The Washington Post

Are the blueliners to blame for Capitals' struggles in net?

The two have combined for a below-average .893 save percentage and a dismal 3.15 goals against average, and while it is common to say the defense isn't doing enough in front of them, that just isn't true. 

A defense's job is to not only limit shots on net but to also limit quality shots on net, or scoring chances. So far, the defense has done that. And if we compare this team to last year's squad (which was known as a very good defensive team) we can see that this year's version is doing a better job at limiting both quality and quantity. 

Looking at even strength when the score is tied (to limit score effects), we can see that there is a definite improvement over last year not only in Fenwick against per 60 minutes (FA/60), which is just a rate of shots directed at net (goals, shots high and wide, shots that are saved, shots that get tipped, etc.), but also the rate of scoring chances against (SCA/60) and the percentage of scoring chances against on shots that get through (Dangerous %). Save percentage during even strength (EV Sv%) shows how the goaltenders are handling those shots. 

FA/60 SCA/60 Dangerous% EV Sv%
2010-11 41.76 16.3 39.21% 0.916
2011-12 38.37 15.2 32.56% 0.880

This season, the blueliners are doing a better job at not only keeping the volume of attempts down, but the percentage that come from the dangerous areas of the ice is lower as well. The goalies, on the other hand, are saving a below-average number of those shots. 

Neither Vokoun nor Neuvirth has been a steady presence in net when Washington is on the penalty kill, either, as both are well below their historical average save percentages (SH Sv%) despite seeing fewer shots per game (SH SA/gm) when short handed.

Neuvirth and Vokoun combined SH SA/gm SH Sv%
2005-06 to 2010-11 5.9 0.882
2011-12 4.7 0.866

For the time being, the best course of action is to have patience with both Vokoun and Neuvirth, as they are two exceptionally talented goalies. Besides, how much worse can it get?

Follow Neil on Twitter: @ngreenberg.

Boudreau firing/Hunter hiring:
D.C. Sports Bog: Mike Milbury says the bad guys won
Timeline: Bruce Boudreau’s tenure as Capitals coach
Box Seats: Hunter is the storybook choice, but is he the right one?
Thomas Boswell: Dale Hunter will mold the Capitals in his own image
Box Seats: Why Boudreau had to go
Video: Hunter: “I’m a player’s coach”
Capitals fire Bruce Boudreau; Dale Hunter named coach

Photos: Dale Hunter named new head coach
D.C. Sports Bog: Old school Dale Hunter giveaway signs
Video: McPhee on Boudreau, ‘The tank was empty’
Poll: Was it the right move?
D.C. Sports Bog: Top 10 Boudreau moments
Leonsis thanks Boudreau

Box Seats: Caps say “Goodnight Bruce”
Photos: Boudreau fired

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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