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Posted at 10:29 AM ET, 01/03/2012

Are the Capitals better off being lucky than good?


STATISTICAL ANALYSIS | A glance at the Capitals’ past few games will certainly impress. They've won three straight, the longest winning streak since they went 7-0 to start the season, and their best players are being their best players. Everything seems to be going right.

Well, almost everything.

Washington has put more goals in net as a percentage of its even-strength shots (On Ice EV Sh%) under Coach Dale Hunter. The Capitals have also stopped more pucks from lighting the lamp (On Ice EV Sv%). However, a 47.4 percent Fenwick percentage with the score tied means the ice is tilted in the opposition’s favor. Without puck possession, success in the NHL will be fleeting at best. 

2011-12On Ice EV Sh%On Ice EV Sv%Fenwick Tied%
Boudreau9.10%0.90555.0%
Hunter9.80%0.92247.4

Fenwick percentage measures the amount of shots directed at net (shots high and wide, shots that are saved, goals scored, etc.) that are not blocked during even strength when the score is tied. A team with a Fenwick percentage of more than 50 percent has more shots directed toward the opponent’s net then shots directed toward its own. We use even strength because about two-thirds of the shots take over the course of an NHL season are at even strength and restrict it to when the score is tied to eliminate any score effects. This gives an apples-to-apples comparison we can use league-wide. 

Looking at puck possession data over the last four years we can see that having a weak Fenwick percentage during the regular season typically indicates an early postseason exit. 


The Capitals do have a few things going for them. Alex Ovechkin has four goals in two games, putting him on a 35-goal pace and quieting critics who thought he might have been washed up. Alexander Semin has also found his scoring touch, potting five goals in December. That matches his total from October and November combined.

There are enough warning signs, though, from the low puck possession rate to the inconsistent goaltending, that suggest this team could still struggle in the playoffs. Assuming, of course, they make the playoffs.

Follow Neil on Twitter: @ngreenberg

By Neil Greenberg  |  10:29 AM ET, 01/03/2012

 
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