Capitals Finding a Balance

For several years now the Caps have had a roster littered with young, high-end talent upon whom the team largely depended for the overall offensive production. In the past few seasons the top trio alone has accounted for 35-40% of the overall goals, with the second line chipping in another 30-35%. And while that combination has been potent at times, it's also made the Caps' offense far too dependent on top-six production and thus more prone to being shut down by a strong defensive team. As it has been said over and over, a good team that aspires to make a long postseason run needs a balanced attack.

Last season the top trio of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble accounted for almost 34% of the team's goals and about 32% of the total points. That production combined with the array of players on the second line made up about two-thirds of the entire offense for the year - production which was reflected in the ice time (or vice versa), with the top two lines averaging between seventeen and twenty minutes a night each while the third and fourth lines saw much more limited minutes:


% of Total
Goals

% of Total
Assists
% of Total
Points
% of Total
SOG
% of Total
ESG
% of Total
PPG
ATOI
1st Line 33.8% 31.4% 32.3% 30.1% 32.5% 39.1% 19:57
2nd Line* 32.9% 23.8% 27.2% 24.2% 32.5% 32.6% 16:17
3rd/4th Line** 20.5% 19.2% 19.7% 25.7% 22.3% 13.0% 11:11
Defense 12.8% 25.1% 20.5% 20.1% 12.7% 15.2% 18:34

This wasn't exactly a new approach for the Caps, a fact which becomes very clear when looking at the numbers from the 2009-10 season:


% of Total
Goals

% of Total
Assists
% of Total
Points
% of Total
SOG
% of Total
ESG
% of Total
PPG
ATOI
1st Line 36.4% 29.7% 32.2% 28.0% 36.3% 38.5% 19:42
2nd Line* 32.5% 26.8% 28.9% 27.5% 29.6% 38.5% 17:17
3rd/4th Line** 19.5% 16.5% 17.6% 23.2% 24.3% 5.1% 11:00
Defense 11.0% 26.2% 20.5% 20.3% 9.3% 16.7% 18:29

*includes those players who spent the most time on the second line during that season:
2009-10 - Semin, Laich, Brendan Morrison, Tomas Fleischmann; 2010-11 - 
Semin, Laich, Johansson, Perreault, Arnott, Fleischmann
**includes the rest of the forwards 

This year, however, the numbers have shifted; gone is the heavy reliance on the top line, replaced by a more balanced attack in which every line is contributing - a change that is due in no small part to the acquisitions made by GM George McPhee over the summer. Granted, none of the newest Caps would be considered offensive dynamos; their skillsets lie in the more physical, hard-working elements of the game that this team has often lacked. But they've managed to develop some chemistry with their new teammates, enabling the Caps to dress four lines that on any given night can chip in some offense.

Through seven games, here's how the scoring has been dispersed across the four forward lines and the defense:


G

A Pts SOG ESG PPG ATOI
Alex Ovechkin 3 4 7 21 1 1 18:45
Nicklas Backstrom 2 8 10 22 1 1 18:07
Troy Brouwer 1 2 3 7 1 0 15:14


G

A Pts SOG ESG PPG ATOI
Alexander Semin 2 4 6 15 2 0 16:43
Marcus Johansson 4 1 5 14 3 1 14:47
Mike Knuble 1 4 5 13 1 0 15:30


G

A Pts SOG ESG PPG ATOI
Jason Chimera 4 0 4 16 4 0 14:06
Joel Ward 2 2 4 7 2 0 14:50
Brooks Laich 1 3 4 14 0 1 18:16


G

A Pts SOG ESG PPG ATOI
Mathieu Perreault 3 2 5 7 3 0 10:42
Matt Hendricks 0 3 3 10 0 0 10:34
Jeff Halpern 0 2 2 4 0 0 12:02


G

A Pts SOG ESG PPG ATOI
Dennis Wideman 2 5 7 11 1 1 21:00
Mike Green 3 3 6 17 0 3 22:45
Karl Alzner 0 3 3 4 0 0 18:28
John Carlson 0 2 2 4 0 0 19:47
Jeff Schultz 0 2 2 4 0 0 17:29
Roman Hamrlik 1 0 1 5 1 0 21:21

One of the most obvious takeaways from these numbers is just how even everything from ice time to production has been so far. When Alex Ovechkin's ice time is below twenty minutes a night and Mike Green's is below twenty-five minutes, you know the team is rolling both their lines and their defensive pairs; when the second line's production is just slightly below that of the first line, the third and fourth lines just a step behind that and the defense has already combined for twenty-one points, you know it's not just the Young Guns who are scoring for the Caps.

To further underline just how balanced the attack has been, a look at how the percentages shake out (and how different they are from the past two seasons):


% of Total
Goals

% of Total
Assists
% of Total
Points
% of Total
SOG
% of Total
ESG
% of Total
PPG
ATOI
1st Line 20.7% 28.0% 25.3% 23.9% 19.0% 25.0% 17:22
2nd Line 24.1% 18.0% 20.3% 20.1% 28.6% 12.5% 15:40
3rd Line 24.1% 10.0% 15.2% 17.7% 28.6% 12.5% 15:44
4th Line 10.3% 14.0% 12.7% 10.0% 14.3% 0.0% 11:06
Defense 20.7% 30.0% 26.6% 26.3% 9.5% 50.0% 20:08

Of course these numbers must be taken with a grain or two of that proverbial salt.

For starters, it's only been seven games - a ludicrously small sample size. It's simply way too early for us to tell whether this is an anomaly or a true predictor of what this team will consistently be capable of doing. Secondly, there is a fair amount of luck that goes into whether Bruce Boudreau is able to roll four lines and get everyone involved - if you're not getting the bounces or if the other team jumps out to an early two- or three-goal lead, the likelihood of the fourth line getting as much ice time (or even of the lines staying together as they have so far) decreases. Dramatically. 

And frankly if we're talking about Mathieu Perreault maintaining his incredibly efficient shooting percentage of 42.9% - and doing so in an even more efficient 10:42 a night - well...I'll take the under.

Still, it's an early sign that this team is capable of rolling four lines, of generating offense throughout the lineup, and of stabilizing the ice time of some of its big guns - all of which could pay dividends in the spring.

Facebook_16 Twitter_16 Twitter_16

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Japers' Rink

You must be a member of Japers' Rink to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Japers' Rink. You should read them.

Join Japers' Rink

You must be a member of Japers' Rink to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Japers' Rink. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker