September has arrived and Washington Capitals training camp is set to begin in a few weeks. Today we take a deep dive into advanced stats.
Advanced stats. That’s a topic that can be a little divisive. You’ll have fans and people who will swear to the heavens these numbers mean absolutely nothing. Then you have the other side that says those same numbers are important and need to be paid attention to.
As with almost every argument on this earth I tend to fall in the middle. Trust me people, being in the middle saves you a lot of headaches and you learn more.
As far as advanced stats go I think they do need to be looked at but they’re not anything that will predict future success. There have been plenty of teams to have questionable stats that went on to have a great deal of success. Like say, I don’t know, the Washington Capitals.
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In 2018 the Capitals were not a great team in the advanced stats department. I won’t go into too much detail here but some of the ranking in their advanced stats looked like this, 24th, 26th, 23rd and 31st.
Washington rebounded in the playoffs, instead of being bad at advanced stats they were middle of the pack in most categories.
Last season the Caps apparently tried to do the same thing, just with very different results. Again, having poor advanced stats doesn’t mean that much, but at the end of the day I’d rather my team have good stats to tell us that this team is doing good things and has good habits.
The Capitals are going to want to improve on some of their advanced stats. That includes Corsi percentage. One of the more debated stats among doubters I think. Does it really mean anything? Last season nine of the top ten teams in Corsi percentage made the playoffs. All four of the conference finalists came from the top ten, the Blues, Sharks, Bruins and Hurricanes.
Last season the Capitals ranked 18th in Corsi with a 49.04%. That was actually better than the year they won the Stanley Cup. Wait, they were better? And lost in the first round?
I think one thing to pay attention to here is the Caps played a good Corsi team in the first round in Carolina and got dominated in the stat in that series. The Caps Corsi% in the first round was just over 40%. Washington was by far the worst team in Corsi in the playoffs the next highest being Calgary (who also had a bad playoff) at just over 45%.
Corsi is really just about controlling play, are you getting shot attempts or allowing them. Maybe if the Capitals control play just a little better in round one maybe we aren’t sitting here talking about a first round exit.
The Capitals are just like most other teams, they want to control play. Their Corsi wasn’t awful last season but it can still be improved upon and they’re probably going to want to improve that number next season.
Another number to improve from last season is Scoring Chances For percentage. How many scoring chances are you getting vs giving up. The Caps were also on the wrong side of 50% for this stat. The official number for Washington last season was 48.75% ranking 19th in the league.
It wasn’t an awful number but yet again in the playoffs the Caps went up against a team good in this stat and got beat up pretty bad. Washington was 15th in the playoffs last year in this stat just over Calgary (again) with a 43.80%. The Flames were 42.49%.
I think you’re starting to see a trend here no? A team that had good habits and good advanced stats that speak to working hard won the series, the better team who had worse advanced stats ended up losing that series.
A stat that goes hand in hand with scoring chances is Expected Goal For percentage Not too much explanation needed here so I’ll just reveal the numbers. The Caps ranked 25th in this stat with a 45.57%.
Another stat that explains XGF% is High Danger Corsi For percentage. How many shot attempts are you getting or giving up in that high danger area of the ice. The Caps gave up a lot more than they got. Last year their number was 44.43% ranking 29th. They were the lowest ranked playoff team, the next highest being Winnipeg at 21st whose number was 47.63%.
Just because we’ve gotten into the habit now Carolina was ranked fourth and had a 54.74%. And yes, that trend continued in the playoffs, the Capitals had the worst HDCF% in the playoffs at 43.09%.
To me those are the big four. During the season you’ll see me use those stats a lot both on posts like this and on Twitter during games.
Are these advanced stats important and can they tell you who will go on deep runs and eventually win the Stanley Cup? No, not really. But I think there at cases like Capitals vs Hurricanes where you can kind of see hints on how a series might play out.
You had a team who worked hard and fought for every inch and that showed up on paper and on the ice. That team ultimately beat the better team who didn’t work as hard.
If the Capitals want to get back to making deep runs they are going to have to improve the numbers in the advanced stats mentioned above. Get the work ethic up, get the good habits going and they’ll creep into the top half of the league if not top ten.
Do that and the talent on this team will take over and deep runs in the playoffs could follow. We saw that in 2018, The Caps improved their numbers in the playoffs and it resulted in a parade in D.C. There’s no reason to think they can’t do it again, and if they do it could mean Stanley Cup number two.