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Posted at 10:17 AM ET, 01/14/2011

Statistical analysis: How to fix the Caps' power play in two easy steps

By Neil Greenberg
Statistical analysis

Remember when the Capitals' power play used to strike fear into the hearts of opposing teams? Yeah, that was awesome. Coach Bruce Boudreau is frustrated too, seeing his team score only four goals on 45 scoring chances during their last 43 power-play opportunities. One definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results, so now is the time to make some changes.

After looking at the forward combos for even strength, I turned my attention to the power play and realized there are only a few combinations in use, mostly centering around Alex Ovechkin and either one or both blueliners John Carlson and Mike Green.

I have written before that seeing almost two thirds of the Capitals' power-play time is too much for Ovechkin, and the numbers continue to validate my claim.

Power play PP TOI Scoring chances per 2 min of PP Goals scored per 2 min of PP
With Ovechkin 224.9 1.42 0.19
Without Ovechkin 80.3 4.46 0.62

Almost triple the scoring chances and goals scored when the Great 8 is not on the ice during the power play. Again, I am not saying Boudreau should take Ovechkin off the power play completely, but maybe it is time the Caps had a legitimate second unit to take shifts during the man advantage.

Green has seen almost twice as much power play time than Carlson has, but it may be time to let Carlson take over a majority of power-play duties -- at least until the scoring gets back on track.

Games TOI Scoring chances per 2 min of PP Goals scored per 2 min of PP
Green 34 153.4 0.83 0.22
Carlson 28 42.5 1.32 0.52
Green & Carlson 11 28.7 0.66 0.29

When the young defenseman mans the point alone, the Caps see almost twice as many scoring chances than when Green is with him and more than 50 percent more than when Green is alone. Washington also sees more goals scored per two minutes of power-play time when Carlson is the lone blueliner.

So there are two quick fixes. Will it bring the power play back up to last year's levels? Maybe, maybe not -- but how much worse can it get by trying?

Neil Greenberg also writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks. You can follow him on Twitter.

By Neil Greenberg  | January 14, 2011; 10:17 AM ET
Categories:  Statistical analysis  
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Comments

My thoughts exactly. Let the people who are scoring goals get in on the PP. Sit the people who are going though a "slump" and are having "bad luck" until the "slump" and "bad luck" subside when it's 5 on 5.

Posted by: LloydChristmas | January 14, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

This is how bad the Caps PP is with Ovi on the ice...read the stats...if the Caps played all 60 mins tonight 5-on-4, with Ovi and Green, they'd get only 6 goals.

I realize no player can play all 60 mins, but the fact is if Caps get .19 goals per two mins that is 5.7 goals over 60. That's an awful, awful rate, considering last year Caps were scoring over 3 goals per 60 mins even handed.

What is wrong with Ovechkin? When a baseball player for five straight years has like .325, .400 (OBP), .600 (SLG) with say 45-50 homers a year and then the next year is hitting say .250 with pace for 20 homers...you know something is clearly amiss.

Have they checked his eyesight?

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 14, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

The simple explanation is that the Caps focus too much on setting up his shots and opposing teams know it which makes the Caps easy to defend. It also demonstrates how effective concentrating on defending against the primary puck mover or shooter on the opposing teams powerplay can be.

Pretty basic stuff, if you are predictable or have a very limited set of practiced set plays for your player's to draw upon as situations swiftly evolve you probably won't score a lot on the powerplay or otherwise.

Posted by: born_rpm | January 14, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Put Green and Carlson on the PP point for the 1st unit. Carlson creates scoring chances. BB needs to give him the PP.

Posted by: underpants2 | January 14, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Interesting look at the stats but slightly flawed. Ovi and Green are on the first (and perhaps second) unit of the PP. Therefore they are getting the oppositions top defenders. Carlson is usually on the 2nd PP unit going up against the 2nd tier defenders. This has to factor into these stats and until you account for it we still don't know who is better on the ice.

Posted by: biga84 | January 14, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Interesting look at the stats but slightly flawed. Ovi and Green are on the first (and perhaps second) unit of the PP. Therefore they are getting the oppositions top defenders. Carlson is usually on the 2nd PP unit going up against the 2nd tier defenders. This has to factor into these stats and until you account for it we still don't know who is better on the ice.

