Friday, December 13, 2019

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 34: Capitals at Lightning, December 14th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals embark on the first leg of a three-game road trip on Saturday night when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.  The Caps shook off a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday with a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday for their seventh win in eight games.  The Lightning might finally be waking up from their long slumber to start the season.  After dropping four of six games (2-3-1), they have won two in a row, both by one-goal margins, a 2-1 win on the road against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and a 3-2 win over Boston on home ice on Thursday.

Then and Now…

The Caps and Lightning will meet for the 130th time in the regular season on Saturday.  Washington has an 80-33-10 (six ties) record against the Bolts, 36-21-5 (two ties) in Tampa.  Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 44-17-10 against Tampa Bay, 18-12-5 on the road.

Active Leaders vs. Opponent…

Noteworthy Opponents…

Fans expect Steven Stamkos to lead the Lightning in goals.  He does (13).  They expect Nikita Kucherov to lead the team in points.  He does (33).  But if there is an underrated player on the club, it might be Alex Killorn.  If one word describes him in his eight years with the Lightning, it might be “consistent.”  In six full seasons with the club coming into this season, he posted goals in a range of 14 (in 2015-2016 to 19 (in 2016-2017) and points in a range of 36 (in 2016-2017) to 47 (in 2017-2018). He has missed only two games in the last four seasons coming into this one.  He was a plus-22 in each of the last two seasons before this one.  He had 45 penalty minutes in each of the last two seasons before this one.  With Killorn, one knows what one gets.

This season, however, Killorn might have found another level. In 28 games to date (he missed two games to a lower body injury at the end of November), he has nine goals and 24 points, putting him on a pace for 25 goals and 69 points, both of which would shatter previous career highs (19 goals in 2016-2017 and 47 points in 2017-2018).  Part of his success is due to his production on the power play, where his four goals have already tied a career best (four in 2016-2017).  Killorn has been on fire of late.  After going 2-4-6, plus-3, in his first 13 games, he is 7-11-18, plus-4, in his last 15 games, including a four-point game (1-3-4) in a 7-1 win over San Jose last Saturday.  Killorn is 8-1-9, minus-5, in 22 career games against the Caps.

The Lightning have a veteran defensive group.  Of the eight defensemen to dress this season, six are age 29 or older.  At the other end, as the youngest defenseman in the group, is Mikhail Sergachev.  The 21-year old, former ninth overall draft pick (2016, by Montreal) is in his third season with the Lightning after spending four games of the 2016-2017 season with Montreal and then being traded to Tampa Bay with a conditional second round pick in the 2018 Entry Draft for Jonathan Drouin and a conditional sixth round pick in the 2018 Entry Draft.  Sergachev had a fine first season with the Lightning, going 9-31-40, plus-11, in 79 games in 2017-2018.  His nine goals tied for second among rookie defensemen (with Thomas Chabot), trailing only the New York Islanders’ Ryan Pulock (10).  His 31 assists trailed on New Jersey’s Will Butcher (39) among rookie defensemen, and he and Butcher were the only rookie defensemen to post 40 or more points, Sergachev with 40 and Butcher with 44.  He slipped a bit last season, posting six goals and 32 points in 75 games.

This season, Sergachev is back to averaging just over a half-point per game (4-12-16 in 30 games).  He arrived at those totals to date in a roundabout way.  He had six points (all assists) in his first five games, but then he went 0-3-3 in his next 13 games.  He got hot again, going 4-3-7 over the following eight games, but he is now without a point in his last four contests and managed only two shots on goal over those four games.  Watch his ice time.  In 12 games in which he skated less than 18 minutes, the Lightning are 9-1-2, while they are 7-10-1 in the 18 games he skated more than 18 minutes.  Sergachev is 1-2-3, even, in seven career games against the Capitals.

He led the league in goalie wins in 2017-2018 (44).  He did so again last season (39).  Both years, he was a Vezina Trophy finalist, winning the prize last season while also being named as the goalie on the league’s first team all-star squad.  However, there are lingering doubts about Andrei Vasilevskiy being in that elite group of NHL netminders, and that is a product of an iffy postseason record (15-15, 2.83, .912).  If anything, that playoff record has deteriorated over time.  In his first 22 postseason appearances, Vasilevskiy was 12-7, 2.51, .923.  In his last 11 appearances, he is 3-8, 3.41, .890, and he has lost his last six decisions.  Until that record changes, there will be those lingering doubts about whether Vasilevskiy is in that top echelon of NHL goaltenders.

In that regard, perhaps his start to the 2019-2020 season will take some of the heat off, if only because he is off the pace he set over the previous two seasons.  His 2.78 goals against average in 22 games would, if he finished the season there, be his worst in six years in the NHL.  His .910 save percentage is within rounding error of his worst season (2015-2016, when he appeared in only 24 games).  He does not yet have a shutout this season after posting a total of 14 over the previous two seasons.  Vasilevskiy has already lost eight games in regulation this season.  He did not suffer his eighth loss in regulation last year until March 7th and had only ten all year.  And, streakiness has crept into his game.  Starting on November 1st, he had a four-game stretch with an aggregate save percentage of .875.  He followed that up with a three-game stretch with a .941 save percentage.  Then, it was four games with a .876 save percentage.  And now, he goes into the game against the Caps with a three-game streak with a .958 save percentage.  Vasilevskiy is 4-5-1, 3.66, .899 in ten career appearances against Washington.

1.  Only three teams have fewer standings points earned on home ice than the Lightning (17) through Thursday’s games – Ottawa (16), New Jersey (13), and Detroit (11).  The Lightning already have six losses in regulation in 15 games on home ice; last season they had a total of seven in 41 home games.

2.  No team in the league has more power play goals scored on home ice than Tampa Bay (21), and they have the league’s best home power play (36.2 percent).  On the other hand, their 37 even strength goals on home ice are ranked in a tie for 19th place with New Jersey and the New York Rangers.

3.  Only Buffalo and St. Louis have fewer blocked shots on home ice (156 apiece) than the Lightning (165).

4.  The Lightning have the best ratio on home ice of takeaways to giveaways (1.42:1 on 122 takeaways and 86 giveaways).

5.  Tampa Bay has a positive shot attempts differential at 5-on-5 on home ice in almost all situations: when ahead (plus-19), when behind (plus-101), in close situations (plus-9).  Not when tied, though.  Their minus-29 is fourth-worst in the league in those situations.

