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The Caps in Close Games

How Washington stacks up to the playoff opposition in terms of generating and allowing shots consistently.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The playoff picture is almost set in both conferences — eight teams in the West have clinched playoff spots, while six teams have clinched in the East and it's fairly likely the two wild card teams remain in their positions.

What also seems likely is that, in a League without a truly dominant team, we're set to see plenty of close games throughout the postseason. With that in mind, let's take a look at how the Caps' shot rates stack up to the oppositions in three score states: tied, up 1 goal, and down 1 goal.

Playoff teams boxplot sf tied

What this plot shows is the median (50th percentile), lower quartile (25th percentile), and upper quartile (75th percentile) time elapsed between shots for, with the score tied, for each playoff team. (For example, the median time elapsed between shots-for with the score tied for Montreal has been a little under 75 seconds this season.) The numbers include all manpower situations.

What we're looking for is how Washington stacks up, both in terms of median ("average" time between shots) and box height (consistency). The Caps have the best median time (with decent even-strength numbers and excellent power play shot rates), but the top of the bar is a little high, indicating the team has been a little prone to dry spells (which is likely related to power-play time and performance). Overall, though, once the team gets going, it's in good shape.

Playoff teams boxplot sa tied

The Caps stack up decently in terms of shots against, with the fourth-best median (though it's close to the average among these teams).

So that's score-tied situations: the Caps should be fine at both ends of the ice.

What about when they're up by one?

Playoff teams boxplot sf lead

Surprisingly, perhaps, the team is right in the middle. We've been keeping tabs on the Caps' play up a goal, and it looks like, after 81 games, the team has figured things out. It still has a few too many dry spells and hasn't been as consistently aggressive as other teams, but on balance appears to have settled in with the other playoff teams.

Playoff teams boxplot sa lead

Again, we see the same thing here. The Caps spent more time up a goal than any other team this season, save Winnipeg. Although both teams have been a little penalty prone, they've balanced it out, to an extent, with good shot suppression.

Playoff teams boxplot sf trail

When down a goal, the Caps from time to time have been dominant, but have also mixed in relatively indifferent performances. Again, Washington ends up in the middle here.

Playoff teams boxplot sa trail

While trailing by one, in terms of shot suppression, we see the same thing — the Caps haven't been able to set themselves apart.

So how, exactly, has the team been able rack up one of the best goal differentials in the NHL? Here's one last chart.

playoff team pdo by state
The team has been better than league average (the solid horizontal lines) in the three score states in terms of PDO (or SPSV). It has one of the league's best goalies in net, controls shooting percentage (again, thanks to the lethal power play), and, maybe most importantly, hasn't seen randomness or what should be short-term percentage-influencing problems persist over the course of the season.

As long as the percentages persist and the team keeps getting on the power play, it should set itself apart from many of the other teams in the postseason. If that doesn't happen, the Caps will need to find another way to swing the odds in their favor.