Saturday, December 24, 2011

Recap: Devils 4, Caps 3 (SO)

Remember when we knew the Caps would make the game exciting? I think we're slowly returning to that form. That being said:
  • That effort in the first two periods was atrocious. Well, maybe not effort, but the team was clearly very out of sync. I really wonder what the coaches think is the issue. Is it effort? Attention to detail? Focus? Whatever it is, it should be fix-able. I mean, at least you can get back to 40 minute efforts, like in 08-09, right?
  • Mike Green is getting healthy at the right time, as Dmitry Orlov seems to have hit a rut over the past couple of games. Tonight he was taking too long to make decisions with the puck. You can't out-wait a guy like Zach Parise who will keep on hounding you until you make a decision.
  • Why can't Alex Ovechkin be like that?
  • At least he was getting shot attempts. Goals come from shots, which come from shot attempts. One step at a time.
  • I loved the look of Ovechkin-Backstrom with Carlson-Alzner. You maximize a guy's offensive abilities by playing in the offensive zone, and with two of Orlov, Wideman, Hamrlik, Erskine, and Schultz playing behind Ovechkin over the last couple of seasons (basically, no Carlson, Alzner, or Green), the Caps end up dwindling away Ovechkin's shifts in the defensive zone. Yes, the Devils sat back and sort of let up, but I think long-term, 8-19 74-27 would be extremely effective.
  • That begs the question of how to play shutdown. Hamrlik, Wideman, and Schultz all have track records of success against toughs, but none with the success of Carlzner.
  • Halpern I thought didn't have the strongest night. He plays a little differently than Chimera and Ward were used to getting from Laich, I guess.
  • Johansson needs to learn to dictate play along the boards. As a D, you can stop skating and wrap the guy up along the boards, like Schultz does so often, but as a forward with the puck or battling for the puck in the offensive zone, you need to make that extra step, get your nose dirty, and act, not react. Brouwer, Knuble, Backstrom, and Ovechkin all get in there and worry about reacting later. Johansson needs to learn to do that (and/or build up the strength to do that), especially when he's not having success carrying the puck through the neutral zone.
  • I thought Laich almost over-deked his goal. Oh well, worked out.
  • Why can't Semin handle a puck? I slapped myself in the face by accident when he got a perfect pass from Backstrom, leaving him alone in front of the net on the rush, and simply lost the puck. That's all on him. And then he turns it around and makes some nice passes in the third, helping out on two goals.
  • Jason Chimera may have scored twice, but he also lost Anton Volchenkov (?) twice on the same shift in OT, the instances within seconds of each other, as the Devils D pinched along the weak side and really would have scored if he were more competent offensively.
  • Why isn't Joel Ward on the PK?
No zone entries tonight, since I was in attendance and can't exactly re-wind the game. I plan on catching up over the next two or three weeks.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Zone Entries: Avalanche 2, Caps 1

Link to view.

Pretty lethargic effort from the Caps, I thought. Without the puck, it always seemed like the Caps were a step slow or a step out of position (except for when Chimera got a stick on O'Reilly, I think it was, to prevent a goal). I know the Avalanche are fast, but when your players get to within one step and then stop skating, you know something is up. It's especially annoying with Ovechkin, who loses the puck so often but then goes passive instead of hounding the player who took the puck away from him. I don't need Ovechkin to be going at 110% on defense all 200ft, like Henrik Zetterberg, but chasing his adversary for five or ten more steps, maybe 30 ft, would be nice. It would slow down the opposition, at a minimum.

I think Jeff Halpern has been a really underrated addition to this team. Not only is he a very good faceoff man (by the way, that ownage in the dot late was painful to watch), but he can do a little of the dirty work, moves plenty well, and knows how to take steps to create offense without doing too much on his own (i.e. cycling and knowing where his teammates are on the cycle).

Lastly, if you want to create room for yourself Mr. Semin, you need to force the D back by playing with speed every now and then. Look at how room as opened up for Ovechkin now that he dumps the puck in every once in a while.

Anyway, I hope for a better effort back in lower-altitude DC.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

ZE Tables: Caps@Jets

Vic Ferrari's scoring chances script is handy for adding zone entries and seeing who was on ice for what. It only takes 100 at this time, so I divided the data from the Jets game into two. First part here, second here (and both copied below).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Zone Entries: Caps 1, Jets 0

I get really frustrated seeing this team do no better than even over long stretches of time against mediocre teams. The Jets are by no means a great possession team (their hot finish last season, possession-wise, notwithstanding). I was happy to see the Caps turn on their own jets in the final period. By my count, the Jets had the better of the play for all of two minutes (their only power play of the third). The best teams can still only muster ~55% of the shots and scoring chances at 5-on-5, which for teams like the Blackhawks means a shot differential that's in the low positives each period, but for the Capitals means a couple of even periods followed by a great period.