1.  Washington leads the league in goals scored on the road (61) and scoring average (3.58 per game).

2.  The Caps lead all Eastern Conference teams in power play goals scored on the road (14, three more than Carolina).  Their power play is also best among Eastern Conference teams on the road (27.5 percent).

3.  Washington has spent more time on the road than any other Eastern Conference team in killing penalties (108:57).

4.  No team has been charged with more giveaways on the road so far than the Caps (179).

5.  John Carlson has 27 points on the road this season.  By itself, this would rank fifth in total points among defensemen through Thursday’s games.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Tampa Bay: Kevin Shattenkirk

From February 19, 2011 until February 27, 2017 a span of time that encompassed defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s tenure with the St. Louis Blues, Shattenkirk was 11th in total goals scored by defensemen (59), ninth in assists (199), ninth in points (258), tied for fourth in power play goals (32), second in power play points (129), ninth in personal shot attempts differential at 5-on-5 (plus-958).  He was even second among defensemen in Gimmick goals scored (eight).  Little wonder he was considered the prize among players available at the 2017 trading deadline.

And then he came to the Caps.  It did not go well.  His regular season numbers were good enough (2-12-14, plus-4, in 19 games), but he was 1-5-6, minus-4, in 13 games in the postseason, and there weren’t many tears shed when he signed in the ensuing offseason as a free agent with the New York Rangers.  Starting with his stay with the Caps through last season, he played in 138 regular season games with Washington and the Rangers, went 9-56-65, minus-25.  The goal total was tied for 93rd among defensemen over that span, the assists were tied for 40th, the points were tied for 60th.  He had four power play goals (tied for 44th) and 26 power play points (tied for 30th).  There didn’t seem to be many tears shed in Manhattan when he signed with the Lightning as a free agent last July.

He has rehabilitated his image, to a point, with the Lightning.  Through 30 games he has five goals, almost his total in 119 games with the Rangers (seven), and his 22 points put him on a 60-point pace that would eclipse his total of 51 with the Rangers.  Part of the solution might be in a simplified role.  He is getting a lot less power play ice time (1:38 per game) than he had in any of his previous nine seasons (almost a full minute less than he had with the Rangers last season (2:26) that was his previous low average).  On the other hand, he is getting more even strength ice time (17:09 per game) than he had in either Washington or New York.  In 18 career games against the Caps, Shattenkirk is 1-6-7, minus-2.

Washington: Nicklas Backstrom

There are some players of whom it could be said, “he could fall out of bed on his 50th birthday and put up points.”  Nicklas Backstrom did not fall out of bed, and he is not yet near his 50th birthday, but he did miss eight games with an upper body injury before returning to the lineup against Columbus last Monday.  Backstrom had a goal and an assist in that game, and then he followed it up with an assist against Boston on Wednesday to give him points in five straight games, a streak interrupted by that injury absence.  He has averaged a point per game over his last dozen games (3-9-12).  Scoring at a point per game pace is not new for Backstrom.  Among the 103 Capitals to dress for at least 200 games with the club, he is fourth in points per game (0.97), trailing only Mike Gartner (1.04), Alex Ovechkin (1.11), and Dennis Maruk (1.26).

Backstrom is closing on other personal milestones.  With two more assists he will become the first player in team history with 700 career assists with the club.  Six more points, and he will become the second player with 900 points (Ovechkin has 1,244).  He is already the all-time leader in plus-minus, but with a plus-2 in this game would hit the plus-120 mark for his career.  With six power play points he would pass both Brothers Sedin, Daniel and Henrik, on the all-time ranking in power play point among players born in Sweden with 370 power play points.

The odd part of Backstrom’s performance this season is not the points, though.  It is the absence of them.  The Caps are 6-1-3 in games in which he went without a point, 11-3-1 in the games in which he had one or more points.  Backstrom is 13-47-60, plus-9, in 50 career games against the Lightning.  Those 60 points against the Lightning are the most he has against any NHL team in his career.  Since he came into the league in 2007-2008, only Ovechkin among all other players has more points against Tampa Bay (72).

In the end…

The Capitals have had good luck recently in Tampa, earning points in eight of their last ten visits (6-2-2), outscoring the Lightning, 36-32.  Over those ten games, the Caps have power play goals in nine of them (12-for-31 overall, 38.7 percent) while allowing only five power play goals to the Lightning in 28 chances (17.9 percent).  It is on that which the result might turn, the Caps ability to make the Lightning pay for playing outside the rules.

Capitals 4 – Lightning 3

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 32: Bruins at Capitals, December 11th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

It is a mid-week matchup on national television on Wednesday night, pitting the Washington Capitals against the Boston Bruins at Capital One Arena.  These two teams sit atop the league standings, the Caps with 22 wins and 49 points, while the Bruins have 20 wins and 46 points.  The odd part of this matchup, though, is that both teams are coming off losses, the Caps dropping a 5-2 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday in their first game at home after sweeping a four-game road trip, and the Bruins are losers of two straight, a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday and a 5-2 loss in Ottawa to the Senators on Monday.

Then and Now…

This will be the 162nd meeting of these teams in the all-time series.  Washington has a 63-69-8 (21 ties) record against the B’s, 33-31-4 (12 ties) on home ice.  Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 31-12-7 against the Bruins overall, 16-5-4 on home ice.

Active Leaders vs. Opponent…

Noteworthy Opponents…

David Pastrnak has received the attention this season with his hot goal scoring start, but it is Brad Marchand with whom he is tied for the team goal scoring lead on the road at nine goals apiece.  Marchand is also the team’s points leader on the road to date with 22, tied with Connor McDavid for fourth place in the league in road scoring.  Marchand, for all his annoying qualities, has become one of the most prolific scorers in the game.  Since 2016-2017, he is one of only three players to record at least 125 goals and at least 300 points (127/316).  Mc David (131/376) and Nikita Kucherov (130/344) are the others.  When one adds suspensions and fines, Marchand stands alone as a combination of high-end production and high-end aggravation.  How aggravating?  Six suspensions in his career totaling 19 games, eight fines totaling more than $670,000, and two licking incidents

Marchand has yet to run afoul of the league so far this season, but with him it always just seems a matter of time.  What he has done this season is produce points in bunches.  He has 14 multi-point games, tied for second in the league behind Leon Draisaitl (16).  And, perhaps not surprisingly, they are important to Bruin success.  The Bruins are 12-1-1 in those 14 multi-point games, their first regulation loss coming in Boston’s 5-2 loss to Ottawa on Monday night.  Putting up points in bunches has not diminished Marchand’s consistency.  Only three times in 31 games this season has he had consecutive games without a point. However, even with the two assists he posted against Ottawa on Monday, he has only three points in his last six games, all of them assists.  Marchand is 7-9-16, minus-13, in 30 career games against Washington.