Posted by: biga84 | January 14, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

@biga84

Great point!

Posted by: LloydChristmas | January 14, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

This is the clip of Burrows punching Marc Staal in his special place! Caps better guard their loins!

http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Video-Alex-Burrows-feeling-crotchety-spears-Ra?urn=nhl-307380

Posted by: capscoach | January 14, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

What is wrong with Ovechkin? When a baseball player for five straight years has like .325, .400 (OBP), .600 (SLG) with say 45-50 homers a year and then the next year is hitting say .250 with pace for 20 homers...you know something is clearly amiss.

Have they checked his eyesight?

Posted by: tominsocal1

If you are going to do the baseball reference then maybe that doctor getting arrested has something to do with it. It was often the reason in baseball(not the doctor getting arrested, but a player who stopped taking his "medicine")

Posted by: sgm3 | January 14, 2011 10:56 AM | Report abuse

PhilR: crazyboutcaps@yahoo.com is a good address for me. Drop me a line and I'll send you dates of games that I can't get to. Cost is negotiable and will be very reasonable.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 14, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

@biga84

You bring up a good point but it is a non-factor.

The d-pairings used against Ovi/Green/Carlson are pretty consistent from one shift to the next, prob because Ovi is out there 70-80% of the PP time and draws the better pairings.

-Neil

Posted by: NeilRMNB | January 14, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

and this is exactly why boudreau needs to be fired: any jack dandy on the street can see that the powerplay needs to be completely overhauled. but boudreau is obviously too afraid to piss off his "stars" - so he lets them coast around on the PP. the reason the unit stinks is because ovechkin just stands there. he doesn't get open. he doesn't take shots. and between he and green - they make so many mistakes that they actually contribute to more short-handed scoring chances for the opposition than they do for their own side. On top of that - Backstrom is playing scared. No longer is he strong on the puck and able to make great passes. The entire unit stinks...but Boudreau fiddles while our powerplay goes up in flames.

Posted by: dingram3 | January 14, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Great column, very insightful. And validates what my gut had been telling me, that the puck-movement [and movement in general, rather than guys standing around] is way better with Carlson out there. Green and Ovie are terrific athletes but I don't either one makes great decisions, not under pressure and not right now.

As for Ovie, put him down low - what defenders in the league can match up with him, either in power or speed, never mind both?1

Hate to say this and I love BB, but his fondness for certain players is clouding his judgment, IMHO.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 14, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

EXCUSES-EXCUSES-EXCUSES....the system, 5x5 & power-play are broken. Gabby's system no longer works, not his fault, it happends to most coaches. We need a new coach & system, because everyone in the league knows how to stop us now. Philly's current coach brought the Islanders out of the toilet, won a cup in Carolina and was still fired by both, again, not Gabby's fault, but after a while it just gets stale.
I would also suggest looking for a new GM. McPheeb re-signed Poti & Semin, two players who are always hurt or useless/inconsistant (Semin has not scored in almost two months) at a 9.5 million dollar cap hit this year. He has ben here 13+ years and we have done nothing....with really good talent mind you. If we are not careful, we are going to be Carolina of 4-years ago, sitting at home for the playoffs....thinking we are a good team, but makeing EXCUSES-EXCUSES-EXCUSES of why we are not there?????

Posted by: POGUEHOCKEY | January 14, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

One more thing on Ovie, whom I love but c'mon dude - no d-man in the league can handle you when drive the net [other than Pronger but only because he's dirtier than Sidney with Paul Stewart reffing] - quit trying to be Kovalev and toe-drag everybody, just take it to the net my man!

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 14, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

"This is the clip of Burrows punching Marc Staal in his special place! Caps better guard their loins!" - capscoach

It's called giving someone "the Crosby".

@those trying to shop my boy...

(flip the bird) back off =)

@the guy questioning pokerface's credibility...

