Friday, February 12, 2016

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 54: Capitals at Stars, February 13th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up their three-game road swing through the Central Division on Saturday night when they mosey on over to Big-D to face the Dallas Stars.  The Caps are heading into this contest with a five-game winning streak, but they have been playing on a thin edge.  Four of the five wins were by one-goal margins, the other one featuring an empty-net power play goal for a two-goal win.

Meanwhile, the Stars, who had a rocky 3-6-2 January, are 4-1-0 so far this month.  Oddly enough, all four wins came on the road, while their only loss was at home to the Chicago Blackhawks (they redeemed themselves of that loss five days later with a 4-2 win in Chicago, their last contest before this one).

The Stars feature a formidable offense that scored four or more goals in each of their four wins this month and 18 goals overall in five February games.  The part that might cause some concern is that their defense and goaltending has been a bit leaky over those same five games, allowing 16 goals.  Special teams have followed a similar path, the power play humming along at 5-for-17 in February (29.4 percent) while the penalty killers are 13-for-16 (83.1 percent).

Tyler Seguin (3-4-7) and Patrick Eaves (4-3-7) lead the Stars in points in February.  Eaves did his greatest damage with a hat trick in the Stars’ 4-2 win over Chicago on Thursday.  Eaves, now in his 11th season in the NHL, has always had questions about durability.  He has not appeared in more than 70 games in a season since 2008-2009 with Carolina (74 games), and he will not this season, having missed 20 games already.  He has not appeared in more than 50 games in a season since 2010-2011 (63 games with Detroit).  Since that season he has played in just 156 games, not quite two full seasons worth of games out of four full seasons and the abbreviated 2012-2013 season.  Eaves is 4-3-7, minus-2, in 22 career games against Washington.

Seguin has been doing his damage in twos.  He has three two-point games in February.  And, he has been quite effective on the power play, recording four points on the five Dallas power play goals scored this month.  Seguin got off to an impressive start this season with 34 points in his first 24 games and 46 points in his first 34 games.  However, in his last 21 games he has cooled off, going just 9-5-14, although his good start in February suggests he might be returning to his earlier season form.  Seguin is 6-3-9, plus-1, in 16 career games against the Caps.

Then there is the matter of who will tend goal for Dallas.  Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen have split the minutes roughly 60-40 in Niemi’s favor, but there is no clear edge in their performance numbers.  Niemi has the better goals against average (2.52 to 2.79), but Lehtonen has the better save percentage (.912 to .908).  Niemi has more wins (20 to 15), but Lehtonen has the better winning percentage (.750 to .571).  Lehtonen took the decisions in Dallas' last two contests (both of them wins), stopping 81 of 86 shots (.942 save percentage).  Niemi opened the month with three appearances, winning two of them and stopping 50 of 59 shots (.847), and he was pulled for Lehtonen after giving up three goals on 11 shots in a 5-1 loss to Chicago on February 6th.  Niemi has never lost to the Caps in regulation, posting a 5-0-3 record with a 2.52 GAA and a .912 save percentage, with one shutout in eight appearances.  In 24 career appearances against the Caps, Lehtonen is 16-6-2, 2.56, .924, with two shutouts.  He was the goalie of record in the Stars’ 3-2 win over Washington last November, stopping 29 of 31 shots.

Here is how the teams compare overall:


1.  Dallas leads the league in games in which they scored four or more goals.  In 25 such games they are 23-2-0.

2.  Only four players in the NHL have 60 or more points.  Dallas has half of them – Jamie Benn (28-34-62) and Tyler Seguin (28-32-60).  For the record, the other two are Patrick Kane (33-44-77) and Erik Karlsson (11-51-62).

3.  Dallas can be dangerous when killing penalties.  Only three teams – Ottawa (10), Montreal (8), and Winnipeg (8) – have more shorthanded goals scored than the Stars (7).  Then again, they can be leaky on their own power play.  Only Arizona (10) has allowed more shorthanded goals than the Stars (9).

4.  Dallas and Chicago are the only teams in the league to have scored 50 or more goals in each of the three regulation periods.  The Stars are tied for the league lead (with Chicago) in first period goals (50), are tied for seventh in second period goals (54), and lead the league in third period goals (69).

5.  The Stars rank third in the league in Corsi-for at 5-on-5 overall (53.4 percent) and are second in home games in that category (55.8 percent).  In five February games they are at 56.2 percent overall (numbers from war-on-ice.com).


