Key Stat: The Con Man recorded 15 goals on Washington’s 3rd line this regular season, tying the career-high single-season mark that he set....last season with the Capitals.
Interesting Stat: Connolly’s stratospheric, gargantuan 22.4% shooting percentage led all Washington skaters, and was 2.4x higher than the NHL league average of 9.2%. Interestingly, Brett The Threat posted a similarly impossible-to-maintain shooting percentage the previous season as well, scoring 15 goals at an 18.5% clip while the rest of the league held steady at an average of 9.0%. Luck? Good fortune? Or just seizing his moments like a former 6th-overall draft pick?
The Good: The Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, like an underwater George Carlin performance, were deep with offensive talent. Even “buried” on the third line, Connolly added plenty of the secondary scoring Washington and captain Alex Ovechkin needed to get over the hump. Connolly’s 15 goals and 27 points were 6th and 7th among Caps forwards respectively.
Further, per CapFriendly.com’s super fun Cost-Per-Point tool, Brett’s low-cost, high-value contract ($1.5M x 2 years, signed before this past season) combined with his 15 goals put him as the 53rd most valuable forward in the NHL by $/goal, and tops among Capitals players not making the league-minimum salary (Alex Chiasson and Devante Smith-Pelly rank higher in $/goal).
Brett kept it coming in the playoffs, too. His 6 playoff goals were sixth on the team, behind now-immortal Stanley Cup heroes Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller, and Smith-Pelly.
What’s more, his 1:26 of average power play TOI led the Capitals’ second unit, and his pairing with Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky on the third line complemented both players well, providing the scoring talent and soft hands to cash-in on Eller’s excellent assists, and offering another offensive threat to be respected by opposing defensemen, opening up space for the work-in-progress Burakovsky.
The Bad: As you might’ve guessed from Connolly’s ridiculously high shooting percentage, he did not exactly drive possession for the Capitals. His 67 shots were more than only Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson, and Chandler Stephenson among forwards, and his 46.6% Corsi-For percentage was 5th-worst among Washington forwards.
Connolly also didn’t do much to feed his teammates the puck in high-danger situations. He recorded the 5th-fewest assists among Caps forwards, and he struggled when moved down to the 4th line and away from Eller and Burakovsky. As this graph from HockeyViz shows, Connolly’s feast-and-famine, high shooting percentage style completely requires skilled set-up players around him. He is not a Grinder. He is a Finisher.
Would you like a little more muckin’ and grindin’ from your bottom-six forwards? I mean, maybe. Would you rather they put more than 67 pucks on net all year? Probably, yeah. But wouldn’t you rather 15 of those pucks beat the goaltender if there’s only going to be 67 of them? Absolutely.
Honestly, Connolly was at the center of two of the best Caps moments this season.
First, there was when he left Evgeny Kuznetsov hangin’ for a little congrats:
C'mon now. Never leave a mate hanging. pic.twitter.com/aIthYF7kcz— NHL (@NHL) December 5, 2017
Then, there was this heart-warming moment with “Puck Girl” Keelan Moxley:
Connolly’s Season, Game-by-Game (via HockeyViz, explained here):
Connolly and His Linemates (chart by @muneebalamcu):
Connolly’s 5v5 Teammates and Competition (via HockeyViz, explained here):
Connolly’s 5v5 Usage (chart by @muneebalamcu):
Connolly’s With-or-Without You (via HockeyViz, explained here):
Connolly’s Rolling Shot-Attempt (Corsi) -For Percentage (chart by @muneebalamcu):
Connolly’s Player Traits and Performance (chart by @RK_Stimp, data by @ShutdownLine, Tableau here):
The Vote: Rate Connolly below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: Does Connolly’s mile-high shooting percentage concern you? Are he and Lars Eller a long-term fit for Washington’s third line? What would it take for you to give him a “10” next year?
Other Connolly Season Reviews: Peerless, RMNB
How do you rate Brett Connolly’s 2017-18 season?
This poll is closed