I already posted on our insanely amazing powerplay, and while doing research on our PP, I started to see just how good we are......all the time. Even though we are mired in a 3 game losing streak, we have been the best team in the league for this regular season (magic number for President's trophy is 7), and potentially historically good.
The first order of business is our 5-on-5 scoring ratio, for which, by nature, the league average is 1.00. The Caps' scoring ratio is 1.54, which not only leads the league by a ridiculous margin (the Canucks are 2nd with 1.28), but is the best figure by any team in at least 12 years! The NHL.com stats only go back 12 years, and considering the next-best rates are still lagging far behind at 1.49 and 1.48 from the '05-'06 Senators and Red Wings, it could be a long, long time since a team has been this good 5-on-5.
If the Caps are historically good 5-on-5 and on the powerplay, then it stands to reason that we are having a historically good regular season. While we have been phenomenal, our overall numbers are not out of line with other top regular season teams from the past 12 years. Our goal differential sits at +77, which would be tied for 6th-best amongst the last 11 seasons, with the best number put up by those same '05-'05 Sens, at +103. If we can pull ourselves up to +84 by the end of the season, we would end up with the 4th best goal differential.
If you are more traditional and only care about wins and none of this nerdy metric business, we have 110 points with 6 games to play, which projects out to 119 points for the season. That figure would be the 2nd-best of the past 12 years, but bare in mind that points were not awarded past OT before the '05-'06 season, and we have won 5 shootouts this season. If you add 5 points to the total of the teams that didn't have the benefit of shootouts to increase their point total, then 119 points would put us in a 3-way tie for the 4th-best total.
My first question from this research is how is our goal differential not the best of the past 12 years? Our PK is ranked 25th right now (78.2%), which is awful, but having an average PK of 82% would only boost our goal differential by about 9 goals, which is still far from surpassing the +103. So what gives? This took me awhile to figure out, but the '05-'06 Sens had the benefit of 490 powerplays to 476 penalty kills. These numbers probably mean very little on their own, but this year's Caps have only had 286 powerplay chances and 292 penalty kills! Our numbers are not odd, as the most PP chances in the league is 314 for this year, whereas the fewest number of PP chances in '05-'06 was 411! The league just used to have a lot more penalties, which played to the strengths of teams with the best special teams. If you give the Caps the same number of PPs and PKs as the '05-'06 Sens, then our goal differential would likely be right around the Sens total at the end of this season. This 'historical' evaluation should be relative to each team's league though, so the Caps lack of PP opportunities should not be a factor.
So are the Caps historically good? Our offense is certainly historically good, but it appears that we will end this season as merely one of the better regular season teams in the 'modern NHL' and not as 'historically good'. If the Caps do manage to reach 120 points and a +84 goal differential, then we would have a case as the 2nd best team of the past 12 years.
The only team to better those numbers? That title belongs to the '05-'06 Red Wings, who garnered 124 points and a +96 goal differential. That team spectacularly lost in the 1st round of the playoffs, which shows how much regular season domination can really indicate about playoff success. I'm sure all of us Caps fans will settle for just a 'really good' regular season and a Stanley Cup.
(Image courtesy of washingtonpost.com. All stats courtesy of nhl.com and espn.com)