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Posted at 10:26 AM ET, 03/ 8/2011

Statistical analysis: Where did the defensive firepower go?

By Neil Greenberg
Statistical analysis

Last season, Washington blueliners lit the lamp 37 times, adding to a league-leading 318 goals scored last year. This season, that production is significantly down. Is it due to injury, shot selection or something else?

Goals contributed by the defensemen on a per-game basis during even strength has not changed, but power-play goals, as you could probably guess, are down significantly:

Goals from Washington Capitals defensemen
YearEV goals per gamePP goals per gameTotal goals per game
20100.280.170.45
20110.250.090.34

Overall, the amount of shots the defensemen are taking while on the power play is relatively constant: 1.4 shots per game in 2010 versus 1.5 shots in 2011. The shots are also coming from the same locations at almost the same rates; they just are not finding the back of the net as much.

Look at shots taken segmented by location on the ice:

rink with shaded areas.jpg


20102011
Shots per gameSh%Shots per gameSh%
Red line to top of circles (purple) 1.011.8%0.93.8%
Left/right of the scoring-chance area (blue)0.00.0%0.10.0%
Scoring-chance area (yellow)0.417.9%0.518.8%
All shots1.413.5%1.58.8%

Shots taken from the scoring-chance area are converting at the same high rate, about 18 percent. That is close to league average on the power play. Shots taken from the point, however, converted at an unsustainable 12 percent last season and have since tumbled back to the league average of 4 percent.

If Washington's blueliners convert their shots from the point at last year's rate, we see 6-7 more power-play goals from the defensemen -- almost the exact difference in production from 2010 to 2011. So it's not that the blueliners are contributing less this season; they probably contributed too much last season.

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

By Neil Greenberg  | March 8, 2011; 10:26 AM ET
Categories:  Statistical analysis  
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Comments

Would be willing to bet more shots from the purple are getting blocked as well.

Posted by: icehammer97 | March 8, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Mike Green stinks. He's gone after 2012 season!

Posted by: Nats1924 | March 8, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Carlson is not very good at getting shots through at the point. It's an acquired skill, but he has a knack for finding shin pads.

Posted by: chatton | March 8, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Think last year was an aberration, it was an outstanding year for the Caps D-men. Its a combination of opposing teams taking note and adjusting and just having a great year when all the planets aligned properly.

Posted by: ttenner | March 8, 2011 11:02 AM | Report abuse

@nats

thats so true!!! two time Norris nominee sucks at hockey! Makes perfect sense! (please not my sarcasm)

Posted by: capscoach | March 8, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

@Nats1924, right he is only second on the team in PPG and leading our D in goals all while actually playing D. Yes, lets get rid of him and see how bad our PP can really be.

Posted by: icehammer97 | March 8, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

If last year was an abberration, what was the year before when Green had 31 all by himself?

I think if the team cycles and moves more, instead of the perimeter passing and shooting stuff, all stats will get better.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | March 8, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

@tomisocal

it seems to me like they think too much before they shoot...the goalie knows whats about to happen and can easily get into position.

I think if they move more and play more naturally the goals will come more frequently.

Posted by: capscoach | March 8, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Look who is 2 pts out of first place! We still need a PP for the playoffs. I liked Arnott and Wideman at the points, because they shoot the puck...thoughts?

Posted by: lylewimbledon | March 8, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Green is missed. Yes we should get rid of him. That is stinkin thinkin. What the freak. He is an excellent defenseman. Two time Norris nominee must mean he is awful. I hope he gets better soon.

Posted by: pkme | March 8, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

@capscoach
I agree would like to see more one time shots and not give the goalie that extra second to think and move... Additionally would help get shots through the D and have some rebound opportunities.

Posted by: DBnMD | March 8, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

@tom 'instead of the perimeter passing' I would add 'while standing still'.

it is very easy to block shots from a stationary peremiter shooter. Watch widemen change the angle just before shooting. OV was a master at this until everyone figured out he did the exact same thing every time. The young guys need some time to figure out how to change skating speed and angle to get shots through.

Watching the 4-3 in ot last night. The 3 outside guys stood still, so the never created cross ice passing lanes. They need to work harder without the puck to force the d-into a bad decision-something they(CAPS) have not been doing well this year on the pp.

Posted by: cadlecreek1 | March 8, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

For those who don't follow twitter.

Katie Carrera
Mike Green is skating again before the start of the #Caps optional practice at KCI.

Sounds like even if he didn't feel great after yesterday's skate he hasn't regressed which is a plus.

Posted by: icehammer97 | March 8, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

@lyle

Arnott is known for his strong one timer...so he might do very well at the point...give Ovie a chance to snaek to the net!

Posted by: capscoach | March 8, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

"Remember, the NHL tried a "black and white" rule with goalie interference in the 90s with the "no goal if in the crease rule." Then they eliminated the rule after Hull scored the SC winning shot while (uncalled) in the crease."

