clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Capitals and Deep Playoff Potential

A midseason look at how this year’s Capitals stack up against the field in terms of potential for a deep playoff run.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, prompted by the Capitals’ torrid start to the regular season and by their organizational shortcomings in the postseason, we took a look at what teams were poised to make a deep playoff run based on three statistical indicators, which were researched by Micah Blake McCurdy.

Here’s a refresher on Micah’s findings, and our own methodology:

Back in November, mathematician and curator of the superb www.hockeyviz.com, Micah Blake McCurdy, conducted an analysis on the types of regular season traits that foretell deep playoff runs. You should absolutely check out Micah's work in its published form (seriously, I'll wait), but in summary he crunched the numbers on every regular season performance from 2007-2015 and sought trends that indicated future deep postseason runs.

His findings essentially revealed that there are three regular season traits that correlate most strongly to playoff success: shot suppression (CA/60), shot generation (CF/60), and goaltending (5v5 Sv%).

Note that Micah defines "shots" as blocked, missed, saved shots, and goals, which is conventionally tracked as Corsi.

So, how do the Caps stand up in these categories? In order to see which teams look like they're made of the stuff of champions, I grabbed the rank of each team in each category, and summed them in order to determine what I called, off the cuff, Deep Playoff Potential Score, at which point we can then see their Deep Playoff Potential Rank.

To underscore the efficacy of this simple predictive model, let’s take a look at how well it’s performed over the last 5 seasons. Shown below are the conference finalists by season, with the eventual Stanley Cup winner called out in green, with their corresponding Deep Potential Playoff Ranks, and the score that determined that rank.

Data is score and venue adjusted from Corsica

As you can see, most years at least one unlikely team mounts a run to the conference finals, but the last five Stanley Cup winners have boasted a Deep Playoff Potential Rank of four or below, and only one of those had a rank lower than two.

So, how does the field of this year’s competitors currently stand, a little past the halfway mark on the season?

DeepPlayoffTable.csv

Team CF60 CA60 Sv% CF Rank CA Rank Sv% Rank Deep Playoff Potential Score Deep Playoff Potential Rank
Team CF60 CA60 Sv% CF Rank CA Rank Sv% Rank Deep Playoff Potential Score Deep Playoff Potential Rank
WSH 58.8 51.7 94.02 7 4 1 12 1
MTL 61.4 54.3 93.1 4 11 7 22 2
BOS 63.3 50.1 91.5 1 1 23 25 3
L.A 58.9 50.7 92.15 6 3 19 28 4
CBJ 58.6 55.0 93.49 9 16 4 29 5
NSH 58.9 55.9 93.11 5 19 6 30 6
EDM 56.2 53.4 92.52 14 5 11 30 7
CHI 54.9 54.7 93.72 17 13 2 32 8
S.J 58.7 54.8 92.56 8 15 10 33 9
FLA 56.6 53.8 92.45 13 8 13 34 10
MIN 54.9 55.6 93.72 16 17 3 36 11
ANA 53.3 54.0 92.46 21 9 12 42 12
PIT 61.5 57.7 92.22 3 23 17 43 13
DAL 58.2 59.7 92.96 10 26 8 44 14
CAR 57.4 53.7 90.5 12 6 29 47 15
TOR 62.2 59.5 91.88 2 25 21 48 16
CGY 54.7 54.2 91.58 19 10 22 51 17
T.B 54.7 54.7 91.32 18 12 24 54 18
STL 52.8 50.3 90.42 23 2 30 55 19
BUF 51.2 57.9 93.35 27 24 5 56 20
OTT 54.0 60.4 92.61 20 27 9 56 21
VAN 49.6 54.8 92.44 29 14 14 57 22
WPG 52.2 53.8 91.22 25 7 26 58 23
NYI 56.0 63.1 92.38 15 29 15 59 24
PHI 57.9 56.1 90.51 11 20 28 59 25
N.J 48.7 55.8 92.16 30 18 18 66 26
DET 51.7 56.2 91.95 26 21 20 67 27
NYR 53.3 57.1 91.26 22 22 25 69 28
ARI 52.4 64.4 92.35 24 30 16 70 29
COL 49.7 61.0 90.76 28 28 27 83 30

Note that we used the ranking in each category instead of an equation comprised of the individual components because McCurdy makes no mention of whether each metric is of equal importance or stronger correlation than the next. As such, using the league ranking for each metric gives them equal weight.

Currently Washington has a Deep Playoff Potential Rank of 1 due to League-best goaltending, elite shot suppression, and strong shot generation. It’s certainly worth noting that while this snapshot is a fun way to take the temperature of how teams are winning (or how they’re losing), a lot can change in the final thirty-something games of a season.

Case in point, last year at this time the Capitals had a Deep Playoff Potential Rank of 2, but fell to a rank of 9 by season’s end, while the team that ousted them and the eventual champs had a DPRR of 6 but jumped up to 2 as the effects of their mid-season coaching change began to show up in the data.

Long story short, if the Caps keep their foot on the pedal and avoid a “flipping the switch” scenario akin to the second half of last season, they should enter the postseason this year with the type of game that will serve them well.