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Fresh Faces Carrying Caps

The case that three new guys have been the three best guys so far

Boston Bruins v Washington Capitals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Social media, for all of its alleged benefits, isn’t generally known as a venue for the expression of well-considered, nuanced thoughts. (Take a minute to recover from that shocking observation if you need it.)

The real-time nature of reactions and interactions can, at times, add to the charm of sites like Twitter, as users play fast-and-loose with facts and hyperbole reigns supreme. For example, someone watching their preferred hockey club, phone in hand, might get caught up in a couple of refreshingly strong performances in net and a pair of primary assists and post something like this:

Silly.

Or is it?

The argument that this trio of newcomers have been the Caps’ best players would center on goal differential (after all, the point of the game is to create a positive differential - actual, but also expected). To that end, the argument for the goalies is pretty straightforward: to date, each of them has saved nearly a full goal above expectations per game:

via MoneyPuck

Nine goals saved above expected through 11 games is awfully impressive (and looked even better ten minutes into the third period of Tuesday night’s loss), and probably worth around three points in the standings. As a point of reference, Igor Shesterkin led the League last year at 0.666 GSAE per 60, well below both Kuemper’s and Lindgren’s rates so far this year. As another point of reference, Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek’s rates last year were -0.307 and -0.140, respectively (to be clear, those are negative numbers, i.e. they gave up more goals than expected).

Goalies aren’t going to have much of an impact on their expected goals against (that’s driven more by the team in front of them), so we’ll put a pin in our look at these two for now, noting that each has contributed around one goal per game above expectations to the team’s differential.

As for Strome, there are a number of ways to look at his impact so far. We could look at the team’s five-on-five offense and defense with and without Strome on the ice:

via HockeyViz

The team is better offensively by a quarter of a goal per 60, and better defensively by a tiny bit more, so more than half a goal per 60 better with Strome on the ice than when off (the specifics of those numbers and ratio are more a team-wide issue than a Strome issue). And his impact on the power play is even more stark:

via MoneyPuck

Good with him, gross without him.

All of that is expected goals. But what about actual tallies?

Strome’s nine points are tied for the team lead and his seven assists are tops on the club - much needed production with the Caps down a top-six center (and with the other one yet to score a goal). His plus-five all-situation goal differential is second on the team (behind Marcus Johansson’s absurd +10, and obviously bolstered by his power play ice time and lack of penalty-killing duties).

Put it all together - actual and expected - and Strome has the highest GameScore (a measure of such things) on the team:

via HockeyStatsCards

(Lindgren and Kuemper rank 10th and 13th in average GameScore among goalies with at least three appearances at 0.69 and 0.51, respectively.)

All of this isn’t to say that there aren’t arguments for other Caps to be among the top-three players on the team so far - Conor Sheary, Nic Dowd, Johansson and Nick Jensen come to mind.

But could you “make the argument that the Caps’ three best players so far this year have been new guys Strome, Kuemper and Lindgren”? Looks like we just did. It’s just another perfectly reasonable take on Twitter... would you expect anything else?