Die by the blade

I did manage to watch yesterday's game in its entirety (on DVR-delay, so I think I got through the whole thing in ninety minutes or so) after getting back from taking my daughter skating again.

From the beginning, we should note that the lines and defensive pairings were the same as the previous game (so the third pair was again Carrick and Erskine, and Laich and Brouwer were together on the top line). The only change was in goal, as Gru came back, leaving Holtby on the shelf. Good thing Holts isn't getting time to let the memories of that last outing fester in his mind. Oy.

With the 1-1 final score, and shootout decision, I'd like to say that it followed the same script as the last Sabres game, but it really didn't. The Caps did have the edge in 5v5 close Fenwick, but there was a lot of power play time. Or, rather, penalty kill time, as the Caps seemed to think that Buffalo needed an edge (well, to be fair, there were at least three penalties I thought should have been called on the Sabres). Brouwer, in particular, seemed to think that, as he got called for penalties on two shifts of three consecutive one late in the second.

In any event, the game went into overtime where the Caps couldn't even attempt a shot (despite having five men on the ice at one point in the middle). But they managed to hold off Buffalo, and got into the shootout. It only took the default three rounds this time, but the results were the same as the last time these goalies faced off in the shootout. That is, Miller stopped every shot, and Gru stopped all of them but the last.

Breaking down the pieces, the power play wasn't terribly good. They attempted five shots, and allowed two attempts against in their two minutes (so, yes, serious small-sample size warnings).

The PK not terribly good, allowing thirteen attempts (four on net) against in nine minutes, and only got two shot attempts on their own. The shots are pretty good, actually, but that's a lot of attempts. I wonder if they were lucky on shots missing the net. For the season, the Caps are allowing close to four attempts per power play, so maybe they actually did pretty well, compared to their results for the season.

I'm going to come back to that in a minute.

5v5, the Caps did pretty well again (almost exactly the same as against Toronto). Of course, five minutes of the game was played 4v4, and the Caps accomplished exactly nothing. And these last two games were against the two worst possession teams in the league. So it's hard to feel too positive.

And the number of penalties was certainly disturbing. I'm going to write another (non-Caps-focused) post in a few minutes about this, but they can't expect to win with large penalty disparities going in the wrong direction.

But to get back to the Caps, and penalty killing, the Caps have had the 7th most minutes, 4v5, in the league (259m). And in that time, they've managed the most shot attempts against (I wish I had the numbers for at the end of their run of... what was it? 50 penalties in a row successfully killed). That isn't good. They are eighth in the league in shot attempts for, which is ok, I guess.

Anyway, overall, I see a penalty kill in desperate need of an overhaul, and I don't see that happening. Oh, and per-player Corsi shows that Carrick and Erskine (on D) were black holes, as was the fourth line (on O). If only we had positive possession players to plug in, like, say, Oleksy, Schmidt, Erat, or Latta.

So, not looking greatly positive for the future, although at least there's some positive potential ahead.

And next up is San Jose and Pittsburgh, Tuesday and Wednesday. Nothing like a back-to-back against top teams (and I also feel obligated to point out that, last time the Caps played Pittsburgh, they were only one standings point behind. And now they need a telescope to see the leaders). Having said all that, Go Caps!

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