1.  The Capitals, starting with this game, have 29 games left to play.  If they play “.500” hockey from here out (29 points in 29 games), they will finish with the second best record in franchise history (113 points, exceeded only by the 2009-2010 Presidents Trophy-winning team).

2.  The Capitals have 84 points in 53 games.  That is the second highest point total through 53 games in NHL history.  The 1979-1980 Philadelphia Flyers had 85 points through 53 games on a record of 36-4-13.  Things didn’t go so well for the Flyers thereafter, though, as they finished the season with a 12-8-7 record over their last 27 games to finish 48-12-20 overall (they had more ties than Men’s Warehouse).

3.  “Two” is a very nice number for the Caps.  When they allow two or fewer goals they are 30-1-1, their .938 winning percentage being tops in the league.  Then again, they have the best record in the league when allowing three or more goals, too (10-8-3/.476).

4.  The Caps are the only team in the league to have scored more than 60 goals in two of the three regulation periods – 61 in the second period and 67 in the third period (second in the league in both categories).

5.  Washington is still stuck under 50 percent Corsi-for at 5-on-5 in road games this season (49.1), but overall in February they have been pretty good at 51.9 percent overall (home and road; numbers from war-on-ice.com).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Dallas: John Klingberg

It would not be faint praise to think of Dallas defenseman John Klingberg as a “poor man’s Erik Karlsson.”  Both hail from Sweden (Karlsson from Landsbro, Klingberg from Gothenburg).  They are just 27 months apart in age (Karlsson being older).  Both are primarily offensive defensemen.  Both followed similar early career trajectories (Karlsson was 18-53-71 in 135 games over his first two seasons; Klingberg is 21-65-86 in 120 games in his second season).  And, perhaps most important, they rank one-two in scoring among defensemen in the NHL, Karlsson first (11-51-62) and Klingberg second (10-36-46).  February has been kind to Klingberg, who is 4-2-6, plus-3, in five games, part of a longer run in which he has points in six of his last eight games (4-4-8).  He has three points (all assists) and is plus-2 in two career games against the Caps.

Washington: Brooks Laich

If it wasn’t for bad luck, Brooks Laich would have no luck at all (on the ice, that is).  In 52 games so far this season, Laich has one goal on 59 shots, the 343rd worst shooting percentage (1.7) among 350 forwards in the NHL appearing in at least 25 games and averaging at least 10 minutes of ice time a night. It actually goes back further, that single goal being his only one in his last 57 games dating back to last season.  One can understand slumps, but being tied with Paul Carey (one goal in four games) and Zach Sill (one in nine contests) is just plain dishwater dirty luck.  Players with Laich’s experience score more than that by accident, which, in fact, his lone goal this season sort of was, a redirect off his right skate of a Dmitry Orlov drive in a 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins on November 5th.  He is 0-4-4, minus-2, in ten career games against Dallas, but we’re going to go out on a limb and say he gets his first career goal against the Stars on Saturday night.

In the end…

In a game pitting the top two scoring offenses in the league against one another and two of the top five power plays, this game will come down to defense and penalty killing, both of which favor the Caps.  Washington allows more than four-tenths of a goal less per game than Dallas (2.26 to 2.67), and their penalty kill is almost four percentage points better (83.9 percent to 80.0 percent).  That will be the difference as they achieve their third winning streak of six games or more this season.

Capitals 5 – Stars 3

Washington Capitals Recap: A TWO-Point Night: Capitals 4 - Wild 3

Secondary scoring is sweet, but sometimes rank has it privileges, and the Captain of the Washington Capitals exercised his on Thursday night. Alex Ovechkin recorded a hat trick to lead the Capitals to their fifth straight win, a 4-3 decision over the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center, while the Wild fell to their seventh straight defeat.

After the teams played to a scoreless first period, Ovechkin opened the scoring early in the middle frame. Ovechkin started the play by carrying the puck into the Minnesota zone on the left side. From just inside the blue line he sent the puck across to Nicklas Backstrom at the far edge of the right wing faceoff circle. Backstrom slid the puck back to T.J. Oshie just jumping off the bench. Oshie fired a shot at the Wild net that hit a player on way through and was directed onto the stick of Ovechkin to the right of goalie Devan Dubnyk. Ovechkin snapped the puck past Dubnyk’s right pad, and it was 1-0 2:14 into the period.

