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Hit The Net!

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A look at how accuracy has declined on the Capitals’ powerplay.

Washington Capitals v Dallas Stars Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

We’ve already hypothesized a bit on what might be wrong with a normally potent Capitals power-play unit that’s gotten off on the wrong foot this season, but a gruesome showing from the man-up squad on Saturday night in Toronto showcased some particularly bad optics. Specifically, shot attempts missing or not making it to the net.

And if it seems like this year’s unit has struggled to get puck through defenders, or has declined in accuracy, the numbers would seem to bear that out.

As shown above, the Caps’ are currently getting a fewer percentage of their five-on-four shots on net than they have during the last 6 seasons. Granted, their League-best 2009-10 power play also only got 50% of their pucks to the net, but this year’s iteration has nowhere near the results.

And it’s not just compared to years past that this number looks low; it doesn’t stack up very well against the rest of the League this season, either.

So what’s going on, exactly? In order to figure that out, let’s take a look at individual players on the power play from last year, when the team cumulatively got a respectable 53% of pucks through to the goaltender, to this year.

What we’re ultimately looking for here is a dropoff in accuracy (represented by the line series) from high-volume shooters (represented by the bar series). Right off the bat we see that Evgeny Kuznetsov has suffered a major dip in accuracy. Andre Burakovsky, whose shot rates have gone up, has also seen his accuracy decline. Dmitry Orlov, however, has seen his rates skyrocket while also improving his accuracy.

Ultimately it doesn’t look like the accuracy issue, insofar as there is one, lay with the Caps top-two trigger pullers, Alex Ovechkin or John Carlson. Ovechkin’s shot rates have fallen, while Carlson’s have risen, but Ovechkin’s accuracy has remained relatively flat, and Carlson’s has increased. But guys like Justin Williams and Matt Niskanen have both seen their shot rates increase and their accuracy decrease.

When you consider that only Ovechkin (56) and Carlson (35) have more shot attempts while a man up this year than Evgeny Kuznetsov (15), and that Burakovsky (14), Williams (14), and Niskanen (14) are all right behind him, it sure begins to look like they’re the ones weighing down the overall accuracy.

And for a power play that seemed to have evolved from relying on Ovechkin’s shot to relying on the threat of Ovechkin’s shot, having those non-Ovechkin shooters hit the net is going to go a long way towards improving the power play’s overall effectiveness.