9 - Number of Capitals (minimum nine games played) who are averaging more than 50 seconds per shift - including both the defenseman (Mike Green; 59 seconds) and forward (Alex Ovechkin; 58 seconds) with the longest average shift length in the League - most of any team in the NHL.
Here's how the Caps stack up against the rest of the League, sorted by standings position:
Of course it should be noted that these numbers include spikes for players who skate long power-play shifts (imagine what Ovechkin's average shift length would look like if the Caps used the full two minutes on more of their power plays, like back in 2009-10, for example). But here's the list of Caps skaters who are averaging more than 50 seconds per shift - four of them are averaging less than 15 seconds per game on the extra-man unit:
|Player||Average Shift Length|
Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean is never without his stopwatch, clicking it each time the Wings make a line change. "We use our own time," says [Head Coach Mike] Babcock, eschewing the arena stat sheet. For playoffs, he wants short shifts -- 40 seconds, tops -- making sure stars like LW Henrik Zetterberg stay fresh enough to sustain the tempo his two-way game demands. Quick, smart line changes are so crucial that the Wings devoted an entire practice to them during an unexpected layover in St. Louis last season. Bonus benefit: Quick changes prevent positioning breakdowns that result in odd-man rushes. - ESPN The Magazine, April 2009
[T]he break-even point is around 40 seconds, which is roughly the average even-strength shift length league-wide, and things fall apart after that.
By 70 seconds, only 40% of total shots are shots for. To put that in perspective, only the absolute worst players in the NHL have shot totals at that level - 40% for, 60% against. Staying on the ice even just a bit beyond a minute usually turns the average NHL player into a defensive catastrophe on the scale of Wade Belak.
Finally, Tyler Dellow sums it up perfectly:
[B]eing on the ice after a minute is sort of like being in a bar after 1:00 a.m. – there’s no guarantee that something bad will happen, it’s possible that something good will happen but the odds are slanted heavily in favour of something bad.
It's easy to cherry-pick examples of long-shifts-gone-bad, and obviously not all do. But it's worth keeping a close eye on shift length, generally - presumably the Caps coaching staff does. At least, they should...