Less than three minutes Ovechkin had his second goal. On a power play, Backstrom directed play from the right side. He moved the puck out to John Carlson, who fired a shot that went wide, caroming hard off the end boards. The rebound off the end wall came back out to Dubnyk’s right where Ovechkin was waiting once more. Before Dubnyk could secure the near post, Ovechkin jabbed the puck past him to make it 2-0 at the 5:21 mark.

The Wild halved the lead when Charlie Coyle put back the rebound of a Mikko Koivu shot from the top of the crease, but the two-goal lead was restored barely three minutes later. Nicklas Backstrom settled a loose puck and circled through the right wing circle. His shot was stopped by Dubnyk, but he could not hold it in his glove. The puck snuck out through a clot of players in front of him, and it found Ovechkin one more time. Ovechkin snapped a shot that hit the post to Dubnyk’s left rebounded back and off his left leg, and then dribbled over the goal line to complete the hat trick for Ovechkin 14:55 into the period.

Minnesota struck first in the third period on a power play goal by Ryan Suter to get the Wild to within a goal. They could not get the equalizer, though. Jason Chimera scored an empty net goal with 51.1 seconds left to make it 4-2, and Mikael Granlund added a late goal for the Wild for the final 4-3 margin.

Other stuff…

-- The hat trick propelled Ovechkin into the league lead in goals with 34, one ahead of Chicago’s Patrick Kane.

-- The hat trick was Ovechkin’s first of the season and first since December 10, 2013 when he recorded four goals in a 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. It broke a 180-game streak without one. It was his 14th career hat trick, breaking a tie with Eric Staal for the most since the 2005-2006 season. He is now tied for second among active players in career hat tricks with Marian Gaborik and one behind Jaromir Jagr for the lead among active players.

-- The win was the Caps’ fifth straight, making it five streaks of five wins or more this season.

-- Ovechkin’s power play goal made it consecutive games with power play goals for the Caps, the first the scored against a goaltender since they went 2-for-2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 19th. They had an empty net power play goal on Tuesday against the Nashville Predators, also scored by Ovechkin.

-- Nicklas Backstrom had a three-assist game, tying him with Evgeny Kuznetsov for the team lead and drawing him to within one of the league lead in three-assist games this season (Erik Karlsson has four). It was Backstrom’s 30th career game with three or more assists, most in the NHL since he came into the league in 2007-2008, breaking a tie he had with Sidney Crosby.

-- Kuznetsov took a stick to the face off a faceoff in the third period and did not return to the game.

-- The Caps took it on the chin in the 5-on-5 battle, allowing 48 Minnesota shot attempts to 38 of their own (44.2 percent Corsi-for), a product of being out-attempted, 20-8, in the third period.  They did have a slight edge in scoring chances, though, credited with 16 to 15 for the Wild (numbers from war-on-ice.com), who made a contest of it in that third period with five scoring chances to one for the Caps.

-- Ovechkin’s three goals, his 507th (Rochester, MN, area code), 508th (Cape Cod), and 509th (Spokane), vaulted him into 39th place on the all-time goal scoring list, passing the legendary Jean Beliveau.  He now is within another hat trick of Gilbert Perreault (512) in 38th place.

-- Michael Latta had another one of those very clean score sheets.  The only mark on this one (he had none on his score sheet against Nashville on Tuesday) was credit for one hit.  Then again, John Carlson’s was mighty clean, too, in almost 24 minutes of ice time.  He did have an assist on Ovechkin’s power play goal, but the only other mark on it was a missed shot attempt.

-- If you follow faceoffs, you have to know that winning 22 of 68 draws is either really generous hometown scoring, or the Caps were butt-ugly awful in the circle.  Mike Richards…3-for-13 (23.1 percent).  T.J. Oshie…0-for-8 (0.0).  Evgeny Kuznetsov…3-for-14 (21.4).  It was a team effort.

In the end…


Winning streaks are funny.  You can see them coming when a team is on a losing streak, but they start playing better in advance of seeing their good efforts rewarded on the scoreboard.  Conversely, you can see the end of them coming when they are winning games while losing in their underlying numbers.  Such might be the case with the Caps here.  Mediocre possession numbers (even accounting for the third period edge for the Wild), poor results in the little things like faceoffs.  Let’s face it, this game turned on headwear…a hat trick.  Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom (three assists, and he won 12 of 21 draws) had very good games.  The rest of the team, not as much.  They will have to do better when they head to Dallas for a game Saturday night against the Stars.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 53: Capitals at Wild, February 11th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals take their four-game winning streak into “The State of Hockey” on Thursday night when they face the Minnesota Wild in the middle game of the Caps’ three-game Central Division road trip.