Sometime this season, defenseman Zdeno Chara is likely to dress for his 1,000th game as a Bruin, becoming only the second defenseman in team history to do so, joining Ray Bourque (1,518).  No active defenseman in the NHL is within 7,000 minutes of ice time recorded of Chara (36,444 to 29,373 for Jay Bouwmeester).  However, he is also the oldest skater in the league at age 42, and a concession to his age is ice time.  At the moment it is Charlie McAvoy who has the highest average ice time among Boston defensemen so far this season (22:35 to Chara’s 21:21).  What McAvoy has not done with all that ice time, though, is score a goal.  He is the only one of six Bruins defensemen to dress for more than five games yet to record one this season, all nine of his points (second to Tory Krug among defensemen) coming on assists.  McAvoy is no stranger to high ice time loads. He averaged more than 22 minutes per game in each of his first two seasons.  On the other hand, he has an injury history, missing 19 games of the 2017-2018 season to heart arrhythmia and an MCL sprain and 27 games of the 2018-2019 season to a lower body injury and a concussion.

The odd part about McAvoy’s ice time is that more is not necessarily a good thing.  Boston is 7-2-6 in the 15 games in which he skated more than 22:30, 13-3-0 in the 16 games in which he skated 22:30 or less. He has some other odd statistical quirks about his record this season, too.  For instance, the Bruins have not lost a game in regulation in which he did not receive credit for a hit (6-0-2).  Blocked shots, though, are a good thing.  Boston is 11-1-3 in the 15 games in which he recorded two or more, 9-4-3 in the 16 games in which he had one or none.  Another… he has three shots on goal in only three games this season, but the Bruins lost all of them (0-1-2).  McAvoy is 0-3-3, even, in six career games against the Caps.

Can Tuukka Rask make it tuukka…uh, two in a row?  Rask won his last appearance against the Caps, pitching a 24-save shutout last February 3rd in a 1-0 Boston win.  It was only the second win Rask has against the Caps in his career, the odd thing about the wins being that both came via shutout.  The other came in a 3-0 win over the Caps in March 2014.  The Caps have been Rask’s personal nightmare for almost all of his 13 seasons.  Consider that against the rest of the league, Rask has a career record of 276-142-56, 2.24, .923, with 45 shutouts.  But against Washington, he is 2-11-5, 3.10, .889, with two shutouts.  Against individual teams, Rask has a higher GAA only against Anaheim (3.62 in eight games), and only against the Ducks (.886) and Vancouver (.865 in ten games) does he have a lower save percentage.  Anaheim and Caolorado are the only teams against which Rask has fewer wins (one in eight games against each team).

Rask has been unbeatable so far on home ice, at least in regulation, posting an 8-0-3, 2.05, .931 record with two shutouts.  He has been more vulnerable on the road, though, barely… 5-3-0, 2.39, .921. He has been universally stingy though, the seven complete games he has in allowing one or no goals being tied for second-most in the league, trailing only Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck (nine).  Four of the instances came on home ice, three on the road.  Rask goes into this game having allowed seven goals on 57 shots (.877 save percentage) in his last two outings, both of them losses (0-1-1).

1.  Boston is the only team in the league that, through Monday’s games, is top-five in the league in scoring offense (fifth), scoring defense (third), power play (third), and penalty kill (fourth).

2.  Only Philadelphia has suffered more losses via the Gimmick (five) than Boston (four, tied with Chicago and New Jersey). They are the only team with four or more Gimmick losses without a win and only one of two with two or more losses without a win (St. Louis is 0-3).

3.  This might be a game in which shots matter.  Both Boston and the Caps are tied for second fewest losses in regulation when outshooting opponents (two; the Islanders have one).

4.  Boston has the second-best winning percentage in the league when allowing the first goal (.583/7-2-3), trailing only the New York Islanders (.600/9-5-1).

5.  Odd Bruins stat… they recorded 40 or more shots in road games four times so far this season and lost three of them (1-2-1).

1.  Only the New York Rangers among Eastern Conference teams have been charged with more penalties (136) than the Caps (131), and in the league as a whole, only Calgary has been charged with more minor penalties (124) than the Caps (119).

2.  No team has missed the net more than Caps when shooting the puck this season (420 missed shots).

3.  If history is a guide, don’t turn in early.  The Caps and Bruins rank 1-2 in third period goals, Boston leading the league with 43 and the Caps tied with three other teams with 40.

4.  The Caps have out-shot opponents 17 times this season and earned points in 15 of those games (13-2-2).  The win total tops the league; the total of games with points earned is tied with Pittsburgh (12-7-3).

5.  The Caps time differential on special teams (minus-33:17) is second-worst in the league, trailing only San Jose (minus-38:01).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Boston: David Pastrnak

Since 2005-2006, only three players in the league recorded at least 25 goals in his team’s first 31 games – Alex Ovechkin (twice – 28 goals in 2018-2019 and 26 goals in 2013-2014) and Sidney Crosby (26 goals in 2010-2011) are two of them.  The other is Boston’s David Pastrnak, who has 25 goals in 31 games to date.  He has slowed down a bit, though.  After putting up 11 goals in his first ten games, he had six in his next ten and eight in his last 11 games.  It is still a 55-goal pace that he put up in his last 21 games, but what might be signaling a slowdown a bit stronger is that he is without a goal in his last four games, his longest goal scoring drought, so to speak, of the season.

Pastrnak has displayed a home-road split in his goal scoring.  In 18 games on home ice this season he has 16 goals, well clear of the 13 goals on home ice scored by Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel for most in the league.  On the road, he has nine goals in 13 games (as many as Caps’ defenseman John Carlson, but we will get to him in a moment).  That is still tied for fifth-most in the league (with, among others, teammate Brad Marchand), but it is less impressive than, say, the 15 goals scored in 17 road games by Alex Ovechkin (most in the league). 

