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31 in 31

Washington Capitals key statistics

Improved penalty kill boosts special teams; Oshie among most versatile players in NHL

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the Washington Capitals.

 

[CAPITALS 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]

 

1. Elite special teams

Much has been written about the Washington Capitals' consistently strong power play, which was tied for third in the NHL in 2016-17 (23.1 percent) and has finished in the top five each of the past five seasons.

What has perhaps gone unnoticed is that the Capitals penalty kill was among the best in the NHL the past two seasons. Washington finished second in the League in 2015-16 (85.2 percent) and seventh last season (83.8 percent) after ranking 14th in 2014-15 (81.2 percent).

According to data at Natural Stat Trick, the Capitals allowed an average of 82.22 shot attempts per 60 minutes while killing penalties last season, ranking second in the NHL behind the Carolina Hurricanes (77.74). That was a big improvement over 2015-16, when Washington allowed 99.7, ranking 21st. 

Given that the Capitals were once again among the League leaders with 104.77 shot attempts per 60 minutes on the power play (10th), it could be argued that they have the best special teams in the League. The difference between their power play and penalty kill was 22.55 shot attempts per 60 minutes, the largest advantage in the NHL.

Video: 31 in 31: Washington Capitals 2017-18 season preview

 

2. Top-notch goaltending

Having won the Vezina Trophy in 2015-16, finished second in voting in 2016-17 and finished fourth in 2014-15, Braden Holtby is widely recognized as an elite goaltender. 

Given the similarity of his underlying numbers to Holtby's, Philipp Grubauer may be just as good, giving Washington some of the best goaltending in the League.

Grubauer's NHL career save percentage (.923) exceeds Holtby's (.922). When adjusting save percentages for the various factors that can affect it, like manpower situation and shot location, Grubauer's numbers continue to rival Holtby's. According to my calculations, Grubauer's manpower-adjusted save percentage of .9231 over the past three seasons exceeds Holtby's .9229. When taking shot location into account, Grubauer trails .856 to .852 in home plate save percentage but is ahead .9236 to .9229 in quality-adjusted save percentage. So, if Holtby is elite, then Grubauer can't be far behind.

(Note: The home plate area runs from the goal posts to the faceoff dots, then up to the top of the faceoff circles and across.)

 

3. Versatility of T.J. Oshie

Versatility may have been the key reason the Capitals signed forward T.J. Oshie to an eight-year, $46 million contract June 23.

There is no area where Oshie doesn't contribute. He can play all three forward positions and in all three manpower situations, regardless of whether the Capitals are leading or trailing. He plays in all three zones, with all types of linemates and against all types of opponents, and he can score, drive possession and draw penalties. He can even help in the shootout, where he leads the League with 23 goals the past five seasons.

Oshie's versatility can be captured in a single statistic, the do-it-all index, which awards one point for being above the League average in each of 10 categories. Over the past three seasons, Oshie has an average score of 8.3 out of 10 in the do-it-all index, tying him for the NHL lead with Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler, Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Buffalo Sabres center Ryan O'Reilly

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