The Capitals come into this game seeking to post their fifth winning streak of the season of five or more games.  Meanwhile, the Wild are in a wild slump.  In the 2016 portion of the season they are 3-10-4 and have yet to win consecutive games.  They are on a six-game losing streak (0-4-2) in which they have been outscored, 22-13.  They have been outscored at 5-on-5, 13-8, and while their power play has been very good over those six games (5-for-22/22.7 percent), they have given it all back, and more, with poor penalty killing over those same six games (13-for-19/68.4 percent).

Minnesota scoring has been like one of the state’s fabled 10,000 lakes – a mile wide and a foot deep.  The Wild have points from 18 different skaters on their six-game losing streak, but only four players have four or more points.  Ten different players have goals, but only two have more than one tally.

Charlie Coyle is one of those players with more than one goal in the six-game losing streak, leading the way with three scores.  The three goals raise Coyle’s total to 14 goals this season, a career-best for the fourth-year center, surpassing the 12 he had in 2013-2014.  The three goals were part of a four-game goal scoring streak Coyle had before he was silenced by the New York Rangers a week ago.  That four-game goal streak included four goals scored on 13 shots, but the last three opponents – the Rangers, St. Louis Blues, and Dallas Stars – found a way to keep him from getting his shots, holding him to a combined three shots on goal over his last three games.  Coyle is 1-1-2, minus-3, in four career games against the Capitals.

Matt Dumba is the only other Wild skater with more than one goal in Minnesota’s six-game losing streak.  Those two goals allowed him to inch within a goal (seven for this season) of his career-best set last year.  His 16 points on the season ties his best total over his three-season career.  The defenseman comes into this game on a four-game points streak, his five points (2-3-5) leading all Wild skaters over the last half-dozen contests.  In two career games against Washington, the former seventh-round draft pick did not record a point and is a plus-1.

Nino Niederreiter was taken with the fifth overall pick by the New York Islanders in 2010.  He had a bit of a slow start to career, given his lofty draft status, with 16 goals in 145 games over his first three seasons.  However, he gave indications last year, his second in Minnesota, that he could reach a level of production more in alignment with his draft position.  In 80 games he finished with 24 goals and 37 points, eight of those goals coming on power plays.  This season he has taken a step backwards with nine goals in 53 games, 1 14-goal pace that would equal his production in his first year in Minnesota in 2013-2014.  He does have four points in his last six games, although he is without one in his last three contests.  Niederreiter is 2-1-3, plus-3, in six career games against the Caps.

Here is how the teams compare overall:


1.  Minnesota struggles mightily in extra time.  They are 1-10 in games decided after regulation, 1-8 in the 3-on-3 overtime.

2.  More on extra time… The Wild are 0-2 in the Gimmick and have yet to record a goal, going 0-for-9 in the trick shot competition, the only team in the league without a goal in the apr├Ęs-hockey portion of the contest.

3.  The Wild are last in the league in power play chances on home ice (72), which largely negates their fourth-best home power play (23.6 percent).

4.  On the other hand, the Wild have had by far the fewest number of shorthanded situations faced at home this season.  With just 49 shorthanded situations, the Wild have had 12 fewer than the Buffalo Sabres (61).

5.  Over their six-game losing streak, the Wild have a Corsi-for at 5-on-5 overall of just 45.7 percent.  It is not a lot different from their Corsi-for in the 2016 portion of the season (46.4 percent over 17 games; numbers from war-on-ice.com)

1.  The six power play chances the Caps allowed the Nashville Predators was the most they faced since they faced six against the Florida Panthers on December 10th in a 4-1 loss.  The other time the Caps faced six power plays this season was against the Edmonton Oilers in a 7-4 win on October 23rd.

2.  The Caps are still looking to break a long streak of emptiness on the power play with a goalie in net.  The Caps scored a power play goal into an empty net in the last minute of their 5-3 win over Nashville on Tuesday, but they have yet to score a power play goal against a goaltender since January 19th, when they went 2-for-2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 6-3 win.

3.  If things should come down to that trick shot thing, the Caps have the third-best shooting percentage in the league (50 percent on 6-for-12 shooting).

4.  The Caps have the best record in one-goal games in the league (.727/16-2-4), the second-best record in two-goal decisions (.800/8-2), and the second-best record in games decided by three or more goals (.750/15-5).