Pastrnak is certainly no fluke or fly-by-night goal scorer.  He is almost certain to be a 30-plus goal scorer for the fourth straight season and is a good bet to shatter his career best of 38 goals set last season in just 66 games.  It does raise the question of whether, at still the young age of 23, he is the next in a series of “heir apparents” to Ovechkin as the league’s premier goal scorer.  Over the last four seasons, including this one, he is second to Ovechkin in total goals scored (132 to 154 for Ovechkin), so he has to be considered a contender.  In 13 career games against the Caps, Pastrnak is 4-5-9, minus-11.

Washington: John Carlson

John Carlson is putting up some wild numbers early, but there is a distinct “home versus road” quality to them.  On the road he is 9-18-27, plus-17, in 17 games.  That would be first in goals, first in assists, first in points, and first in plus-minus.  And, he is shooting 18.0 percent, tops among all defensemen with at least ten shots on goal.  Only once in 17 road games did he not record a point, that in Vancouver on October 25th in a 6-5 Gimmick win. 

Then there are the home games.  In 15 games at Capital One Arena, Carlson is 2-14-16, plus-2.  The goal total is tied for 37th among defensemen, the assists still rank first, the points rank second, and the plus-minus is tied for 88th.  His 4.8 shooting percentage ranks tied for 93rd (with, among others, Dmitry Orlov).  Carlson has points in eight of 15 games played on home ice.  He has been all or nothing in wins on home ice, posting four multi-point games in wins and four games without a point in wins.  He has four games on home ice with four or more shots on goal in wins, four others in wins in which he had one or no shots.

Then there is the odd plus-minus thing on home ice.  Three times he has been plus-2 on home ice, but he did not record a point.  Three times he has been minus-2, and he had points in two of those games.  However, Carlson is 5-10-15, plus-12, in his career against Boston.  All of his career goals against the Bruins have been scored on home ice.

In the end…

Boston does everything well – score, defend, play special teams.  The Caps just roll over opponents like Lord Juggernaut’s cart.  When the Caps beat the Bruins in Boston, 3-2 in a Gimmick, in mid-November, it was their 15th win in the last 16 games against the Bruins.  They are 11-3-0 in their last 14 games against the Bruins on home ice and will be trying to avoid consecutive losses to Boston on home ice for the first time since April 2010 and the first time losing consecutive games to Boston in regulation on home ice since the 1995-1996 season.  It is the kind of odd dominance one team has over another in team sports, even when both teams have a history of strong play otherwise.  There is little reason to think it won’t continue in a manner pleasing to Caps fans.

Capitals 3 – Bruins 2

Sunday, December 08, 2019

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 32: Blue Jackets at Capitals, December 9th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals return home for the first time in ten days when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at Capital One Arena.   The Caps come home on a hot streak, winners of six in a row and with the best ten-game record in the league (8-1-1, tied with Boston).  Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are sinking in the standings and are on a four-game losing streak, one short of their season longest.

Then and Now…

This will be the 41st meeting of these division rivals in the all-time series.  Washington has a 24-10-5 (one tie) record against Columbus, 12-3-3 (one tie) on home ice.  Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 20-9-5 against the Blue Jackets overall, 11-3-3 on home ice.

Active Leaders vs. Opponent…

Noteworthy Opponents…

Rick Nash owns most of the meaningful career records in Columbus Blue Jacket history, but Cam Atkinson is second in many of those categories and could end up on top of most of them before his years in Columbus are over.  Atkinson is currently second on the all-time list in games played for the franchise (556), second in goals (191), fourth in assists (167), second in points (358), tied for fourth in plus-minus (plus-24, with Brandon Saad), second in power play goals (41), second in shorthanded goals (12), second in game-winning goals (39), and second in shots on goal (1,673).  Last season he set a personal best in goals scored (41) and posted his second season of 35 or more goals in his career (he had 35 in 2016-2017).

This season, perhaps the loss of Artemi Panarin to the New York Rangers in free agency is weighing on him, creating the pressure to be the go-to goal scorer.  He has only five goals in 29 games to date, only two on 53 shots (3.8 percent shooting) in his last 19 games.  His goal scoring on the road has been non-existent.  He has yet to record his first goal outside of Ohio, going 0-for-32 shooting in 12 road games to date.  It is part of a longer goal-scoring drought on the road that extends back to last season.  Atkinson has two goals in his last 22 road games dating back to last March.  Washington might provide a remedy to his problems.  Atkinson is 10-7-17, plus-2, in 25 career games against the Caps.

Staying healthy on the blue line has been a challenge for Columbus.  Only two defensemen have dressed for all 29 games to date, Seth Jones and David Savard.  Jones, a former fourth overall draft pick (of Nashville in 2013) has developed into one of the premier defensemen in the league.  Savard is less renowned.  Taken in the fourth round (94th overall) in the 2009 Entry Draft, the 34th defenseman drafted among 70 defensemen taken overall, only four defensemen taken in that draft have dressed for more than the 518 games on Savard’s resume (Victor Hedman: 721, Oliver Ekman-Larsson: 688, Nick Leddy: 683, and Dmitry Kulikov: 651).  He has not been a big point-getter, but he has been consistent, posting more than 20 points in four of his six full seasons before this one. However, like many Blue Jackets it seems, the off-season changes have left him struggling to contribute.  He has only four assists and no goals in 29 games to date and has yet to post a point on the road this season.  Savard is 3-1-4, even, in 24 career games against the Caps.

With the changes in Columbus come opportunities for young players.  The Blue Jackets have dressed six rookies so far this season, a group led in scoring by forward Emil Bemstrom.  Taken in the fourth round of trhe 2017 Entry Draft (117th overall), Bemstrom might not have received a lot of attention in the draft, but with 28 games on his resume to date (all of them this season), he has more NHL games under his belt than any player taken after the second round of that 2017 draft so far.  He has run into a bit of a wall, though.  Bemstrom was 3-5-8, even, in his first 20 games this season, but he is just 0-1-1, minus-2 in eight games since.  At least he has points on the road, though, going 2-1-3 in 12 games.  This would be Bemstrom’s first career appearance against the Caps.

1.  No Blue Jacket appearing in more than three games is so much as “even” in the plus-minus ratings. Four players – Jakob Lilja, Markus Nutivaara, Eric Robinson, and Riley Nash – are minus-1.