He does seem to have some good insider info and he is lips sealed when it comes to his source. But he has many times come on here and been like...something is going down. Depending on how big/secret it is, he reveals more info (teams involved, sometimes actual names of players). So he lets us know stuff is in the works, but limits what he can say. In part to probably protect his source and the rest to toy with our emotions (that sick ba$tard) =)

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | January 14, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

PP woes? Simple solution....put #4 or #17 out there w/specific instructions to go to the net, wreak havoc, and keep their stick on the ice. It'd be akin to watching the Refrigerator ram the ball in from the 1-yard line, teams wouldn't know what to do to defend. Seeing those two out on the pp giving their all, even if for only 1 or 2 pps, would have to generate some good vibes on the bench (not to mention shame those who are ineffective, in a not-so-subtle way either)... GO GET'EM TONITE BIG E, I hope to see ya make an appearance on the pp!!

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 14, 2011 11:16 AM | Report abuse

If you're just gonna look for the perfect combination, this problem will NEVER be solved.

You just have to get back to the BASICS... shoot the puck, crash the net and keep your feet moving.

Posted by: joek443 | January 14, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I hate to say it, but Vancouver will be driving into Verizon Center in a big Yellow Bus, picking up the entire Caps organization and taking them to school.

Posted by: LesGrossman | January 14, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

PhilR: crazyboutcaps@yahoo.com is a good address for me. Drop me a line and I'll send you dates of games that I can't get to. Cost is negotiable and will be very reasonable.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 14, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Ovechkin's issues transcend any possible eyesight problems. He's simply not putting in the work that he needs to. And he's not adjusting his game. He's got his little favorite moves once he gains the zone and now that other teams have figured out how to take away his time and space, he needs to do something different to change it up. Just watch how many of the defensemen start to defend Ovy wheh he crosses the blueline. They'll immediately anticipate where he's going to be and start moving towards that area. Mike Weaver certainly had him figured out. And now backchecking forwards also know where Ovy's going to go in the off zone and the second he does his little patented "gain the zone and curl up high" move, he's got 2 players right in his face.


He also needs to stop hitting out of frustration. He needs to go back to initiating contact as part of his regular game. He was utilizing those bad habits in the playoffs last year. A player like him should be consistently physical. Not go 2 periods without any contact and then suddenly throw 6 hits in the 3rd. That's not what Ovy's game used to be. He was consistently physical on almost every shift. That's part of what I mean when I say he's not putting in the work. Does it go back to the backlash from the Brian Campbell hit? Perhaps. But enough time has passed now, he needs to revert back to his old self and start putting in the work. Then the #s will fall into place.


Posted by: cstanton1 | January 14, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

fanohock,

pm sent and thanks for the offer.

Posted by: PhilR | January 14, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

@SAOTI

you are right about pokerface and he isn't the only one who has heard about something. While he made it seem like it could be very soon...from what I have been told its just very good dialogue that could ultimately result in something in the next 7-10 days. But maybe Pokerface means the same thing. He can clarify that if he wants to.

Posted by: ThePat | January 14, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Philly in the mid-80's had one of the best PPs I ever saw and you didn't need a stat analysis to figure out why they were so successful.

Just ask Langway and he'll tell you why.

Posted by: joek443 | January 14, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

And on another note, this is pretty funny:

http://deadspin.com/5733669/

Posted by: ThePat | January 14, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Philly in the mid-80's had one of the best PPs I ever saw and you didn't need a stat analysis to figure out why they were so successful.

Just ask Langway and he'll tell you why.

Posted by: joek443 | January 14, 2011 11:29 AM

Tim Kerr. One of the few players more effective in front of the net than Dino.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 14, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

There also could be an element of the "Patrick Ewing Theory" at play here. Just spitballing, but I think that for a lot of guys, their first instinct is "get the puck to 8." when he has the puck, their first instinct is to watch him score.

When 8 isn't on the ice, they are forced to actually make decisions, move to create plays, and even take shots themselves. surprise, it works.

Secondly, the other problem IMHO is that 8 is simply in the wrong place playing the PP at the point. Of course they do better when he's not on the ice, because players are then playing in their correct positions. A better solution than taking 8 off the ice would be to put him in the proper position on the PP.

Just my $0.02

Posted by: VTDuffman | January 14, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

So what did Pokerface have to say?

On the PP, we need some controlled chaos.

