Corsi-Optimized Capitals Lines: New Year's Edition

Bruce Bennett

A new year brings a trio of new faces into the Corsi-optimized lineup.

When we first visited the Capitals' Corsi-optimized lineup a little over a month ago, we saw that best line combinations were similar to the ones the Capitals were using at the time (in part due to the limited number of qualifying combinations). And as it so happens, the Caps began their best stretch of the season by Fenwick close around that time as well, even eclipsing the 50% mark on a rolling ten-game basis for the first and only time this season.

With the Capitals now shuffling lines during this recent slump — notably separating Alex Ovechkin from Nicklas Backstrom — it's worth revisiting the Corsi-optimized lineup.

For a refresher, here are the Corsi-maximized line combinations we found then:

Pairing

LD

RD

CF/CA

CF%

1

Schmidt

Green

+118/-89

57.0

2

Alzner

Carlson

+150/-185

44.8

3

Hillen

Oleksy

+86/-78

52.4

Total:

51.5

Line

LW

C

RW

LW-C

LW-RW

C-RW

Predicted CF%

1

Johansson

Backstrom

Ovechkin

+285/-269

+290/-271

+353/-347

51.2

2

Chimera

Grabovski

Ward

+150/-185

+243/-260

+89/-89

48.8

3

Erat

Laich

Brouwer

+86/-78

+82/-83

+157/-209

45.2

4

Volpatti

Beagle

Fehr

+47/-54

+17/-18

+38/-20

53.5

Total:

49.3

Forward and defense average: 50.4%. Not great, but not a disaster.

Here are the results this time, through Wednesday's games, with the defense first:

Pairing

LD

RD

CF/CA

CF%

1

Schmidt

Green

+139/-97

58.9

2

Alzner

Carlson

+258/-309

46.1

3

Orlov

Oleksy

+36/-26

58.1

Total:

54.0

Nate Schmidt was sent to Hershey and Dmitry Orlov was called up. The Russian blueliner played well on the third pair in the early going, but has had a bit rougher go of things more recently as he's moved up the lineup. With only a small sample of Corsi events, his numbers could go either way in a hurry.

The Caps really need their third pair and top pair (by Corsi, now Orlov and Mike Green) to post strong numbers, because the Karl Alzner-John Carlson duo hasn't been particularly impressive (though it's worth noting that they're playing the tough minutes). With the score close and excluding the moments following faceoffs, the Caps have gotten just 41% of the 5v5 goals with the tandem on the ice. Those Calgary Flames-level results and shot ratios absolutely need to improve. It's hard to say whether that's best done by changing which forwards get sent out with "Carlzner," matchups, tactics, or separating the duo altogether.

Line

LW

C

RW

LW-C

LW-RW

C-RW

Predicted CF%

1

Johansson

Backstrom

Ovechkin

+436/-416

+448/-413

+517/-503

51.3

2

Fehr

Erat

Brouwer

+36/-24

+197/-192

+95/-97

53.4

3

Chimera

Grabovski

Ward

+106/-115

+366/-420

+109/-109

48.2

4

Volpatti

Latta

Wilson

+33/-35

+72/-107

+43/-42

46.4

Total:

50.3

The top line remains steady a little north of 50%. The goals aren't there just yet at even strength, but with each member of the trio seeing 5v5 shots go in at his worst rate since 07-08, they should dent twine more frequently from here on out (even without lineup tinkering).

Jason Chimera, Mikhail Grabovski, and Joel Ward remain intact as a line, but get bumped out of the top-six thanks to Martin Erat. With Brooks Laich's injury problems, Erat has been given more ice time and has found a relatively good fit alongside Eric Fehr and Troy Brouwer. Fehr shoots quite a bit and Erat does not, seemingly making the two a natural winger-center pairing for Oates' system.

Once Erat moved up the lineup and Latta went out, the fourth line's possession numbers fell. With Aaron Volpatti on the ice, the Caps have gotten fewer than 40 percent of the shot attempts (unless Michael Latta or Nate Schimdt is on the ice as well; without Latta and with Volpatti, the Caps only get an ugly 33% of shot attempts). Tom Wilson is a little better, but still well behind the rest of the lineup.

Like with Orlov and Oleksy, small sample sizes on the second and fourth lines mean the numbers could quickly go either way, but it's hard to see them improving much given that, intuitively, they shouldn't be able to match the top line or second line.

The other item to note: Brooks Laich is out of this lineup. A healthy Laich can provide some solid depth, and the Capitals could really use some depth up front given that unimpressive third line and unreliable fourth line.

Forward and defense average: 52.1%. Better than before, thanks to the aforementioned strong run the Caps went on, and nearly a whole percentage point better than a week ago, even as the team hasn't been winning. It's still not where it needs to be for this team to compete with the best teams in the Eastern Conference, though.

A better Corsi percentage means a team is less reliant on its offensive skill and goaltending to win. Philipp Grubauer has provided great goaltending recently, but what happens if he can't play like Tuukka Rask for much longer?

Adam Oates, as coaches do, revises and continues to revise the team's tactics and line combinations. He'll set out to find the lines that maximize his team's chance to win. The lines need to help the team tilt the ice more than it does now (or offer a true "shot quality" solution). Those true "best" lines may resemble the ones here... they may not. (After all, we don't have much data on how Mikhail Grabovski and Alex Ovechkin — or Martin Erat and Grabovski — may perform together.)

What we do know is Washington is capped out, spending an above-average amount of money on its skaters and receiving in return mediocre-to-bad even-strength play. (The advanced stats community would not be so kind in its assessment.) And given the numbers here, without some major changes to strategy or personnel, this group of skaters in this system has the potential to be solid, but not much better than that — closer to mediocre than an elite team in the NHL.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

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