2.  The Blue Jacket power play has had its problems in one respect.  No team has allowed more shorthanded goals than the Blue Jackets, the five goals tied with Calgary, Buffalo, and Edmonton for most road shorties allowed.

3.  Only three teams have taken fewer penalties than the 91 charged to Columbus (New York Islanders: 90, Winnipeg: 82, and Florida: 82).

4.  No team has taken fewer leads into the first intermission than Columbus (five), and no team has a worse record when doing so (2-2-1).  Ditto with leads taken into the second intermission – four (fewest in the league) with a 2-1-1 record (.500 winning percentage).

5.  Columbus doesn’t blow other teams out.  Their two wins by three or more goals is second-fewest in the league.  Only Detroit, who has yet to record such a win, has fewer.

1.  The Caps don’t get blown out.  Only Boston and Arizona, with one loss by three or more goals apiece, have fewer than the Caps (three, tied with Montreal and Tampa Bay).

2.  The Caps and the New York Rangers are the only teams in the league without a two-goal loss this season.

3.  Washington is tied with Winnipeg for the most one-goal wins so far this season (11).

4.  If the Caps get shots, they win.  No team has more wins when out-shooting an opponent (13), and no team has fewer losses in regulation (one, tied with the Bruins and Islanders).

5.  The Caps are a top-ten team in scoring in every period this season – tied for sixth in first period goals (32), tied for second in second period goals (38), tied for fourth in third period goals (38), and tied for third in overtime goals (four).  They are also fourth in total Gimmick goals scored (six).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Columbus: Joonas Korpisalo

With Sergei Bobrovsky now working on his tan in south Florida, the goaltending duties for the time being fall to Joonas Korpisalo.  He is not a goaltender with a long resume.  Taken in the third round (62nd overall) in the 2012 Entry Draft by the Blue Jackets, he is in his fifth NHL season.  However, his 22 starts this season have already surpassed last year’s 21 starts, and his 11 wins top last year’s ten victories.  Only in his 2015-2016 rookie season did he have more starts (30) and wins (16).  That rookie season (16-11-4, 2.60, .920) gave him a long leash, it appears, to prove himself, and this season he has clear control of the number one spot for the first time in his career.

What Korpisalo has not done since that rookie year, and what he has not done this season, is approach the level of performance that rookie season appeared to foretell.  In 81 games since that rookie season (73 starts), he is 36-30-6, 3.00, .899, with two shutouts.  That includes an 11-10-1, 2.85, .900 record this season with one shutout.  He has been better of late, though.  After going 6-7-1, 3.13, .895 in his first 14 appearances this season, Korpisalo is 5-3-0, 2.38, .909, with the one shutout.  What is ominous about that record is the he lost his last two appearances, despite facing low shot volumes, stopping only 40 of 46 shots in losses to Arizona and the Rangers.  He has had his troubles in limited road action, going 3-2-0, 3.42, .903.  In two career appearances against the Caps, Korpisalo is 1-0-0, 1.16, .958.

Washington: Alex Ovechkin

Three games.  It does not sound like a lot, but that is the streak of game without a goal that Alex Ovechkin brings into Monday night’s game, tying his longest of the season.  But no need to panic.  He did have goals in each of the three games before this mini-slump.  It is a case of sometimes the shots going in (five goals on 16 shots in three games) and sometimes the shots not going in (no goals on 12 shots in his last three games).  What Ovechkin has been doing, regardless of being hot or cold, is ramping up his shots.  The 4.74 shots per game he is averaging so far this season is his highest average since the 5.04 shots per game he posted in 2015-2016, although that average still does not rank it the top half of season averages in his career (it is ninth-highest in 15 seasons to date).

Even with the increase in shot frequency this season, Ovechkin is continuing his late career improvements in shooting efficiency.  At 13.6 percent shooting this year, three of his highest six shooting percentage seasons have come in the last three years, including the career best 15.1 percent he had last season (this season’s 13.6 percent is sixth best in his career).  But shots have hardly mattered much, an indicator of the depth of this team.  The Caps are 11-2-5 in the 18 games in which Ovechkin recorded five or more shots on goal, 11-2-0 in the 13 games in which he had fewer than five shots on goal.  In 34 career games against Columbus, Ovechkin is 17-8-25, minus-13.

In the end…

Columbus doesn’t score much on the road (second fewest goals scored on the road this season: 29), and they don’t defend well (44 goals on the road).  And here is another nugget to chew on.  In each of the last five seasons in the Caps’ first home game following a road trip that included the California trip, they won, twice against Winnipeg, once each against Carolina, Minnesota, and the Islanders.  Time to add the Blue Jackets to that list.

Capitals 5 – Blue Jackets 2

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 10

Week 10 was “California Week” for the Washington Capitals, and what a week it was.  The Caps began the week with a seven-point lead on the division, and three games – three wins – later, they had a nine-point lead on the division. 

Record: 3-0-0

When the Capitals embarked on their trip to California, it was the seventh straight season in which the Caps would face all three California teams on the same trip.  The Caps had not swept any of the six previous trips, and only once – in 2013-2014 – did they earn points in all three games (2-0-1).  In 18 games over the six previous trips, the Caps compiled an 8-8-2 record, 4-2-0 in San Jose against the Sharks, 1-3-2 in Los Angeles against the Kings, and 3-3-0 in Anaheim against the Ducks.

In 90 minutes over three games, the Caps trailed for a grand total of 10:58, all of it in the first game of the three against the Sharks.  That span of time between the Sharks scoring the first goal of the game and garnet Hathaway tying it was the only time the Caps trailed during the week as they swept the California teams on the same trip for the first time in Capitals history (they beat all three teams in 1993-1994, but not all three on the same trip).

With the three wins, the Caps held on tightly to the best record in the league and had their best 31-game start in team history (49 points, surpassing the 48 points that the 2015-2016 team compiled through 31 games (23-6-2).  The sweep in California also extended the Caps’ winning streak to six games by week’s end, matching their longest of the season (Games 13-18, October 25th through November 9th).  And, since starting the season with a 3-2-2 record, the Caps are 19-2-3.