Posted by: Justafan | January 14, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Tim Kerr. One of the few players more effective in front of the net than Dino.

Posted by: tominsocal1

Kerr sure was an immovable object. And when you did try to move him, he could flip his angry switch and make life very unpleasant. He didn't flip it often but when he did, watch out!

That being said, I'd still take Dino over Kerr. Dino would get goalies off their game and have them more worried about where he was then where the puck was.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 14, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

practice accurate passing, one-timers, and quick puck movement while rotating.
Practice, practice, practice until it is done by reaction and less by thinking, it is a game not a nuclear physics problem.

The guys are standing still, (too much over-coaching? Trying to do what the coach has drill onto them? thinking instead of reacting?) expecting pucks to come to them. The play is too predictable, making it easy to defend - I can almost predict every shot attempt by the Caps before the PP starts, imagine what the other team who have study the tendencies of this team can do.

The skills are on this team, the coaching is becoming stale.

Posted by: hock1 | January 14, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

PP woes? Simple solution....put #4 or #17 out there w/specific instructions to go to the net, wreak havoc, and keep their stick on the ice.
-------------------------

Chara's been used in that capacity before. The Caps used Scott Stevens in that capacity v the Islanders (longtime caps fans may remember the Stevens v Brian Curran battles in front of the Isles goal. The Stars used Derian Hatcher as well in that role to shake up the PP.

I don't think Bruce quite has that level of imagination though. He'll probably use Poti before he uses Erskine.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 14, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

@joek443

They are already at the basics. They shoot the puck, crash the net and pray.

Posted by: Randolph2 | January 14, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Agreed. Put Ovie down low with the offense. Have two defensemen on the point and let them fire away like defensemen are trained to do on PP's.

Posted by: cappies | January 14, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Put Green and Carlson on the PP point for the 1st unit. Carlson creates scoring chances. BB needs to give him the PP.

Posted by: underpants2 | January 14, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Ovie(25) has typical quarter life crisis. Life $ucks!!!

Posted by: Randolph2 | January 14, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I dont understand How they can not get up for a game any game for that matter. They are paid Millions of Dollars to play a game there are people right now knee deep in a hole getting shot at in one those country's that end in STAN and they come come out and play like garbage with the division lead on the line they need to get their heads out of their assets and quit acting like the GD redskins players who could care less as long they are collecting a paycheck its ok.

Posted by: koppleschloss | January 14, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

How many years has it been since the Caps deflected a shot in for a goal? Rememeber when Laich first rose to some prominence, that was his game.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 14, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Iginla went thru a stretch where he quit looking like a real power forward and acted like he was confused and disillusioned.

And he was. He was disillusioned about the direction of his franchise. And guess what happened? The Flames GM got fired, Darryl Sutter came in and changed over the chemistry of that team (getting Rhett Warrener was a big piece), and the Flames went on to the Cup. Lost in 7 but still. They also added Ville Niemenin and Chris Simon down the stretch. Two very hard players to play against.

hint hint!

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 14, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Don't let these guys stay on the ice as long as they want...Ovi is aweful at the point. Short Shifts- shoot the puck - crash the net...hence why there are better numbers for second team.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | January 14, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

ThePat

people on the board are dancing around and not sharing on these trade rumors... i hope your resources are not eklund. Does anyone want to share what they have heard. Anyone can say a possible trade will happen given the trade deadline coming up

Posted by: samb99 | January 14, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

If you remember last year Ovie was told many times to change his game. So he did.

Posted by: Randolph2 | January 14, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

from what I have been told its just very good dialogue that could ultimately result in something in the next 7-10 days
---thepat---

whats this about? what are the rumors flyin around?

i love this though. The only reason there's any buzz on Caps trade rumors that actually have a chance of going thru is because we've been knocked off our pedestal during the reg season this year. The only way positive change can occur with the Caps is thru failures, sad. But true.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 14, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

@samb99

Ill say it is not what Eklund is reporting. How bout that. And I dont necessarily think a trade is going to happen. Just been told that we are talking with a specific team and have been for the last 2 days. Nothing imminent but could happen within a week to 10 days.

Posted by: ThePat | January 14, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Now I dont know if this is the same thing @pokerface has been told or not. When he pops is head in again, he can comment more on what he'd like to.

