Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Gloomy Statistical Truth: Capitals Are In Trouble Against Improved New Metropolitan Division Opponents

Let's face it, most teams in the Washington Capitals new Metropolitan Division have made improvements this off-season, while the Caps have sat still or possibly regressed. That being said, given the lack of overall historical success against most of these Metropolitan divisional teams, the Capitals may be in serious trouble in 2013-2014. Yet others say the Capitals play "up" or "down" to the level of their competition and thus, they will be alright.

Well, I decided to do a statistical analysis on how the Caps have stacked up recently against their new divisional opponents, compared to their play against the rest of the league. I felt that going back the last two seasons was a large & fair enough sample size, and the results don't look good going forward near-term for the Capitals. Full statistical breakdown of new divisional opponents is found at the end of this article.

Clear Disconnect Between Success Rates

During this two year time frame, against their new divisional opponents, the Washington Capitals were just 20-20-7, scoring 113 goals (2.4 per game) and allowing 133 goals (2.82 per contest). Over 82 games that would project to a 35-35-12 record, 82 points, with 197 goals scored & 231 allowed.

Meanwhile, against all other NHL opponents, the Capitals enjoyed a much better 49-30-4 record, tallying 258 goals (3.11 per game) and gave up 227 goals (2.73 per game). Over 82 games that projects to a 49-30-3 record, 101 points, with 255 goals scored & 224 given up.

Not Completely Hopeless

The good news is that they don't play "only" their divisional opponents all season. In fact, just 30 of their 82 games will be against divisional opponents, and 52 versus all others. Given this, let's re-adjust our projections: This equates to approximately a 13-13-4 record this upcoming season against divisional opponents, and a 31-19-2 record against other NHL clubs, totaling 44-32-6, good enough for 94 points -- a borderline number if you're hoping to squeak into the post-season.

Conclusion

Given their recent performance, the Capitals can be a low seed playoff contender in 2013-2014. However, this does not take into account the (lack of) off-season willingness by management to improve the club, while many other rivals have clearly upgraded.

The good news is that Adam Oates returns as head coach for the Caps, giving the club continuity behind bench for the first time in a while, hoping to build on their momentum from late last season. Despite the loss of Mike Ribeiro, the Capitals do get 'something' back with the likely return of Brooks Laich. Also, not unlike many other teams, Washington does have an array of un-fullfilled but promising young talent -- if one or two can have a breakout season, anything can be possible.

Caps Records Against New Divisional Opponents The Last 2 Seasons

Below are the Washington Capitals records versus their new Metropolitan divisional opponents since 2011-2012. Stats include year, W-L-OTL, GF/GA:

vs. Carolina

2012-13  4-1-0  14/10
2011-12  3-2-1  14/17

vs. Columbus

2012-13  0-0-0  0/0
2011-12  1-0-0  4/2

vs. New Jersey

2012-13  1-1-1  9/7
2011-12  1-1-2  8/13

vs. NY Islanders

2012-13  1-2-0  6/9
2011-12  2-2-0  11/14

vs. NY Rangers

2012-13  1-2-0  5/8
2011-12  2-2-0  13/11

vs. Philadelphia

2012-13  1-1-1  8/11
2011-12  1-2-1  7/10

vs. Pittsburgh

2012-13  0-3-0  6/13
2011-12  2-1-1  8/8

TOTAL vs. Metropolitan Division:

2012-13  8-10-2  48/58  2.4/2.9
2011-12  12-10-5  65/75   2.4/2.77

=   20-20-7  113/133  2.4/2.82

TOTAL vs. Everyone Else

2012-13  19-8-1  101/72  3.6/2.57
2011-12  30-22-3  157/155  2.85/2.81

= 49-30-4  258/227  3.11/2.73

Last 2 Years, Projected Over 82 Game Average:

Metro Division: 35-35-12, 82 pts  197/231
Everyone else: 49-30-3, 101 pts  255/224