Offense: 3.67/game (season: 3.61/3rd)

Six Capitals shared the 11 goals scored for the week.  Oddly enough, Alex Ovechkin had none of them, his streak of games without a goal by week’s end reaching three, matching his high for the season.  John Carlson and Jakub Vrana picked up the slack by posting three goals apiece.  Carlson’s three goals put him in the lead in goal scoring among defensemen with 11, one more than Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton.  He had six points for the week to lead the Caps and extend his points lead among defensemen to a whopping 15 points, 43 to 28 for Hamilton and Colorado’s Cale Makar.  Vrana’s three goals gave him 15 for the season, all of them at even strength and tying Boston’s Brad Marchand and Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl for the league lead in even strength goals.

Garnet Hathaway was the other Capital with a multi-goal week, getting both of his in the Caps’ 5-2 win in San Jose to start the week.  It was his second career multi-goal game, his first coming with the Calgary Flames last season in a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers on October 21, 2018.  The other three goals were scored by three Caps in three different situations.  Travis Boyd scored the game’s first goal in the Caps’ 3-2 win over Anaheim, Evgeny Kuznetsov scored a power play goal in the same contest, and Tom Wilson scored an empty net goal in the 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

The Caps had 12 skaters record points for the week.  In addition to Carlson (six) and Vrana (four), five other Caps had a pair: Hathaway (2-0-2), Dmitry Orlov (0-2-2), Nic Dowd (0-2-2), Lars Eller (0-2-2), and T.J. Oshie (0-2-2).

Defense: 1.67/game (season: 2.77/11th)

Playing well on the road is often a matter of simplifying the game and playing within system boundaries.  One could argue the Caps did just that, and it was reflected in the defensive statistics.  None of the three opponents managed as many as 30 shots on goal (Anaheim had 29).  It extended the Caps’ string of games holding teams under 30 shots to four, matching their longest such streak of the season that occurred in the first four games of the season.  The four straight games holding opponents to fewer than 30 shots on the road is their longest of the season, surpassing the only consecutive road games in which they did so, their first two road games of the season.

The shot attempts at 5-on-5 had an odd quality.  The Caps were edged in 5-on-5 shot attempts in the 5-2 win over San Jose, 47-45, and they had a reasonably health edge in shot attempts at fives in the 3-1 win over Los Angeles, 41-34, including a plus-9 when ahead.  But against Anaheim, the Caps finished minus-16 (53-37).  This was due to the Ducks setting a season high in total missed shots for a single game (28).  Only four of the 18 skaters for the Ducks failed to record at least one.  And, the Caps were consistent.  Only once in nine periods for the week did they allow more than ten shots on goal (14 to the Ducks in the first period of that contest).

Goaltending: 1.67 / .935 (season: 2.67 / .912)

The Caps continue to get improved goaltending play overall and are getting solid performances from both Braden Holtby and Ilya Samsonov individually.  Samsonov has been especially impressive among rookies.  He won his seventh game of the season when he stopped 22 of 23 shots in the 3-1 win over the Kings in the middle game of the week.  That win total is second among all rookie goalies (New Jersey’s Mackenzie Blackwood has eight).  His 2.42 goals against average is fourth among the 13 rookie goaltenders to dress this season and best among those appearing in more than two games.  The same applies to his .917 save percentage, fourth among all rookie goalies and best among those appearing in more than two games.

Holtby got the first and last games of the week, allowing two goals in each and stopping 50 of 54 shots overall.  He is now 14-1-2, 2.42, .924 in his last 17 appearances.  Holtby was especially sharp early in games in Week 10, stopping 55 of 57 first and second period shots on goal (.965 save percentage). 

The goaltending has become very consistent, too.  The Caps have not had consecutive performances in goal with a save percentage under .900 since Holtby had three consecutive games under .900, October 4th through October 10th.

Power Play: 1-for-7/14.3 percent (season: 24.5 percent/5th)

Lost in the wins was a rather forgettable week for the power play, and there was a sameness to it.  The Caps had only seven opportunities, the third consecutive week they had seven chances in a third consecutive three-game week, tying their fewest chances for a week so far this season.  They managed one goal on 14 shots in 13:46 in power play ice time, a very average sort of week for shooting efficiency.  The Caps got shots on goal from players they wanted – Ovechkin had six, Oshie had three, and Kuznetsov had a pair – but Kuznetsov was the only one to find the back of the net.  However, although the Caps had something of an off week in Week 10 on the power play, they are 5-for-20 (25.0 percent) in eight games since Nicklas Backstrom last played (November 18th). 

Penalty Killing: 6-for-6/100.0 percent (season: 84.0 percent/10th)

It would be hard to do better killing penalties than what the Caps did in Week 10.  There was holding San Jose without a power play opportunity, the first time this season that the Caps held an opponent without a power play chance, the first time they did it since they held the Carolina Hurricanes without a chance in a 4-1 win last March 26th and the first time they did it on the road since they blanked the Hurricanes in chances in Carolina in a 2-1 win on December 4, 2014.

Then there were the shots.  The Caps held their other two opponents to seven shots in six power plays and 10:30 of shorthanded ice time.  True, the Caps beat up on weak power plays, the three California teams ranking in the bottom ten in the league in power play efficiency at week’s end (San Jose/22nd, Los Angeles/29th, Anaheim/30th), but that’s what successful teams do, too.

Faceoffs: 73-for-160/45.6 percent (season: 49.5 percent/19th)

The Capitals seem to have reverted to the weak performances in the faceoff circle that they had for much of last season.  For the second consecutive week they were stuck in the mid-40’s in winning percentage.  And, they were all over the place in Week 10.  Part of the problem might have been that whatever their faults are, and they are many, the three California teams do fairly well in this part of the game, all three of them over 50 percent for the season at week’s end and all of them ranking among the top 13 teams in the league.

As it was, the Caps finished in the mid-40’s in winning percentage against San Jose, rebounded to finish over 50 percent against Los Angeles, but then finished in the mid-30’s against Anaheim for a very inconsistent week.  Where they were consistent was in finishing the week under 50 percent in all three zones.  Individually, Lars Eller had a good week, especially in the ends and particularly in the offensive end, where he did not get many chances, but he won nearly all of them (6-for-7).  On the other hand, Evgeny Kuznetsov (33.3 percent), Nic Dowd (42.4 percent) and Travis Boyd (40.0 percent) had weeks that were not memorable.

