Calling Out the Guilty

Last week we looked at how many goals the Caps had left on the ice, surmising that if the Caps had average shooting percentages based on the distances they shot from, the team would be in first place in the Southeast and within snipping distance of Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia. Today we continue the Expected Goals analysis by looking at who is individually primarily responsible for this inability to finish.

The results are a bit surprising. The Young Guns have received a lot of flack - rightfully so - for failing to carry the team's offensive load as they have in previous seasons. But they're not the only guilty party, and they may not be the guiltiest. Let's look at the stats of the key offensive contributors (plus a few extras for comparison's sake):


Player AG (Non-EN)
EG (Non-EN)
Brooks Laich
13 20.7 -7.7
Jason Chimera
7 13.0 -6.0
Boyd Gordon
1 6.3 -5.3
Mike Knuble
14 19.2 -5.2
Eric Fehr 8 12.9 -4.9
Nicklas Backstrom
13 16.3 -3.3
Alex Ovechkin
23 25.9 -2.9
John Carlson
5 5.9 -0.9
Mike Green
8 8.2 -0.2
Marcus Johansson
9 6.7 2.3
Alexander Semin
20 13.7 6.3
Rest of the Defensemen
8 7.2
0.8
Rest of the Forwards
28 34.2 -6.2
Totals 157 190.2 -33.2

AG - Actual Goals For; EG - Expected Goals For;  Note: Empty Net Goals not included

The trio of secondary power forwards - Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr and Mike Knuble - have left almost 18 goals on the ice this year, simply because they're not burying their high-percentage chances at average rates. As much as other problems with the offense are discussed, the secondary wingers inability to finish may be the biggest reason for the team's power outage. When they can score it forces teams to allocate more resources to defend against them and consequently relieves pressure off the top line. Saturday night's performance against the Islanders is a primary example of the type of penetration and finish that needs to occur more frequently from this group.

Ovechkin's oft-discussed scoring troubles are also head-scratching. An average player shooting 302 shots from the distances he's shot from should have 26 goals on the season; Ovechkin only has 23 (excluding empty-netters). We know Ovechkin is not an average shooter, let alone a below-average one. His normal scoring pace would have him hovering close to 38 non-empty-net goals at the 80% mark of the season and, right now, he's nowhere close. He needs to pick up the pace and start finishing. And although Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom's shortfalls are not as egregious as Ovechkin's, they are under-achiveing considering their above-average skill sets.

Alexander Semin is the only forward truly exceeding expectations when it comes to finishing. He has 6.3 goals more than expected. This shouldn't be surprising as his skill dictates that he should have above average numbers. But even the 6.3 goal delta is misleading. Since December 2, Semin's shot count per game has dropped from 3.6 to 2.6, and his expected goals delta is 0.0. This means that he's produced 28% less shots per game while shooting at very pedestrian levels in the past 23 games. This is not the Good Sasha the Caps desperately need come playoff time.

Looking at others on this list, it's hard to fault Jason Chimera and Boyd Gordon for their respective inabilities to convert. They do a great job generating high-quality scoring chances - Chimera via speed and Gordon via the cycle game - but neither player has the hands or shot to finish those chances. There is a reason that neither are top-6 forwards.

It's unusual that an entire team hits an offensive rut simultaneously, but this is what has happened to multiple individuals on the Caps this year. If the team was considered lucky in the 2009-10 regular season, this season they certainly are not. If they harbor plans to play into May and possibly June, they're going to have to figure out how to get lucky. Quickly. 

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