At least, I hope. I wouldn't be surprised if that third was a complete fluke that's more on the Jets than the Caps. Speedy Colorado will be a better test.

Caps had 83 of 173 entries, 48%, and going just 5v5 they were 75 of 156, 48% again, surprisingly 146, 51%. Anyway, here I don't think neutral zone play is the best indicator of how the game went. Caps were definitely not in there for the first (at least, not playing offense and not playing great defense), but carried the play in the second and especially the third.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Awards Watch: Dec 2011

  1. Claude Giroux--tied for fourth in goals, first in points, plays top competition in all situations. I thought he'd struggle a bit without Carter...nope.
  2. Phil Kessel--first in goals, second in points, and his zone shift is positive despite a start already near 57%, playing power-versus-power. He's taken a big step forward.
  3. Jonathan Toews--does everything against tough competition in all situations, like Giroux. I just think Giroux is more of an impact player on offense.
  4. Niklas Backstrom--Minnesota has ridden to the top of the league on crazy, timely goaltending. While Harding plays a'plenty, Backstrom is their starter.
  5. Nikolai Khabibulin--a .932 on a team that's lottery on the road and home-ice-playoff at home needs some consistency between the pipes, and Khabby provides that, strangely.


It's pretty difficult to differentiate between pair-mates (McDonagh-Girardi, Boychuk-Chara, Leddy-Keith, Hjalmarsson-Seabrook, Bouwmeester-Butler, etc), but I'll try. Also seems like a lot of these guys get serious help from great checking forwards (Callahan, Kopitar/Richards, Datsyuk/Zetterberg, Bergeron, etc), but can't do much about that.
  1.  Ryan McDonagh--he and Girardi are being matched very aggressively to top lines with Marc Staal out, and with hard zone starts, too. Still, he boasts a positive relative plus-minus and a GAON/60 of only 2.12.
  2. Drew Doughty--tough competition and a 14.3 Corsi Rel on a middling possession team, with a zone start at 53% and zone finish of 54.2%. Few defenseman can drive offense...Doughty is one of them.
  3. Nicklas Lidstrom--any way you cut it, tough competition and a 22.73 Corsi per 60 is ridiculous. Only Brent Burns--who plays 2nds, not 1sts--is better among big-minute D (minimum 15 ESTOI/gm).
  4. Zdeno Chara--top competition, 18.2 Corsi Rel despite 45.5% zone start, which he turns into a 51.4% finish.
  5. Erik Karlsson--plays shutdown in Ottawa with a 10.9 Corsi Rel, and leads all D in points. He's a terrific defenseman...and only 21. No relation to John Carlson, by the way.
  1. Tim Thomas: a .941 in 19 games is...Thomas-esque.
  2. Brian Elliott: a .944 in 19 games is...Thomas-esque.
  3. Henrik Lundqvist: the Rangers were a bad team in the early going, and Lundqvist make them look good. His .931 is 6th overall.
  4. Jonathan Quick: see Lundqvist, but the Kings haven't picked up their play yet.
  5. Jimmy Howard: the Wings have been great, just not scoring. Luckily, Howard is keeping pucks out of the net.
  1. Joe Pavelski--first in the league in quality of competition and a 11.7 Corsi Rel.
  2. Anze Kopitar--second in quality of competition, 13.9 Corsi Rel.
  3. Joe Thornton--third on his team in quality of competition, but with a ridiculous 20.1 Corsi Rel.
  4. Jonathan Toews--the man, the myth, the legend-in-the-making does it all.
  5. Tom Pyatt--get this: 29.5% zone start, fifth on his team on quality of competition, and only a -3.9 Corsi. That's really, really good.
  1. Ryan-Nugent Hopkins: leads the scoring race among rookies easily, over a point-per-game. Yeah, he does a lot of it on the PP, and yeah, he'll likely cool off pretty soon, but still pretty impressive for a kid that's really thin.
  2. Adam Larsson: he may not be Tyler Myers, but Larsson is logging huge minutes on a good New Jersey team and putting up great offensive numbers for an 18-year old.
  3. Gabriel Landeskog: once the Avs start scoring, he'll really be on the radar. For now, his 17+ Corsi Rel will have to suffice.
  4. Craig Smith--the Predators' scoring leader.
  5. Adam Henrique--just behind Patrik Elias for the Devils' scoring lead.
  1. Mike Yeo, Minnesota--at least, while the Wild are atop the league. They've ridden hot goaltending to this point, though. Not a good ES team, but hey, whatever works, right?
  2. Kevin Dineen, Florida--again a great possession team. Somehow, making sure Fleischmann isn't a liability and working strong special teams (which really, really hurt the Panthers last season).
  3. Dave Tippett, Phoenix--who's Ilya Bryzgalov?
  4. Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis--I think they would have righted the ship, anyway, but Hitch made the Blues even better. They were already a top-5 Corsi team last season; couple that with above-replacement-level goaltending, and voila.
  5. Mike Babcock, Detroit--these Red Wings are closer to the 07-09 dominant, dominant possession teams than the 09-11 excellent-but-not-outstanding ones. Lidstrom, Datsyuk, and Zetterberg have ridiculous possession numbers.
  1. Phil Kessel, 18
  2. Milan Michalek, 18
  3. Jonathan Toews, 17
  4. Claude Giroux, 16
  5. Steven Stamkos, 16
  1. Claude Giroux, 37
  2. Phil Kessel, 36
  3. Joffrey Lupul, 33
  4. Daniel Sedin, 33
  5. Jonathan Toews, 32