Goals by Period:

The goals by period are a reflection of a club that did not trail much, and when it did only did so for a short time.  They allowed the one first period goal against San Jose that put the Caps behind for the only time all week, but they dominated the period otherwise.  They continued their ability to win second periods, although not by a wide margin in Week 10.  It gave the Caps a bit of a cushion for third periods, which they lost in the aggregate, but only by a single goal.  As it is, the Caps and Vancouver were the only teams in the league at week’s end to score more than 30 goals in each of the three regulation periods.


The year-over-year numbers are impressive in that they are so much better in many cases than a very good performance at the same point last season.  Most important, the Caps are three-wins better than a 19-win team at the 31-game mark last season.  Those 19 wins were tied for fifth-highest in the league through 31 games last season.  The Caps have 22 this season, one behind Tampa Bay’s pace through 31 games last season on their way to a record-tying 62-win season.

In other respects, the Caps continue to out-pace last season’s performance through 31 games in many areas.  The goals scored are down a bit, but the scoring defense is improved, allowing ten fewer goals so far than at the same point last season.  As has been the case in weeks leading up to this one, shots are up, shots allowed are down.  Penalty killing is still on the positive change side this season, as is faceoff winning percentage (despite the recent struggles).  Shot attempts-for at 5-on-5 has improved as well.  It paints a picture of a very complete team that competes in a broad range of statistical categories that allow them to win in a variety of ways.

In the end…

The California trip is not the death march along the beach that it was for years for the Caps, but it is still a challenge.  Given those circumstances, even against three teams that have had their share of struggles this season, a sweep has to place Week 10 among the best weeks of the season for the Caps so far.  The variety of the manner in which the Caps win games was on full display.  Whereas the Caps were steamrolling clubs with prolific offense for much of the first third of the season, they held all three California teams (and all four teams on the four-game road trip that started in Detroit) to two or fewer goals, the longest stretch of holding opponents to two or fewer goals for the Caps so far this season.  Over an 82-game schedule, teams have hot streaks, and they have slumps, and strengths and weaknesses are identified and exposed.  At the moment, though, the Caps are a hot team with few weaknesses, and those they do have are being overcome on a regular basis by a deep team at both ends of the ice.

Three Stars:
  • First Star: John Carlson (3-3-6, plus-4, 2 game-winning goals, 11 shots, 17 shot attempts, three blocked shots, 22:15 average ice time)
  • Second Star: Jakub Vrana (3-1-4, plus-3, 1 game-winning goal, eight shots, 12 shot attempts)
  • Third Star: Carl Hagelin (0-1-1, plus-3, led team with 5:46 in shorthanded ice time with no goals against)

Captain rates the week…

Four puppers

Pepperoni, Anchovy, and Marshmallow Fluff Pizza and Dreams of a Record for All Time

In an interview given to ESPN over the weekend, Alex Ovechkin joked that should he break the all-time goal scoring record of Wayne Gretzky, he would instantly retire.  It was an interesting interview, to say the least...

Fueled by a pepperoni, anchovy, and marshmallow fluff pizza, it got us to dreaming just how it might end…

So there it is… New Year’s Day 2025.  The Capitals are hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Dan Snyder Coliseum in Washington in the Bridgestone Winter Classic, a crowd of 68,000 settled in for a white hot matchup on a cold day in the Nation’s Capital featuring bitter rivals. One was rebuilding after the simultaneous retirements of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin before this season, the other was the defending Stanley Cup champion.

The game took on an added importance with a Capitals legend on the brink of making history no one thought possible, taking the all-time goal scoring lead away from Wayne Gretzky. Alex Ovechkin, in the last year of a four-year contract and who once joked about retiring if he captured this record, was widely rumored to be retiring from the NHL at the end of this season.

The game is all it has always been – hard fought and unrelenting.  Pittsburgh opened the scoring on an Alexis Lafreniere goal in the first period, and the Caps tied it just before the final horn of the period. Pittsburgh extended their lead with a pair of goals in the second period, and when they scored in the early in the third period to make it 4-1, it looked as if the Caps would lose their first outdoor game after four wins in four tries.

The Caps crawled back, though, scoring goals less than a minute apart mid-way through the period to make it a one-goal game. Despite a deluge of shots on the Penguin net, though, they could not find the equalizer. Then, with just under two minutes left, the Penguins were hit with a delay of game/puck over glass penalty, and the Caps had one more chance.

With the Caps net empty, they set up a 6-on-4 power play, and as they did so many times before, they worked the puck to John Carlson at the top of the offensive zone. He laid off a pass to Ovechkin in his “office,” and his one-timer from the left wing circle sailed into the top of the net to tie the game, 4-4, with eight seconds left in regulation – naturally – and he tied Gretzky for the all-time goal scoring lead.

In overtime, the Penguins had a chance, but a Lafreniere shot clanged off the post behind goalie Ilya Samsonov.  The long rebound hopped over a Penguin stick, and made its way to Ovechkin exiting the zone. Taking it in stride behind the Penguin defense, Ovechkin skated over the blue line.  While age might have robbed him of some speed, it did not diminish his strength, nor did it quench the fire in his eyes when a scoring chance presented itself.

With a defenseman hanging on his shoulders like a stole, he kept his feet moving, and as he was being hauled to the ice he one handed a shot over the glove of goalie Emil Larmi. The crowd exploded as they realized they not only witnessed a thrilling 5-4 win, but history being made on a big stage by the game’s biggest player.  The players mobbed Ovechkin behind the Penguin net and slowly made their way to center ice.

Standing in a circle at center ice, they raised their sticks to salute the crowd.  As they did so, Ovechkin slowly skated to the center ice dot, and the players turned to face him, realizing something big was about to happen.  He raised his stick high to the crowd, turning to salute each corner of the stadium.  Then, he extended his arm and dropped his stick to the ice, turned, and skated off the ice to make his way down the tunnel one final time, his last game as a Capital and holder of a record that now will never be broken.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Washington Capitals: 31 Things

We love the work of Elliotte Friedman, whose “31 Thoughts” in podcast and column form are required listening/reading for hockey fans.  So, in the spirit of respect, the cousins and I are going to brazenly steal the format as the Caps hit the 31-game mark for the season.  So, here are “31 Things”…

1.  The Caps hit the 20-win mark in Game 29 of the regular season.  It was just the third time in team history that the Caps hit the 20-win mark in fewer than 30 games.  They did it in 1991-1992, when they went 20-8-0 in their first 28 games, and again in 2015-2016, going 20-6-2 in their first 28 games.

