Capitals Goals-For and -Against: Who's On and When

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 21: Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals talks to his team during a timeout against the Phoenix Coyotes at the Verizon Center on November 21, 2011 in Washington, DC. Washington won the game 4-3. This was Boudreau's 200th career victory. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Twenty-two games into the 2011-12 season, the Caps find themselves in turmoil. After a 7-0-0 start, they've won just five of 15 games and there's more than enough blame to share among the coaches, star players, grinders, defensemen and goaltenders.

But let's take a closer look at some of the numbers underlying the 12-9-1 record, specifically goal differential and, even more specifically, at an individual level. The Caps are currently fourth in the NHL in goals per game, but 29th in goals against. How have they gotten to these numbers? After the jump, we'll go player-by-player to look at the goals that have been scored for and against the Caps while that player was on the ice, and we'll look at it by game score and period. Brace yourself - it could get ugly...

One thing to note before we dive in (Alex Semin tribute idiom), is that special teams play certainly impacts these numbers - players that spend a lot of time on the penalty kill and almost none on the power-play are put in situations where they're more likely to rack up the "goals against" than "goals for," and vice versa (though, to be fair, playing on the power play lately has been an even proposition at best). For quick reference, here's the list of Caps players ranked by shorthanded time on ice, the power-play TOI list, power-play goals-for and penalty-killing goals against.This isn't intended to be the most nuanced evaluation of goal differential, but more of a data dump and breakdown.

This first table (which is sortable by column... kickass), shows the goals-for and -against by game score and the percentage of goals which have been Caps tallies in each situation. The three different situations presented are "Caps up two goals" (+2), "Score within one" (0+/-1), and "Caps down two goals" (-2). The first and third groups represent games that can be essentially put away or brought back to within one, depending on who scores; the second group lumps together situations in which a lead can change, disappear or be pushed to a more comfortable two goals. Obviously there are goals scored outside of those categories, but the samples are even smaller than these already-small samples and, frankly, pretty meaningless.

So, for example, John Erskine has been on the ice for three goals-for and two goals-against with the game tied or within one goal, meaning 60% have gone the Caps' way; Dennis Wideman has been on for four goals-for and one against when the Caps have had a two-goal lead, or 80% favorable. Got it? Good. Anyway, on to the data...


Player GP +2GF +2GA +2% 0+/-1GF 0+/1GA 0+/-1% -2GF -2GA -2%
John Erskine 8 1 0 100 3 2 60 1 1 50
Dennis Wideman 22 4 1 80 20 20 50 3 6 33
Alex Ovechkin 22 2 2 50 19 14 58 1 3 25
Jeff Halpern 21 1 1 50 5 12 29 0 0 -
Nicklas Backstrom 22 2 2 50 20 15 57 1 3 25
Troy Brouwer 22 2 1 67 14 13 52 2 4 33
Brooks Laich 22 1 0 100 12 18 40 1 4 20
Mike Knuble 22 0 2 0 9 12 43 1 1 50
Jason Chimera 22 1 0 100 13 11 54 2 1 67
Matt Hendricks 22 1 1 50 5 8 38 0 0 -
Karl Alzner 22 1 1 50 15 16 48 1 1 50
Alexander Semin 21 2 0 100 15 11 58 1 3 25
Joel Ward 21 0 1 0 10 11 48 2 1 67
Roman Hamrlik 22 1 3 25 12 23 34 0 4 0
Cody Eakin 11 1 0 100 5 2 71 2 3 40
Mike Green 8 3 0 100 11 7 61 0 0 -
Jeff Schultz 21 0 0 - 11 14 44 0 3 0
John Carlson 22 0 2 0 17 16 52 3 1 75
Mathieu Perreault 13 1 1 50 5 3 63 1 1 50
Marcus Johansson 21 1 1 50 15 14 52 2 4 33

Some notes on the above:

  • As a team, the Caps have scored five times and allowed four goals-against while up two and scored six but allowed nine when down a pair (note: that's not apparent from the table... take my word for it). A bit more killer instinct and "fight" would probably be nice, but we're just talking about a few goals here and there. The real meat is in the "within one" columns.
  • Another general note - the Caps have been outscored 12-9 when up a goal, and have outscored opponents 18-14 when trailing by one. Not terribly surprising, though to see ~50% more goals scored with the team trailing by one speaks to how common that situation has been (and four of the times they've led by one, the goal that gave them that lead ended the game). The Caps have been outscored 27-23 when the game was tied.
  • The "Young Guns" are all even or better, except when down two or more. When it falls apart, it falls apart. And while ~58% looks good for the quartet with the game within a goal, knock off nine goals-for for Ovechkin, ten for Backstrom, five for Semin and six for Green that came on the power-play if you want a glimpse at how they've done at even strength (Backstrom and Green were also on for one power-play goal against).
  • Dennis Wideman had a strong start to the season, but has struggled since. His 20/20 split with the game within a goal isn't bad on the surface, but seven of those goals-for (and two of the goals-against) came on the power-play. Furthermore, since the 7-0-0 start, Wideman has been on the ice for ten goals-for (three on the power-play) with the score within a goal and 17 against (two on the PK).
  • And since we can't mention Wideman without also noting Roman Hamrlik's efforts, he's been badly outscored across the board. Amazingly, only five of those within-one goals-against were scored with the Caps shorthanded, and with none scored on the PP, it means his ratio at even-strength with the game within a goal is 12-to-18. Which is terrible. (Related: check out more on the dynamic Wideman/Hamrlik duo at Capitals Insider.)
  • Karl Alzner, however, has been super. He leads the team in shorthanded ice time, gets zippy on the power-play, faces the toughest opponents... and is within one goal of even when the game's still in question. Take away the three power-play goals against and he's a positive player there despite no power-play time and vastly underachieving top forwards.
  • Brooks Laich might surprise you here, especially given the early success of the line he centered with Jason Chimera and Joel Ward. The reason? Penalty killing. Laich has been on for a team-high ten power-play goals-against, six of which have come with the score within a single goal. Then again, he's been on for five power-play goals-for in that situation. Hmm.
  • Jeff Halpern, Matt Hendricks and Mike Knuble haven't produced from the fourth line, but haven't been killed at even-strength, with Halpern on for four opposing power-play goals with the score within one and the other two for two apiece.

There's a lot there. Or maybe there's nothing there. In any event, on to the next table, which shows the goals-for and -against by period (with the third and overtime combined in that last trio of columns).:


Player GP 1pGF 1pGA 1p% 2pGF 2pGA 2p% 3+4pGF 3+4pGA 3+4p%
John Erskine 8 1
0
100
1
2
33
1
1
50
Dennis Wideman 22 7
8
47
6
8
43
10
10
50
Alex Ovechkin 22 7
5
58
6
6
50
9
6
60
Jeff Halpern 21 4
2
67
2
7
22
0
4
0
Nicklas Backstrom 22 8
5
62
5
7
42
10
7
59
Troy Brouwer 22 5
7
42
8
6
57
4
5
44
Brooks Laich 22 4
10
29
3
6
33
7
6
54
Mike Knuble 22 3
7
40
4
4
50
3
3
50
Jason Chimera 22 7
5
58
4
4
50
5
2
71
Matt Hendricks 22 2
3
40
2
5
29
2
2
50
Karl Alzner 22 7
6
54
7
5
58
3
5
38
Alexander Semin 21 8
7
53
4
1
80
4
3
57
Joel Ward 21 2
4
33
7
5
58
4
3
57
Roman Hamrlik 22 4
11
27
3
11
21
6
6
50
Cody Eakin 11 1
2
33
4
2
67
1
0
100
Mike Green 8 4
5
44
2
2
50
7
0
100
Jeff Schultz 21 5
6
45
6
6
50
2
6
25
John Carlson 22 9
5
64
9
8
53
3
5
38
Mathieu Perreault 13 3
1
75
2
3
40
1
1
50
Marcus Johansson 21 5
6
45
8
3
73
4
6
40

And thoughts on this one:

  • You can see the team's goals-for and goals-against by period here. The Caps have been outscored in every period, save overtime. Not good.
  • The only players who have been on the ice for more goals-for than -against in each period are Alex Ovechkin, Jason Chimera and... Alexander Semin. Given their respective power-play workloads, Chimera's numbers here are all the more impressive (as they were in the first table).
  • All six goals-against that Laich's been on for in the second period (and three of the ten in the first) have been power-play tallies.
  • Ovechkin and Backstrom seem to start reasonably well, dip in the middle stanza, and finish strong. Semin is the opposite.
  • Mike Green is a big-time player. Jeff Halpern... maybe less so.
  • Uh... sit Hamrlik for twenty minutes to start the game? Every one of his 11 first period goals-against has been at even-strength.

It goes without saying that when a goal is scored - for or against - not everyone on the ice has a hand in making it happen. But, over time, trends emerge. Certain players are on the ice more often than others when good things happen, others seem to be equally unlucky. And to be sure, a 22-game sample is little more than a blip when it comes to forming these trends. Nevertheless, the above explains some of what we've seen so far and, perhaps more importantly, gives us some things to look for going forward. If there's any "there" there, let's see if it's still there in another twenty games.

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