@tominsocal1

That's why I prefer the current rule. Even though there will be some close calls it is better than all the stupid reviews to see if a player's skate was touching the crease. However, it was that same crease rule that helped the Caps get to the SCFs in 1998. If not for that rule the Caps may have lost to the Bruins in the 1st round.

The interference on MSL was the correct call because he shoved Holtby with his STICK. It was that play by MSL that impeded Holtby. The call was correct.

In addition, the interference by MSL was about 100 times more severe than Kunble's "interference" in game 7. That was a bad call, a really bad call as I don't think the goalie was impeded at all from stopping the puck. Knuble's most significant contact came after the puck crossed the goal line therefore making that contact moot.

Anyways, you can't do anything about that call now, but that still bothers me. I always wonder what would have happened in that game if that goal was allowed to stand. All I know is that it would have been fun to watch.

Posted by: sgm3 | March 8, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

@lylewimbledon

Until Green comes back, I also like Arnott at the point. He seems very composed back there, as does Wideman, and that is a very important trait to have as a point man.

The failure of the PP seems to just be everything going wrong. On the first PP, the Caps set up very nice in an umbrella and had Wideman set up for a nice shot at the top with good screens set up. What happens? Wideman flubs the shot and the puck gets cleared.

Other times the Caps are unable to enter the zone.

Other times the Caps set up a great shot(i.e. Laich in the OT), but fail to get a good shot off.

Some of the failure definitely has to do with the Caps players not working hard enough on the PP. But it also just seems like they are snakebitten as well.

It's sort of like the perfect storm.

Posted by: sgm3 | March 8, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

It wasn't the right call on the ice, but I'm not complaining. That happens a lot to every team in some way or another, including the Caps.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | March 8, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

@sgm3, that is why I am for having the ref on the ice take a quick 1 or 2 looks just to make sure what he thought he saw actually happened and then made the call. It would take less time then most goal calls and then you would know that at least the ref made the call based on what happened as opposed to what he thought happened in the moment when he might not have really been paying attention.

Posted by: icehammer97 | March 8, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Carlson is not very good at getting shots through at the point. It's an acquired skill, but he has a knack for finding shin pads.

Posted by: chatton |

Compared to our other players?

The amount of shots we block versus the amount of shots other team's block is very, very, disturbing to me.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | March 8, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Interesting tidbits:

Every dman on the Bolts registered a hit(s) and a block(s) last night, with 12 hits and 17 blocks in total coming from their backline).

Conversely, not a single Caps dman registered a hit (0 hits and 9 blocks from our backline) and ****55 was the only defenseman on both teams not to register a hit or blocked shot.

Also, while Erskine's play has been a little uneven of late, I thought he played well last night (only 1 poor decision to pinch) and have noticed him more frequently on the pk the last couple games. Has he worked himself into a regular pk role in BB's eyes?

Posted by: vermontcaps | March 8, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

@vermont I commented on those stat numbers last night. Disturbing to say the least.

I like Erskine, but man, it's obvious that he should be a bottom-pairing guy at all times.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | March 8, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

If the Caps don't re-sign Brooksie it looks like the Leafs want Laich.......and Dupuis

http://theslapshot.com/brooks-laich-pascal-dupuis-future-toronto-maple-leafs

Posted by: hockeynightincanada | March 8, 2011 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Green is missed. Yes we should get rid of him. That is stinkin thinkin. What the freak. He is an excellent defenseman. Two time Norris nominee must mean he is awful. I hope he gets better soon.

Posted by: pkme

The Norris nominations mean nothing, it should be obvious from watching a Capitals game with Green in it that he is a great two-way defenseman. Physical, hard on the puck, can jump into the play at any moment, etc.

It still blows my mind when people say he can't defend or something like that. Whoa, way to follow the status quo headlines from last year...haha.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | March 8, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure a lot of teams will be looking at Laich this off-season if he isn't resigned by then. He is one of the more attractive UFAs this year, in my opinion.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | March 8, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

@Vermont & Richmondphil...strange that the D was shutout on blocks & hits, but sometimes it is not all about the hits, its about defensive positioning and gaining control of th epuck...a dman can be playing physical close up and not record a hit, I believe it is easier for forwards to make hits in the nutral zone and on the forecheck to accumulate "hits", dmen can't alwways take a chance for an open ice hit in the neutral zone or at the blue line

Posted by: boomer44 | March 8, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Why isn't the defense scoring as much? Mike Green is having injury issues this season. There's your answer. When you have to insert players like Erskine every game rather than the likes of Green and Poti, production from the back end will take a hit.

Posted by: fanohock1 | March 8, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

@boomer44

Honestly, I don't care about the lack of hits as much as I am disturbed at the fact that Schultz didn't record a single blocked shot. If you're going to be that slow, at least block a shot.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | March 8, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

@fanohock1

I wonder how these numbers actually stack up in comparison to our production as a whole being down. I'd guess that they are quite proportionate.