Posted by: ThePat | January 14, 2011 12:13 PM | Report abuse

@samb99

No their sources arent Eklund. They both usually have solid and reliable info. And FYI anyone that considers Eklund a source probably gets their news from The Onion. =)

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | January 14, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Prediction:

Alex Semin never wears a Caps sweater ever again.

Posted by: underpants2 | January 14, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

May be it's good for Alex Semin.

Posted by: Randolph2 | January 14, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Undies, you have boldly gone to a place that only a few of us dare dream about.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 14, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Pat

what position are the rumors rumored to be replenishing? center? dman? GM?

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 14, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if Ovie is sorry hi signed 13years?

Posted by: Randolph2 | January 14, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

FWIW, I like this guy's posts. I may not always agree with his conclusions, but I like his numbers.

I'm also a dork, that might have something to do with it.

Posted by: VTDuffman | January 14, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

I just fired up my handy-dandy stats machine, downloaded the latest Microsoft patches, and asked it to provide me with 2 easy steps to fix this team.

Looks like..

1) Multi player trade involving Chimmychoocha, Sarge, Semin.

2) Outright release: Gordo, Poti

That should be enough for even Bruce to figure out how to get this team to round 2.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 14, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

After seeing what GMGM got for Flash I'm not certain I want his finger on the trade button.

Just sayin'.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 14, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

BB splits players in 3 types:

Hi likes

Schultz
Laich
...

Has to live with

Backstrom
Ovie
Green
...

Doesn't like

Semin
DJK
...

You can fill ... as you like or change the list as you wish.

Guess who will be next to go?

Posted by: Randolph2 | January 14, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

@Randolph

Uh...BB LOVES him some Mike Green. Probably has a MG fat head thing on his wall at home.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | January 14, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

If Semin is on the block, it certainly explains the dour look Ovechkin has been wearing.

Right now, and we all go through this, he might simply be a stressed-out employee.

His (BB) is telling him to do stuff he doesn't want to do and he is trying to ignore the direction. So maybe his boss's boss will take that to mean they have to split up the two Alexes for everyone's good. This is like at work when two people goof off together and they move one.

This would be a simple, explainable reason for the lousy performance. As they tell us at work, he needs to "Get over it."

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 14, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

This is like at work when two people goof off together and they move one.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 14, 2011 12:52 PM |

10-1 tom you dont have a government job. =)

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | January 14, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

My "Easy Steps" are these:

1) At least one nuisance in front of the enemy net at all times--and occasionally 2.
2) Until B├Ąckis gets his groove back, Stecks takes the initial O-zone draw on the PP. Possession ensures maximum zone time.
3) 74 on the point not 8; 8 on the half wall/working between the circles.
4) Everyone f****** must f****** move their f******* feet!!!!

Posted by: Rhino40 | January 14, 2011 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I wonder it the Caps are happy they signed Ovie for 13 years?

Posted by: chriscaps | January 14, 2011 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Poguehockey you are right Poti needs to go I think that's why he didn't comeback agianst Tampa Bay after the 1st period becouse his first game back he is onthe ice for both of the 1st tro goals. But Semin is still to good of a hockey player trade he will come back to haunt us. He is the leading goal scorer on the team even while missing games he still better then most. No BB has lost this team and it's time to change these guys are professional players it doesn't matter where and with whom they play with but their style of play. BB took them out of thier element and these guys are lost. When to dump,pass or shoot they just need to play like they know how up and down the ice so they don't have to think to much just play

Posted by: fs02 | January 14, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Two easy steps?

1. Replace Boudreau
2. Um, enjoy a beer?

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 14, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I agree with those saying that Ovie needs to get less ice time. BB is too closed minded to think that his Russians aren't scoring, "maybe we should change something". BB can only focus on getting OV and Backs out of their slumps, hello there are players capable of scoring besides those 2. Fehr, Laich, Perrault and many others should be given a real chance on the #1 PP line, not just two chances, and let's see what they can do. BB needs to think outside the box, let's move this team to the next level. No more "Ovie is in a slump, must play him more...".

Posted by: Freez | January 14, 2011 6:11 PM | Report abuse

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