Thursday, March 31, 2016

Flyers-Caps Recap: Shootout!

Because I am the best boyfriend ever, my Valentine's Day gift this year was a pair of Flyers-Caps tickets. We were going to have a date night and sit right in The Ovechkin Corner (TM), where Ovi camps out for the first and third periods without playing a lick of defense.

Because I am the worst boyfriend ever, I left my sick girlfriend at home last night and went with a buddy instead.

And boy, what a fucking game it was. If you missed it or would like a recap of the highlights, I'd give a strong recommend to the Sons of Penn GIF Rewind, The Flyers played the Caps largely even through three periods, with both Steve Mason and Braden Holtby making 30+ saves in regulation.

Ovechkin did, in fact, snipe his 44th goal of the season from The Ovechkin Corner (TM), and the Flyers spent nearly the entire third period either (a) scrambling to tie the game or (b) preserving the tie to make it to overtime and secure at least one point.

If you watched the game of the rewind, you know that Claude Giroux found Brayden Schenn for a powerplay tip-in equalizer and then Nick Cousins and Sam Gagner undressed Holtby in the shootout.

Now let's take a look at some numbers to back up my biggest takeaway from watching the game: the Couturier and Cousins lines held the Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Johansson line largely in check. Ovechkin scored with Couturier on the ice, but it was a powerplay goal.

Let me throw some 5-on-5 stat bullets out at you (via Corsica, which might be the best hockey site on the internet, and Muneeb Alam on Twitter):

  • As it turns out, the Cousins line only had a shift or two against Ovi. Whoops!
  • The Couturier-Voracek-Raffl line played 11.6 minutes together and was a +10 in shot attempts
  • Of those 11.6 minutes, just about 9 of them were head-to-head with Washington's top line
  • In their time matched up with the Cap's top line, the Coots line ranged between +2 and +6 in shot attempts
  • I'm going to just call 9 out of 11 minutes enough to say they played the whole game against each other, because that makes these next bullets easier to compare
  • The Couturier-Voracek-Raffl line had an xGF (expected goals for, based on statistical projections) of 0.39 and an xGA (expected goals against using the same projections) of 0.26 (Raffl got stuck on the ice without his linemates for a bit and his individual number was a bit higher)
  • The Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Johansson line had an xGF of 0.53 and an xGA of 0.40
Here's how I interpret the Expected Goals stats: overall, there was a 1 in 2 chance that the Ovi line would have scored. But nearly half of that chance came from the 2-3 minutes they played against someone other than Sean Couturier's line. On the other side, the Couturier line got nearly all of their scoring chances against Ovechkin's line. The best way to not let Alexander Ovechkin blast home slapshot after slapshot is to pin him in his own end. For the most part, Couturier-Voracek-Raffl did just that. 

A few months ago, when the season was looking kind of grim, the two things that I took solace in were Shayne Gostisbehere and Sean Couturier. People who are smarter and better at writing than me have written about both players (especially Gostisbehere), but Couturier really don't get the respect he deserves from the media and (some) fans. 

Coots has shut down some of the best lines in hockey. Just this season, with a variety of linemates, he's shut down the following lines (this is just from a quick glance through Muneeb's charts and some box scores):
  • Toews-Hossa
  • Krejci-Eriksson-Pastrnak
  • Carter-Toffoli-Lucic
  • Tavares-Nelson-Okposo (twice)
  • the Sedin twins
  • Backes-Steen-Brouwer
  • Bergeron-Marchand-Hayes
  • Zetterberg-Larkin-Abdelkader
  • Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Johansson
I mean, come on, you're going to tell me he's not a great second-line center? Or, if you want to be a dick, you can call him the best third line center in the whole goddamn NHL. 

Two days off and then we have a nice 6-games-in-9-days stretch before the playoffs. Let's go Flyers.

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