With a run-and-gun offense like the Washington Capitals’, it is so easy to say that their weakness is their team defense. (You know it’s actually the penalty killing.) Well, I wanted to see if it really was that horrible. So instead of doing my real AP Statistics homework, I decided to play with some Caps stats regarding categories that typically display how sound a team is in their own end.
If you look at flat out goals against per game, the Caps are clearly mediocre. They land right in the middle of the pack at 16th with 2.77. Three other teams in the playoffs (Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Ottawa) are lower than the Caps in GA/G, but I haven’t heard as much criticism about their defense (but maybe that’s because I don’t pay them close attention).
When you change it to 5-on-5 play, the Caps shoot all the way up to fifth with a total of 136 goals against, just five behind League leading Phoenix.
Just how bad does the lackluster penalty kill (ranked 25th at just 78.8%) make the overall team defense look?
When you watch NHL on the Fly or read any blog, you usually just hear or read how many goals against a team has; it is never really broken down. Because of that, the goals from man down situations influence people to believe that, at full strength, a team is weaker than they really are.
Looking at how big of a difference total GA/G and 5-on-5 GA/G was, I wanted to figure out how the Caps goals against would look if they had an average penalty kill.
I chose to try two different ways. The first:
Since there are no outliers in the data, I figured that taking the mean of power play goals against would work fine. That average is ~55 PPGA.
215 goals against (2.62 GA/G) would be good for 11th in the League. Would our team defense still be harped on as much? Don’t know, but that’s clearly an improvement with an average PK.
A little more realistic, the second method I used was taking the average PK% (~81.6%). I found how many penalties the Caps would kill with the League average PK. And here we go:
It’s about the same and still puts them at about the 11 spot with exactly the same total goals against as St. Louis, Vancouver, and Montreal.
In conclusion, with an average penalty killing percentage, the Caps would be in about the upper third of the League in goals against in stead of the very top of the lower half.
You can do with that what you will. I really don’t know what I just proved or if I did…