Zone Entries: Caps 4, Leafs 2

Caps were 75 of 163, 46%, not terrible considering they were leading for most of the game. Of that, they were 67 of 146 at even strength (5v5 and 4v4), 51.8%, which is solid considering score effects. One would like to see a goal at ES, though.

Locker was spot on during the game, as the Caps did not get an entry for a four minute stretch early in the third (nine straight by Toronto, and for you math geeks, that's nearly 30 seconds between entries, so not all entries for the Leafs were one-and-dones).

PP was good, ES play still not completely up to par. This team is still a rushing team, and it's good to see Hunter's system able to generate rushes.

Ovechkin finally working off the rush, just need to shore up the backside pressure and focus, but it's finally looking like it's coming together for this team. No more worries from me that they'll miss the playoffs, especially since Vokoun is back on track.

Wasn't keeping tabs on who got the entries for Toronto, but I don't think Kessel got more than six entries for Toronto. Carlson and Alzner did a good job. 

I missed one entry by Toronto around the 11:45 mark of the 2nd period, but I noted that it exists, just not the type.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Zone Entries: Panthers 5, Capitals 4

Remember, Caps fans, this time is getting some bad luck right now. Luck can mean many things. Here, we saw a combination of bad bounces, saves that are made 95% of the time without issue not made, and only one power play drawn, for example. Things are going to get better.

It's not a good feeling to be the underperforming team, like St. Louis and Florida last year, or Columbus since Steve Mason's rookie season, or Calgary since Kiprusoff became average at best, or the Rangers last year. But if you ever wished that opponents wouldn't take the Caps as seriously come playoffs, well, you got your wish.

I don't really feel like tallying up the entries in any detail here. With big margins, you're going to see queer score effects. Anyway, Caps had 79 of 154, 51.3% (remember that Florida had six power plays and the Capitals only two).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Zone Entries: Caps 3, Senators 2 (OT)

Link to the spreadsheet (cells also posted below)

  • Clean breakouts and zone entries
  • A good mix of dumps and controlled entries
  • Discipline
  • Generating chances in transition
  • Alex Ovechkin (by my count) using five different moves on the rush, and using the cut-to-the-middle only twice.
  • Pressure in the defensive zone, regaining possession of the puck
  • Getting 87 of the 167 entries, 52.1%, despite holding a lead for about half the game (the first and half the third) and against an underrated possession team (last year they were about 49% in Fenwick, but got terrible, terrible goaltending).
  • Neuvirth finding his game.
  • No Semin, know win. Know Semin, no win.
  • Sitting back a bit much with the lead, and getting hemmed in for about three minutes after Michalek tied the game.
  • Getting a slumping goalie to play well.
  • This was Ottawa, after all. And we haven't seen coaches really plan for Hunter, yet. His true test will be how he adapts.
  • Getting 67 of 141 entries at even strength, 47.5%. A little more sitting back in the third than I would have liked to see.
  • Troy Brouwer with a team-worst -9 Fenwick, -11 Corsi.
  • Erik Karlsson's +12 Fenwick, +17 Corsi, despite playing plenty against Ovechkin. Just copy how teams play against Green and use that against Karlsson, who looks to me like he's ahead of where Green was at the same age.
All in all, the bottom six seems to have their game, and we're waiting for the top six to find their game. Slowly but surely, it seems like that's happening at last. Florida will be a nice follow-up test.