Optimization: A Look At The Capitals’ Defensemen And Optimizing The Pairings

Over the previous few weeks, Capitals’ Head Coach Peter Laviolette has been tinkering with the defensive pairings by swapping Dmitry Orlov and Brenden Dillon of their prime 4 roles. The Caps had largely rolled with the identical pairings over the course of the season, however issues appeared to develop stale in Laviolette’s eyes.

On this publish, we’ll check out the Capitals’ defensemen’s efficiency throughout 5 on 5 play, in addition to probably establishing optimized pairings shifting ahead.

5 on 5 Level Manufacturing

The Capitals’ John Carlson is main the league for factors by a defenseman to this point this yr with 42 factors in 45 video games performed. That being stated, lets check out Carlson and the remainder of the Caps’ defensive corps manufacturing throughout 5 on 5 play this season:

Total, these statistics aren’t too shocking: the 2 extra offensively targeted defensemen in John Carlson and Justin Schultz are main the way in which in general factors. Orlov and Dillon aren’t behind Schultz by a lot right here.

Throughout 5 on 5 play, right here’s how the Capitals’ defensemen rank within the NHL for factors: Carlson (1st), Schultz (fifteenth), Dillon (twenty first), Orlov (twenty seventh), Jensen (forty sixth), and Chara (67th). Total, there’s not a lot to complain about right here with general level manufacturing throughout 5 on 5 play.

5 on 5 Precise vs Anticipated Targets For and Targets Towards

Now, let’s check out the differentials for the Caps’ defensemen relating to precise targets for and in opposition to versus anticipated targets for and in opposition to throughout 5 on 5 play:

One factor to notice right here is that every of the Caps’ defensemen’s targets for per 60 is out-pacing their xGF/60. One of many causes for that is that the Caps as an entire are outperforming their xGF manufacturing throughout 5 on 5 play (3.01 GF/60 vs 2.06 xGF/60 as a staff). A part of that basic over-performance is the Caps’ league excessive 10.82 capturing share throughout 5 on 5 play.

On the flip aspect, all the defensemen, aside from Justin Schultz, are underperforming expectations on GA/60 in comparison with xGA/60. A part of that is the truth that extra profitable groups across the league are going to outperform their xGF in precise GF, because the anticipated targets mannequin doesn’t worth low hazard targets very extremely.

Defensemen Targets Above Substitute vs Anticipated Targets Above Substitute

Let’s check out the Caps’ common defensemen’s efficiency in GAR versus their xGAR:

Dillon and Schultz are the one two gamers whose GAR values exceeds their xGAR measure. Curiously sufficient, even with Dillon’s latest struggles, he’s tied for the lead amongst Caps’ defensemen in GAR at 7.10.

Then again, Orlov’s efficiency has a number of affect on Evolving-Hockey’s xGAR mannequin, and leads the Caps in that metric. That shouldn’t be too shocking when watching Orlov’s latest play.

Most regarding is Schultz’s 0.10 xGAR. The standard of play for Schultz has been strong with 6.40 GAR, however it’s definitely attention-grabbing that the xGAR mannequin has valued Schultz’s play so poorly. Schultz’s breakdown for his xGAR is 0.5 in anticipated offense, -1.2 in anticipated protection, and 0.8 in penalties, in comparison with his GAR of seven.8 offense, -2.2 protection, and 0.8 penalties. All in all, his protection is worse than expectations and his offense is a lot better than expectations.

Optimizing the Pairings

Though the defensive pairings have largely been comparatively constant this yr, there’s been occasions the place the pairings have been combined up a bit through the course of a recreation, equivalent to following an influence play or penalty kill. With that, we will see some information relating to potential pairing optimization:

There are a couple of pairings that actually stick out as prime defensive pairings for the Caps. Let’s spotlight them under:

Orlov and Jensen

The primary is a potential pairing of Orlov and Jensen, who’ve put up a 57.06 CF%, a 59.31 FF%, 76.92 GF%, and 68.29 HDCF% in 103:52 in time on ice. Whereas on the ice collectively throughout 5 on 5 play, they’ve been on the ice for 10 targets for and three targets in opposition to. On prime of that, they’ve been on the ice for five excessive hazard targets for and just one in opposition to. Orlov and Jensen’s kinds of play may actually complement one another, since each are fleet-footed and are extremely succesful puck-moving defensemen.

Dillon and Carlson

It is a acquainted pairing for the Capitals, as Dillon and Carlson have performed 492:22 in time on ice collectively in 46 video games to this point this season. This pairing comes about as extra of a necessity with Carlson’s greatest defensive associate in Orlov now being paired with Nick Jensen, in addition to the truth that the very best pairing for Dillon has been when he’s paired up with Carlson. In these 46 video games to this point this season, this pairing has a 48.58 CF%, 48.51 FF%, 51.06 GF%, and 46.71 HDCF%. They’ve been on the ice collectively for twenty-four targets and 23 targets in opposition to, with an excellent break up of excessive hazard targets with 13 for and 13 in opposition to.

Chara and Schultz

That is an intriguing pairing. They’ve solely been on the ice collectively for 105:22 of time on ice, however have managed possession (52.15 CF% and 48.41 FF%), and have been on the ice for 8 targets for and 4 targets in opposition to (66.67 GF%). Whereas on the ice, they’ve the share of excessive hazard possibilities with 25 for and 21 in opposition to (54.35 HDCF%) with 5 excessive hazard targets for and solely two in opposition to (71.43 HDGF%). Chara’s extra defensive recreation and elegance may serve Schultz effectively to be extra aggressive offensively.


Total, the Capitals have acquired some sturdy play and manufacturing from their defensive group this season. The six common contributors in Carlson, Orlov, Schultz, Chara, Dillon, and Jensen have offered some stability to a back-end that had struggles with consistency going again to final season.

With some deeper ranges of scrutiny and superior statistics, there are positively alternatives to juggle the defensive pairings to optimize for outcomes on the ice. Pairings consisting of Dillon and Carlson, Orlov and Jensen, and Chara and Schultz may potential pay dividends on the ice based mostly on earlier efficiency.

By Justin Trudel

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