5.  The Caps continue to right themselves when it comes to possession numbers.  Overall, they have not been under 50 percent in consecutive games in Corsi-for at 5-on-5 since Christmas.  They are a combined 52.0 percent in 19 games since then (war-on-ice.com).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Minnesota: Devan Dubnyk

The strain of poor play by the Wild in general is showing in the production of goaltender Devan Dubnyk.  After going 16-10-2, 2.32, .920, with four shutouts in the 2015 portion of the season, he is 2-8-3, 2.50, .913 in the 2016 portion of the season.  He has not won a game since January 9th, going 0-7-1, 2.73, .898 in his last eight appearances, and he allowed 12 goals on 83 shots (.855 save percentage) in his last three contests.  In his own way – and the Wild’s – he is similar to New Jersey’s Cory Schneider.  There seems to be a threshold he must adhere to for the Wild to win.  In his case it is two goals allowed.  Dubnyk is 13-5-2 when allowing two or fewer goals, 5-13-3 when allowing three or more.  He is 2-2-0, 3.27, .887 in four career appearances against the Capitals.

Washington: Evgeny Kuznetsov

Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded his 100th NHL career point in Tuesday’s win over the Nashville Predators.  In his third year, Kuznetsov is third on the club in points per game over those three years with 0.67 points per game, trailing only Nicklas Backstrom (0.97) and Alex Ovechkin (0.98) among Caps appearing in at least 100 games over that span.  He is one of six players in the league to average more than a point per game so far this season, the other five being on short lists for a variety of post-season awards: Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn, Erik Karlsson, Tyler Seguin, and Sidney Crosby (minimum: 25 games).  He comes into this game 4-17-21, plus-7, in 15 games in the 2016 portion of the season, although he does not have a goal in his last nine contests.  Kuznetsov is 1-1-2, plus-1, in two career games against the Wild.

In the end…

The Wild are a team the Caps need to jump on hard and fast from the start to stifle their fans and eat away at their confidence.  A team on las prolonged a slump as the Wild needs no help from the Caps in giving them a boost to suggest the end of the misery is at hand.  The Wild have not played quite as bad as their record would indicate, eight of their 14 losses in 2016 coming by one goal, four of those in extra time.  Minnesota has not won a home game in 2016 to date (0-3-3, all six losses coming by one goal); the Caps are 6-1-1 in the road portion of 2016, three of the wins coming by multi-goal margins.  That’s a bad formula for the home team, a good one for the Caps to extend their winning streak.

Capitals 4 – Wild 2

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Washington Capitals Recap: A TWO-Point Night: Capitals 5 - Predators 3

The Washington Capitals opened their three-game swing through the Central Division with a visit to Nashville to take on the Predators on Tuesday night.  The game ended up having far more offensive fireworks than might have been expected, the Caps coming out on top, 5-3.

Washington opened the scoring mid-way through the first period on a nice play by Tom Wilson and Jason Chimera.  Wilson carried the puck into the Nashville zone and faded to the right wing wall.  As he was doing so, Chimera headed for the net.  Wilson fed the puck in front as Chimera was closing.  Getting his stick on the ice with Shea Weber hounding him from behind, Chimera redirected the puck under goalie Pekka Rinne 12:02 into the period.

That is how the first period ended, and one might have expected that it was just prelude to a low-scoring game.  Storm clouds started gathering, though, early in the period when the Predators turned the puck over at the Caps’ blue line.  John Carlson tapped the puck out of the zone where Marcus Johansson collected it, starting a 3-on-2 rush.  Johansson skated down the right side with Chimera in the middle and Wilson on the left side in a flip of roles among the third liners.  Johansson skipped a pass past Chimera and to Wilson on the far side, who whacked a one-timer past Rinne to make it 2-0 at the 4:55 mark.

Then the Capitals went a bit weird.  Two too-man-men-on-the-ice penalties taken in the space of 1:56 mid-way through the period gave Nashville two power plays.  The Caps killed off one and almost skated off the second, but Filip Forsberg scored on a sneaky snap shot from the left wing circle past goalie Braden Holtby, and the Predators halved the lead 14:42 into the period.

That would be it for the scoring in the second period, but the teams turned on the red light frequently in the third frame.  Justin Williams started the third period scoring five minutes into the period when he worked his way to the top of the crease, took a feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov, and took a pair of whacks at it before slipping the puck under Rinne’s left arm as the goalie was down.

