It’s no secret that the Caps know how to put it in the net. I mean, they have the greatest goal scorer in league history on the team, of course they’re going to score more than their shot totals suggest they should. It’s certainly not a new observation, as they’ve pretty much outperformed their analytics throughout the entire Ovechkin era. But this year in particular, things have been absolutely off the charts.
First off, they lead the league in shooting percentage overall, with 12.42%. That’s pretty high even for them. In fact, if it continues like this, it’ll be the highest shooting percentage by a Caps team in the entire Ovechkin Era, per NHL.com. That on it’s own is pretty impressive, but it becomes even more impressive when you dig a little deeper.
For now, let’s focus on 5v5, because the powerplay is a different beast that quite frankly deserves a whole book, not an article. They also happen lead the league in 5v5 shooting percentage. And it doesn’t matter where the shots are coming from either. They’re converting on a ridiculous 23% of high danger chances. In other words, for every 4 shots they take from the slot, one of them is going in. But they also lead the league in low danger shooting% with 4% of low danger shots finding the back of the net.
In fact, going by just shot attempt totals and quality, they look like a very average team.
And if you look at heatmaps of where their shots are coming from, it doesn’t look particularly great either. You’d generally prefer to see them getting more shots from the slot, where you’re more likely to score from. But the Caps don’t seem to care because they’re not only out scoring their Expected Goals/60 by over a Goal an hour, they’re messing up the scales on my graph.
And that’s because apparently, it doesn’t actually matter where they are shooting from, because they’re scoring well above league average from LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE REGION OF THE OFFENSIVE ZONE.
Oh, and it’s not just Ovi dragging up the average and making everybody else look good either. The Caps are getting career years from guys up and down the lineup. Here’s the list of every Caps player whose current shooting percentage would either be the best, or second best in their career:
Backstrom, Sprong, Wilson, Sheary, Eller, Vrana, Ovechkin, Van Riemsdyk, Kuznetsov, Dowd, Orlov, Jensen.
And pretty much everyone is having at least an above average year. In fact, the only players whose shooting percentages have been noticeably bad relative to their career have been Oshie, Panik, and (surprise!) Hagelin.
Of course all this begs the question, are they just getting lucky, or is this skill? To which I will defer to the eye test and say: Skill. If you look at the goals they are scoring, they aren’t just getting a bunch of lucky bounces and weird deflections into the net. (For what it’s worth, according to NHL.com, just 12% of their goals are coming from Tips/Deflections, near the bottom of the league, but you should take that number with numerous grains of salt).
To my eyes, they’re doing two things extremely well: creating screens in front, and getting goalies to move cross ice, which are two of the most important things you can do to create goals. I think the devils game from last Friday is the perfect showcase of this.
I know the Devils are having a rough go lately, but just watch the goals the Caps score here. On 3 of the 4 goals they’ve got Wedgewood trying to cover the entire width of the crease at once, and it just isn’t fair. And even when it isn’t incredible cross-ice passing, it’s goals like Sheary’s where he just picked his spot and lasered it.
All of this has culminated in an extremely high powered offense putting up 3.44 Goals/Game, second only to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Hopefully the Caps are able to continue their dominant scoring throughout the remainder of the season. If they do, and they can maintain even decent defense, they’ll be absolutely terrifying come playoff time.
Unless otherwise stated, all stats in this article come from Natural Stat Trick.