2.  Washington is the most lethal team on the power play in recent NHL history.  Since 2012-2013 through 31 games this season, the Caps have converted 23.3 percent of their man advantages.  Pittsburgh is second over that period (22.3 percent).

3.  This year’s club is on pace to have the best road power play in team history, since 1977-1978, when the league started compiling team power play statistics.  Through 31 games they have converted 14 of 51 power plays on the road for a 27.5 percent conversion rate.  In the abbreviated 2012-2013, the Caps were 22-for-83 in road power plays (26.5 percent).  For full seasons, the highest conversion rate before this season was in 2016-2017, when the Caps went 29-for-116 on the road (25.0 percent).

4.  Through 31 games this season, the Caps are on a pace to post their best points percentage in team history (.790).  The 2009-2010 team had a .738 points percentage.  The Caps are on a pace through 31 games to finish with 130 points.

5.  The last two-plus-31 games seasons, John Carlson has 78 power play points, tops among all defensemen and nine more than second-place Keith Yandle.

6.  John Carlson has 43 points through 31 games.  He is only the fourth player in team history to reach the 40-point mark through 31 games on the schedule and the first defenseman to do it.  Alex Ovechkin did it three times (2006-2007; 2008-2009; and 2018-2019), Dennis Maruk did it twice (1080-1981 and 1981-1982), and Robert Lang did it (2003-2004).  Only Maruk in team history scored more than 43 points in the team’s first 31 games, posting 48 points in 25 games through 31 games of the 1982-1983 schedule.

7.  Alex Ovechkin has goals against every NHL team over his career.  No surprise there.  He has assists against every team, too, but one – Vegas.  OK, so it’s only five games, but there it is.

8.  Through 31 games this season, the Caps are the only team in the NHL that, since the 2004-2005 lockout, compiled an aggregate shooting percentage over ten percent (10.1).

9.  Ovechkin has eight power play goals in 31 games.  It is the seventh time in his career he posted eight or more in the team’s first 31 games, most of any player in team history.  Four players did it twice: Peter Bondra, Dave Christian, Dennis Makuk, and Mike Ridley.

10.  John Carlson has four game-winning goals in 31 games.  He is the only defenseman in Caps history with that many in the team’s first 31 games.

11. Wilson has four game-winning goals.  That number matches his career total through last season.

12.  Over the last 40 years, know which Capital had the best shooting percentage over the first 31 games?  Alex Ovechkin?...nope.  Peter Bondra?...nope.  Alexander Semin?  T.J. Oshie? Dennis Maruk?  Nope, nope, and nope.  It was Alan May, who had five goals on 13 shots (38.5 percent) in 28 games in the first 31 games of the 1991-1992 schedule.

13.  Through 31 games, did you think Ilya Samsonov would have a better save percentage (.917) than Braden Holtby (.910)?

14.  …or goals against average (2.42 to 2.78)?

15.  …or that Samsonov would have as many wins as Henrik Lundqvist (seven)?

16.  The league now compiles missed shots that hit the iron of the goal frame.  So far, the Caps have hit a post, a crossbar, or both, in 24 of their 31 games.  The 36 posts or crossbars hit in those 31 games are, by far, most in the league (Dallas: 28).

17.  The Caps scored three goals in Los Angeles in the middle game of their three-game trip to California.  Think that’s not a big deal?  The Caps haven’t scored more than three goals in Los Angeles against the Kings since February 10, 2001, when they beat the Kings, 4-3.  That’s 13 straight games in L.A. without scoring more than three goals in a game.

18.  The three goals that the Caps scored against the Ducks in Anaheim on Friday night broke a four-game streak scoring fewer than three goals in Anaheim.

19.  The Caps have now beaten 20 different goaltenders so far this season.  Ryan Miller became the 20th when the Caps beat the Ducks, 3-2, on Friday (they beat Cam Talbot and Sergei Bobrovsky twice this season).

20.  Given this franchise’s early history, this might not seem like much, but this year’s team already has more standings points (49) than three other Caps teams compiled in a full season: 1977-1978 (48), 1975-1976 (32), and the infamous inaugural team of 1974-1975 (21).  Perhaps more impressive, this team is just three points short of the 1995-1995 team (52) and eight points short of the 2012-2013 team (57), both of which played abbreviated 48-game seasons and both of which made the playoffs.

21.  The Caps have left the impression at times of taking a lot of penalties.  However, they are averaging 9:42 in penalty minutes per game.  That is the fifth-lowest average in team history to date.

22.  Seven of the team’s 22 wins have come by three or more goals.  That is already more such wins than seven other teams in franchise history.

23.  More impressive, this Caps team has 11 one-goal wins.  Sure, this is the era of the game occasionally decided by the freestyle competition, but the 11 wins are still more than 15 teams in franchise history.

24.  Spotting a team the first goal hasn’t mattered to this team so far.  Through 31 games, the Caps are 8-3-2 when allowing the first goal.  That .615 winning percentage is best in team history so far, eclipsing the .533 that the 2009-2010 team had (16-8-6).

25.  At the other end, this year’s Caps team is the only one in team history to date to have a .500 winning percentage when trailing after two periods (.500/4-3-1).  The 2009-2010 team was 8-10-4 (.364).

26.  John Carlson is averaging 1.39 points per game through 31 games.  Of more than 3,000 instances of a defenseman playing in 30 or more games in a season since 2005-2006, that is the highest points-per-game by a large margin, far outpacing the 1.09 points per game posted by Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang in 35 games in the 2012-2013 season.

27.  The Caps’ 14 road wins through 31 games is the most they posted in any 31-game start in team history.  The 1991-1992 team had 12 road wins through 31 games.

28. Todd Reirden won his 70th game as a head coach on Friday when the Caps beat the Ducks, 3-2.  It gave him a points percentage of .677 (70-30-13), the second-best points percentage in league history among coaches with at least 100 games.  Tom Johnson was 142-43-23 (.738) with Boston from 1970-1971 through 1972-1973.

29.  Since the Caps came into the league in 1974-1975, no team has scored more overtime goals through Friday night (147, tied with Pittsburgh).

30.  In that same vein, the Caps have more one-goal wins than any other club since they came into the league (619) through Friday night.

31.  Next time, Cheerless is doing this list.