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The Thin Line Between Winning and Losing

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How a few shots on goal can alter perception

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

After a torrid December that carried through mid-January with the Capitals posting a 14-1-4 record, Braden Holtby and the team have cooled off a bit, dropping six of their last seven games (1-4-2). So what gives?

Goaltending, that's what (but it's not as bad as it sounds). Over the current seven-game stretch, the Caps' save percentage has regressed, though their score-adjusted possession numbers have actually improved. And while Justin Peters' struggles have been well documented, let's take a quick look at Holtby's recent numbers (all situations), via War On Ice:

Date Range Games Record Ad. SV% Low/48 Med/48 High/48 Sv%Low Sv% Medium Sv% High
12/4/14 - 1/14/15 19 14-1-4 93.50 10.79 5.77 5.66 .970 .963 .876
1/15/15 - 2/3/15 5 1-2-2 92.13 9.13 5.31 6.80 .953 .880 .875

There's a slight uptick in the number of high-danger shots Holtby's been seeing, but he's been stopping them at the same rate as before; there's been a bit of a downturn in the low- and medium-danger shots he's faced and... look at that - he's let in a handful more of these goals than he would have at his previous pace. It happens.

Now, it's worth noting that of those five games, the last two have been spectacular efforts by Holtby - two games in which he didn't allow a single goal in regulation (Pittsburgh and Montreal). That being said, those two strong games did follow a rather mediocre stretch of three (NSH, EDM, CBJ). Here is a graphical look at Holtby's Adjusted Save Percentage throughout the season in a 2 game rolling graph:

Holtby rolling

Point being, of course, that most of the season (certainly since Thanksgiving) Holtby has been awesome, and when the team was playing rather average hockey he was able to lead them to points in 18 of 19 outings. Holtby wasn't going to continue standing on his head forever, and a few poor outcomes shouldn't change how people perceive this team. Even still, if the Caps had been able to hold late third period leads against Nashville and Edmonton and gotten even a single favorable bounce off the post behind Carey Price in Montreal, the Caps would be on a 4-3-0 run instead of 1-4-2... and no one would be asking "Why are the Caps struggling?"