won 6 games and they did so by an average margin of victory of 1.83 goals. So if they looked less dominant then their recent 0.700 record would otherwise indicate it's probably that drop in their margin of victory that have gotten people talking, or the drop off from February which was their second best month so far this season. However this brings up the point that the Capitals haven't really fallen off all that much during the second half of this season. It's just that December and February were such great months from a performance perspective, the others seem a bit of a let down.

Further on the subject of inconsistency, the Caps average performance overall so far is 0.651, the deviation of each month's monthly performance was as follows:
March = -0.068
February = +0.080
January = -0.026
December = +0.135
November = -0.051
October = -0.040.
That data would suggest the Caps have been pretty consistent, balancing their five loosing streaks have been their seven winning streaks. They've had one 6 game winning streak, two 5 game winning streaks, and four 3 game winning streaks. So again while their winning streaks out number their loosing streaks they don't do so by anything that wouldn't be consistent with their overall record to date.

Finally another the Caps don't seem to get any credit for when folks talk about their second half performance has been their improved record on the road. The Capitals are basically dominant at home and have been all season long. The record at Verizon Center this season is an excellent 27-9-2 (0.737) but before the month of January, their record on the road left something to be desired. The Caps started the season with a road record that was well below 0.500. Since January 1st the Capitals have been 9-3-2 on the road and now have a record on the road that is 19-14-5 overall which is 0.568 hockey. Their away game record now compares favorably with most other playoff bound teams. The Capitals home record, 0.737 hockey is better than everyone else in the Eastern Conference except Boston (0.757) and only trails San Jose (0.868) and Detroit (0.778) in the Western Conference.

Their home record since January 1 has trailed off slightly and has been 12-8-1 but they've returned to their winning ways over the last two games after that rocky start to the month of March and are just as likely to extend their current home winning streak through the end of the season. Besides is anyone really that concerned with the Caps playoff prospects because of their home ice performance? After all Verizon Center has become a tough building for visiting teams this season in just about every respect. The building is frequently sold out and filled with loud, supportive Capitals fans 18, 277 strong exhorting their hometown heroes to victory.

Next up the New York Islanders at Verizon Center on Wednesday Evening. Here's rooting for Mike Green to get two more goals and become the first defenseman in a long time to tally 30 goals. Here's to a solid night by everyone and a flu-free team.



Anonymous said...

I think a lot of the perception of the Caps performance of this month stems from the losing streak at the beginning of this month, plus the fact we've stunk against some bad teams, like Toronto.

We had several guys with the flu against Toronto. (The number was high even though only some people were named as sick; Bradley, Semin, Poti.) There was enough complaining from fans after that game stating that Poti should be a healthy scratch for the next game. The guy was ill, for God's sake. And as for Semin, trying to play, making mistakes and whiffing and shots, but still managing to contribute an assist at the end of regulation.

Usually Frustrated Caps Fan said...

Obviously I agree with your sentiment which I'll summarize as follows:

"C'mon people - lighten up and look around!!"

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Mark, appreciate all the homework.

Caps do need to pick up their game for the playoffs, though, no question.