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Washington and First Round Playoff Shot Location

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When teams lose (or win) a playoff series, there are a lot of explanations for why it happened.  One that came up for the Washington Capitals was that they kept the puck outside and didn't get as close to the net as they did during the regular season.  The numbers don't bear this out:

 

Shot% Shot%
Expt/EV Actual/EV Extra Goals
REG 6.46 7.80 39.61
PLY 6.48 6.46 -0.05
Shot% Shot%
Expt/PP Actual/PP Extra Goals
REG 10.78 11.08 2.16
PLY 9.90 1.14 -7.71

 

Note that these figures are based entirely on shot locations - I'm making no assertion about what you might call "shot quality".  It is entirely possible that Washington failed to screen or get rebounds or get as many 2-on-1s as they did during the regular season.  But they took their shots from the same locations as they did during the regular season - what bit them was regression to average luck at even-strength, and exceedingly bad luck on the PP.

For completeness, here's every team's regular season and playoff even-strength shooting:

Regular Season Playoffs
Shot% Shot% Shot% Shot%
Expt/EV Actual/EV Extra Goals Expt/EV Actual/EV Extra Goals
WSH 6.46 7.80 39.61 VAN 5.44 8.23 6.43
COL 6.43 7.12 16.94 DET 5.99 7.26 3.14
VAN 6.31 6.86 15.09 PIT 5.41 6.50 2.70
CHI 6.09 6.37 8.62 NSH 5.89 7.26 2.46
PIT 6.13 6.32 5.60 BUF 5.97 7.04 2.29
LAK 6.20 6.04 -4.19 MON 5.92 6.60 1.44
NSH 5.89 5.72 -4.86 OTT 5.21 5.91 1.41
SJ 6.68 6.46 -6.22 CHI 5.79 6.22 0.82
NJD 6.15 5.89 -6.95 WSH 6.48 6.46 -0.05
OTT 6.40 6.11 -7.82 PHI 6.75 6.25 -0.56
MON 6.08 5.70 -10.05 SJ 6.07 5.56 -1.29
BUF 6.49 6.11 -10.72 COL 6.18 5.39 -1.32
PHX 6.18 5.72 -12.90 PHX 5.81 5.07 -1.60
BOS 5.88 5.02 -24.95 LAK 6.04 4.19 -3.54
DET 6.02 5.16 -25.95 BOS 5.64 4.12 -3.70
PHI 6.81 5.63 -33.18 NJD 6.09 2.67 -5.14

 

And on the power-play:

 

Shot% Shot% Shot% Shot%
Expt/PP Actual/PP Extra Goals Expt/PP Actual/PP Extra Goals
LAK 9.48 10.09 3.92 LAK 10.51 21.74 5.17
VAN 9.46 9.83 2.60 OTT 7.81 19.44 4.19
WSH 10.78 11.08 2.16 PIT 9.07 14.00 2.47
NJD 9.96 10.00 0.22 PHI 10.46 14.04 2.04
MON 10.18 10.05 -0.74 VAN 8.73 13.04 1.98
BOS 9.01 8.70 -1.58 BOS 9.52 13.33 1.72
CHI 9.30 8.84 -2.66 MON 10.36 11.76 0.72
COL 10.53 10.04 -2.77 PHX 9.30 9.84 0.33
PHI 10.75 10.06 -4.70 DET 10.25 9.09 -1.02
OTT 9.95 9.01 -5.11 CHI 11.34 8.70 -1.22
BUF 10.68 9.15 -9.20 COL 13.04 6.25 -2.17
PHX 9.86 8.19 -9.40 NJD 10.38 6.67 -2.23
NSH 10.13 8.35 -10.03 BUF 8.79 0.00 -2.81
PIT 9.82 8.24 -10.78 NSH 8.13 1.82 -3.47
SJ 10.70 9.12 -11.26 SJ 11.74 6.25 -4.39
DET 10.03 8.24 -12.79 WSH 9.90 1.14 -7.71

 

Washington simply had the most extreme run of bad luck imaginable - shooting 1-for-88 on the PP, even if you don't screen the goalie, is extremely unlikely.  If we assume that Washington's power-play shooting percentage is merely average, the odds of doing it are about 1-in-800.  That's not something we can attribute entirely to a failure to execute, but it's something that can happen in a short series.