Tuesday morning felt like Christmas. Caps hockey was to be played! Against the hated Flyers! And for the first time in nearly thirteen years:
THE SCREAMING EAGLE IS BACK BAYBEEEEEEEE
GREATEST LOGO IN THE HISTORY OF SPORTS BAYBEEEE
BACK IN ACTION BAYB- wait what did Sam Pell just tweet?
No… no… Don’t you do this to me Sam. Don’t you dare take this from us. We have been waiting to see the Screaming Eagle on the ice again for THIRTEEN YEARS.
Below is actual video of me after finding out we weren’t getting the Screaming Eagles because a Flyer tested positive:
So I did what anyone else who just underwent their villain origin story would do:
I created a playlist titled “Just Bangers” full of angsty 2000’s rock, cracked open a cold one, and started cranking out hockey statistics in a desperate attempt to feel some semblance of hockey related normalcy.
No? Just me? Nobody else?
Well, whatever, it’s not like there’s going to be any new Caps content until next Sunday anyway, so you might as well come along for the ride with me.
For starters, this is something I’ve been curious about for a long time:
How do you differentiate between a player who has a lot of hits because he plays good, physical defense, versus a player who has a lot of hits because he allows the other team to have the puck more and thus have more opportunities to get a hit?
Now normally, this is something I’d do in the offseason by myself and tell no one about but, again, there’s not a lot going on this week and I gotta entertain myself as much as I gotta entertain you guys so here we are. After all the constant talk about how much the Caps like to play physically, I wanted to put the pedal to the metal and see if they were doing it effectively.
At this point, I’m going to point out that all the Stats in this article are provided by Natural Stat Trick, and you should consider joining their Patreon so I can continue to
bore entertain you people with numbers.
First, it should be noted that there is effectively no correlation between Shot Attempts Allowed and Hits, when controlled for Ice Time.
It should be noted that, while there is no correlation here, there is a slight correlation between hits and expected goals allowed. Meaning high hitting players are slightly more likely to keep pucks to the outside, which makes sense. But it’s a very small correlation, so for the sake of simplicity I’m just going to continue to use shot attempts. I’m not sure that it’s even necessary to bring that up, but this is my post, and I worked hard on that graph, so I’m making you look at it.
With that in mind, lets look again at that 2017-2020 time frame in a more meaningful way, one that gives us a clearer picture of what’s going on:
In the bottom left are guys who don’t hit very much, and are also poor defensively. In the top left are guys who don’t hit very much, but are good defensively. In the top right, are frequent hitters who play good defense.
Right now though, that’s just a bunch of meaningless dots. Let’s make that a bit more useful by throwing some names up there.
I cherry picked a few names to illustrate the point even further. Observe that the Sedin twins basically never hit anyone, but played solid defense, and so ended up in the top left. Meanwhile, analytics nightmare Jack Johnson threw hits almost as much as Ovechkin and Evander Kane, and yet, was at the bottom of the league. It should be noted that Wilson’s defensive numbers are almost certainly being dragged down by Ovechkin’s numbers, which is a byproduct of the downsides to using simple relative measure as opposed to fully creating a model isolating the player’s impact (something I do not have the capability to do, if you want someone who does, check out Micah Blake McCurdy).
Which of course brings us to the question of how does this apply to the Caps, right now? Well, let’s see:
First of all, let’s talk about how effective Panik has been physically. He’s hitting a ton and making it count. Once again proving that Richard Panik is good at hockey. While it’s somewhat unsurprising to me that Ovechkin’s hits are not leading to a significant improvement in shot attempts allowed, it is surprising to me to see Hathaway and Wilson so close to the “Useless Hits” quadrant. Wilson can at least be explained by the fact that he has a lot of ice time with
I don’t quite know what I expected from the former Penguins Sheary and Schultz, so it’s good to see them finding a way to be effective already in their new place. You can’t see it, but Vrana is pretty much overlapping with Chara, and I can’t decide if that says more about Vrana’s growth as a player, or more about Chara’s age.
So how do the Caps as a team stack up against the rest of the league?
Right now, the Penguins are hitting a ton and making the most of it. Ya hate to see it. Speaking of things you hate to see, the Caps are not converting their high hitting into better defense.
In summary, as of right now, the wait for the return of the Screaming Eagles has been extended by two weeks. The next time the Caps are scheduled to wear them is February 23rd. You’d like to see the Caps hitting more effectively, considering how much they do it, but all things considered it could be a lot worse. Especially when you keep in mind how small of a sample size we’re working with here.