The Washington Post

Caps have a penalty problem

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS | The Washington Capitals have been shorthanded 65 times this season. That’s sixth worst in the league. They have given up 106 shots when down a man (third worst) and have a save percentage of just 0.849, leading to the fifth-worst kill rate (75.4 percent) in the league. A majority of their penalties have been holds (9), trips (11) and calls for interference (11), indicating desperate and frantic play after a system breakdown.

Jay Beagle leads Washington in holds (2), Mathieu Perreault has the team lead in trips (2) and no player has more than one interference call. So while no one player can shoulder all the blame, it is still a concern — even with the small sample size of games — that the per-game rates for those three types of penalties have increased dramatically year over year.


Jason Chimera leads the team in minor penalties, with his boarding call on Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi just 47 seconds after the Capitals killed a penalty for having too many men on the ice the most recent example. In only 15 games, Chimera has seven minor penalties and has drawn just two, putting the Capitals shorthanded five more times than he has put them on the power play — the worst differential on the team.

Compounding the penalty problem are the netminders, who have a below-average save percentage on short-handed shots (.849 vs .860 league average). Braden Holtby has been especially porous, allowing 10 goals on 56 shorthanded shots against (.821 save percentage).

Poor goaltending could also be magnifying the struggles of John Carlson, who has been on the ice for 13 of the 16 power-play goals against. Despite Washington seeing 16 fewer shots against per 60 minutes of penalty-kill time when Carlson is on the ice than on the bench, the Capitals’ netminders have saved just .778 of those shots. Among defensemen who have played at least 10 games and log more than two minutes per night on the penalty kill, only Alex Pietrangelo from the Blues and Davis Drewiske from the Kings have done a better job at suppressing shots while seeing worse goaltending behind them.

It is expected with the third coach and fourth system since the 2011-12 season began that there would be some adjustment issues, but as time ticks away, the discipline needs to improve immediately if this team is going to have any chance at the postseason.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.



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Eric Detweiler · February 19, 2013