Posted by: richmondphil2 | March 8, 2011 11:56 AM | Report abuse

@Vermont. 55 may not have blocked a shot but the pass he blocked on the 2 on 1 caused by Erskine's pinch was more of a goal saving play then any blocked shot by any player in that game last night. I also remember a PK last night where Erskine just stood still and the the TB guy get closer to the net and took the shot without every trying to take away time or space from the shooter. Stats don't tell the whole stroy of the game.

Posted by: icehammer97 | March 8, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

@vermont

I love Erskine, but it is clear that he is loosing a step...they guy just isn't built to withstand that kind of play all season.

Encourage him to keep playing hard like he has been, but give the guys body some rest so he doesn't crap out come playoffs.

Even you his adoring mother :) must see that he looks slower than usual, not as physical, and a bit out of position lately.

Posted by: capscoach | March 8, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

@fanohock1 I know "Green is injured" is the easy answer, but how do you explain the SAME amount of shots per game coming from the SAME locations?

If you are saying Green has some magical ability for putting pucks in the net from the point at a rate that is more than triple the league average, I would love to see the evidence. :-)

Posted by: NeilRMNB | March 8, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I agree richmondphil. Poti isn't as gifted offensively as Green but he definitely moves the puck up ice very well. He also has that nice short side pass when he looks like he is going to carry the puck around the net in the offensive zone. He has set players for one-times many times with that play.

Not sure why Schultz is even getting blasted here today. He played extremely solid yesterday. Schultz doesn't make bone jarring hits, accept it, but he is very good at bringing a forward to the boards and squashing plays before they can develope, all while not getting called for a bunch of minor penalties. Schultz also made some good decisions on when to pinch and when to give up the blue line. Let the Schultz bashing commence or resume, but he's a steady defenseman. He's not flashy but he's not paid to be flashy.

Posted by: fanohock1 | March 8, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

It wasn't the right call on the ice, but I'm not complaining. That happens a lot to every team in some way or another, including the Caps.

Posted by: richmondphil2

I strongly disagree with you that the MSL call was not the right call. Watch the video again and take a look at MSL's stick and how he pushes Holtby's left pad with it. It was that action by MSL that created the goaltender interference. MSL shoved Holtby's left pad into the net.

Posted by: sgm3 | March 8, 2011 12:03 PM | Report abuse

@capcoach

if you think erskine looks slower now, then don't watch schultz and to a lesser extent carlson. They look like have slowed down more than big john

Posted by: _stevo | March 8, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

@stevo
Calson is leagues better than Erskine so thats irrelavent. As for schultz...he is still better than Erskine (slightly). He gets sticks in the way of passes really well and is rarely out of position.

Posted by: capscoach | March 8, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Neil,

Are the shots from the point stats just for defensemen, or do they include Ovechkin? He was up there a lot more last year.

Posted by: geologist1 | March 8, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Watch the video again and take a look at MSL's stick and how he pushes Holtby's left pad with it.
--------------

The replay clearly shows this - especially the one from up top, directly above the goal.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | March 8, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

if you think erskine looks slower now, then don't watch schultz and to a lesser extent carlson.
----------

I'll withhold judgment on Schultz, but Carlson?! The guy neutralized the other team's top line, once again - but you'd rather see #4 out there against the likes of MSL, Stamkos and Vinny? Wow.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | March 8, 2011 12:33 PM | Report abuse

@geologist1 These are JUST shots from defensemen.

Posted by: NeilRMNB | March 8, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry but you guys throwing that "norris trophy" crap are as insane as the people saying Mike Green is some amazingf 2-way d-man. Green hurts this team more often than an Alex Semin offensive zone hooking penalty. I'm not going to pull up numbers about give aways because its a stat that is kept poorly..all you have to do is watch a game with Green in it and wittness the poor play making.
He is not strong enough on the puck in his own zone. Simply go back and watch the KINGS game from a few weeks ago and watch Simmonds over power him twice. The first instance Green makes no effort to take the player..he just swats at the puck and as Simmonds crosses in front of the net Green simply follows him with his head turned back to the front of the net where the puck, 2 other KINGS and his goalie are hanging out. He watches like this contantly after he loses the puck.
Mike Green will never win a Norris Trophy simply because you need to play D to win it. No sensable hockey player or fan would vote for him. I've played hockey for 25 years and not a single player that I know(not being dramatic) thinks Mike Green is up to snuff in his own end.

Posted by: zcjsculpture | March 8, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Mike Green will never win a Norris Trophy simply because you need to play D to win it. No sensable hockey player or fan would vote for him. I've played hockey for 25 years and not a single player that I know(not being dramatic) thinks Mike Green is up to snuff in his own end.
Posted by: zcjsculpture | March 8, 2011 1:45 PM |

I played & watch hockey for 30 years. How do you explain Paul Coffey playing defense by keeping the puck away from the other team as a time & puck possession stratgy?

Keeping a team off the boards is defense.
Executing it can be done in different ways. Witness Green last injury free year when he had 31 goals.

Injury is his problem not style.

Posted by: Rocc00 | March 8, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

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