The Best Defensive Effort in Franchise History?

I wrote this FanPost about a week ago, and was waiting for the season stats to go final, but the noon number yesterday sort of stole my thunder. Regardless, I think that if you read to the end, you'll end up with an interesting takeaway.

I was browsing some statistics on a little while ago, and noticed that the Capitals have the 4th best Goals Against/Game in the NHL this season. I've always thought that GA/G is a great indicator of defensive performance by the whole team (and possibly the most concrete statistical marker of defense). This made me wonder how it compared against the team historically.

The NHL website lets you pull up data on individual years using their search tool, but it only goes back to the 1997-98 season. I couldn't find the necessary data until I came across this website. If you go to that page, click the check box and then standings, you get a nice statistical summary that includes the important figures of GA and GP for each season.

So here's the table of the Washington Capitals' highest regular season GA/G numbers. The line in red is this season's stat. I have intentionally excluded shootout goals in the GA total. I understand the NHL counts them for teams and uses them for standings and tiebreaker purposes (this is why on the NHL standings page it says the Caps have 197 GA instead of 191 like in the NHL stats search tool page), but they are not an actual measure of hockey performance, especially not defensively.

(spreadsheet view)

(another spreadsheet with stats adjusted for yearly league-wide scoring)

Based on my appreciation of the GA/G statistic, I humbly argue that this regular season was the best defensive performance in Washington Capitals history. Not bad for a team that was recently mocked for not putting in defensive effort.

But what of the supposed change in defensive philosophy after the losing streak? Through the end of the losing streak (last game Caps @ Bruins 12/18), the Capitals gave up 95 goals in 34 games for a GA/G of 2.79 (not including shootout GA). Since then, they have given up 96 goals in 48 games, good for a GA/G of an even 2.00.


If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.