During the latest Japers’ Rink Radio, we talked about the Caps success following a similar formula from last year, with dominant shot-suppression at five on five paired with elite finishing talent and average goaltending. When you break down those components you come away with a clear message: the Caps are really good, and their success is probably sustainable.
Let’s discuss the first part of that formula, which is the Caps success at suppressing shots at even strength. Here’s a look at how the Caps are performing defensively this year at five on five:
In this chart, green is good, and you see a whole lot of green right by the Capitals. The Caps are above-average in almost every defensive metric, allowing the seventh-fewest shot attempts against, the fourth-fewest expected goals against, and with a rate of 26.59 shots against/60 that ranks only behind the Seattle Kraken. They showed similar trends under Laviolette last year, and it’s not unreasonable to expect that to continue.
So let’s say Part 1 of their winning formula is met.
The Caps are also once again putting up an elite shooting percentage at even strength. Normally, a high shooting percentage is something that is primed to regress, but as Kevin first commented on three years ago, the Caps have been posting elite shooting percentages for the better part of the last 5 years. To illustrate, here’s the top team shooting percentages since 2007, sorted by year (the Caps are highlighted in yellow):
It’s worth noting just how wild this is - not only has this Capitals team been an elite shooting team, but every Capitals team since 2018-19 is on this list. So yes, there might be some regression from the Caps current 10.7% shooting percentage... but we can probably expect another elite shooting season. Consider part 2 of the formula met.
Part 3 of the formula involves… well, let’s say “average” goaltending. There’s been plenty of angst about the Caps goaltending this year, but they’ve been right around average! Don’t believe me? The Caps goalies are saving 90.95% of shots this year, which ranks 15th in the NHL. Goalie advanced metrics are still a bit uneven, but Moneypuck has the Caps goalies saving around -0.3 goals above expected:
So they have really strong shot suppression combined with unprecedented levels of shooting talent plus average goaltending. What does that leave us with? Well, here’s the Caps ranking with goal percentage at five on five:
All of this has resulted in the Caps again being one of the best teams in hockey, as their 23 points are tied for 3rd in all of the NHL, and their .719 points percentage is tied for 4th - all while being without the entire second line for the majority of that time (some of whom may be coming back soon).
Maybe, just maybe, the concern about the Caps was a bit premature.