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Recent Trends and Looking Forward

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While the Caps have continued to put points in the bank, their possession numbers have been slipping... should we be concerned?

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The Washington Capitals are within striking distance  first place in the Metropolitan Division and are near the top of the league in a host of important statistical categories:

Statistics (Score Adjusted) Rank
Corsi For (%) 6th
High Danger Scoring Chances For (%) 3rd
Scoring Chances For (%) 5th
Power Play Percentage 3rd
Penalty Kill Percentage 9th

And, as J.P wrote about last week, these numbers are a good reason to be optimistic about the team's future chances.

So with all of that great stuff out of the way, let's quickly touch on how the team's been playing recently. Here is a visual look at the team's Score Adjusted Corsi-For (%):

SACF 5 game and YTD

As Pat Holden pointed out this weekend, the team has cooled off a bit recently, and that's reflected in the chart above.

The Caps have only had a SACF% below 50% seven times so far this season, but five of those seven have been in the last twelve games. That said, they have still been above 50% in terms of SACF(%) in almost every five-game segment of the season, which is pretty impressive, and have topped 55% eight times overall. So while the team is having a few more bad games now than they had earlier in the year, and those individual games are pushing the needle down a bit, they're still driving possession at a fairly regular rate.

Obviously we can't just ignore a few poor performances (because if we're going to throw out bad games then we'd have to throw out some good ones, too), but we can emphasize that the bad games are much rarer than the good... just not recently.

There's no obvious singular cause of the recent downturn in terms of lineup choices or roster decisions. Ideally this recent stretch is an anomaly rather than a reflection of the team's actual talent level. It's encouraging that even with the team's recent lackluster possession, Micah Blake McCurdy's point projections have the Capitals finishing with the second best record in the NHL.

Point Projections From Micah Blake McCurdy

You can read more about  Micah Blake McCurdy's work here.

The bottom line is that even with their recent issues, the Capitals have still been able to rack up the wins and the points - and are still able to maintain strong aggregate possession numbers. Good teams find ways to win even when they're not at their best, and the Caps are doing just that.