Barely three minutes later the Caps had a three-goal lead.  Karl Alzner took a pass from Justin Williams and fired a shot at the Nashville net.  Rinne got his left pad on it and kicked it out to the right wing faceoff circle.  Williams collected the puck and fired, but Rinne got across to stop the shot.  The puck popped up to Rinne’s right and as it dropped to the ice, Marcus Johansson swept it past Rinne to make it 4-1 at the 8:03 mark.

The Predators then made things interesting with a pair of goals just over two minutes apart.  Roman Josi sent a drive from the left point that was deflected in front past Holtby to make it 4-2 at the 9:49 mark.  Then Forsberg scored his second of the game when he redirected a Mattias Ekholm drive from the left point past Holtby at 12:00.

The Caps and Holtby closed the door after that though.  When Ekholm took a tripping penalty with 1:23 left, the Caps converted the power play chance on an empty net goal by Alex Ovechkin for the final 5-3 margin.

Other stuff…

-- Five goals scored by the Caps is the most they ever recorded in Nashville.  Twice they scored four goals, once in a 4-2 win on February 12, 2000, the other in a 4-2 win on March 18, 2008.

-- The goal by Alex Ovechkin was his ninth in his past 11 games and was his 506th of his career.  Think of it as the “New Brunswick Area Code” goal.

-- Marcus Johansson celebrated his return to the ice in fine fashion.  A goal and two assists gave him his second three-point game of the season, the other coming on December 20th in a 7-3 win over the New York Rangers.  As it is, Johansson’s three-point night makes him 9-9-18, plus-6, in his last 15 games.

-- Tom Wilson had his fourth multi-point game of the season (1-1-2), giving him 17 points on the season tying a career best set last season.  Justin Williams also had a multi-point game (1-1-2), his ninth of the season.

-- The Caps wore down the Predators in one respect: shot attempts at evens.  The Caps were out-attempted, 13-11, in the first period at 5-on-5, but the Caps won the last two periods, 11-10 and 18-13.

-- The two bench minors for too many men on the ice doubled the number of bench minors for which the Caps have been called this season.

-- Did Tom Wilson get credit for the most hits for the Caps in this game?  No.  Alex Ovechkin?  Nope?  It was Matt Niskanen (four).

-- Michael Latta had an odd score sheet entry.  In nine shifts and 6:49 of ice time he had no marks of any kind on his line of the score sheet.

-- Andre Burakovsky recorded an assist on Williams’ goal giving him points in eight straight games (6-4-10) and in 10 of his last 11 contests (6-8-14).

-- The Caps finally got the power play monkey off their back, even if it was credited as an empty net goal.  They had been 0-for-19 over five games plus 59 minutes of this contest.

Other stuff…

A win is a win is a win, and this win gave the Caps 39, the first club to win that many in their first 52 games in the modern era.  But there were some disturbing things.  Braden Holtby allowing three goals is an odd thing (the 13th time in 43 appearances).  Then there was the defensive pair of John Carlson and Nate Schmidt, who had a rough time at even strength (Carlson was a Corsi- minus-13, Schmidt a minus-11).  Then again, Shea Weber had a hard night for Nashville (a Corsi minus-13, numbers from war-on-ice.com).  But there are the Caps with 30 more wins than they have losses in regulation.  Only one team in franchise history finished a season with 30 or more wins than they had losses in regulation, the 2009-2010 Caps (54-15-13) that won the President’s Trophy.

Monday, February 08, 2016

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 52: Capitals at Predators, February 9th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!

The Washington Capitals, having played six of their last seven contests against Metropolitan Division rivals, take a respite from the divisional wars to undertake a three-city, five-day tour of the Central Division this week.  Their trip starts with a visit to Nashville to visit the Predators on Tuesday night.  The Predators, so named for their logo – a saber-toothed cat, the remains of one having been discovered in an excavation of a site in 1971 that later became the site of an office tower named for a series of banks…

“Did you know that the saber-toothed cat is of the extinct genus, ‘Smilodon,’ cousin?

Why no, Fearless, I didn’t.

“Yeah, and that’s Donald Trump’s nickname, too…’Smilin’ Don’…”

“No, Cheerless, ‘smilodon’…smigh…low…don, not ‘Smilin’ Don’…”

“Whatever…but Don sure smiles a lot…”

Guys, can we?  The Predators come into this contest looking as if they have righted a ship that was listing in early January.

“Was that ship named the ‘Smilin’ Don?’”

Ugh…no, Cheerless, it was not.  Anyway, since the Predators suffered a 2-6-2 slump to close 2015 and open 2016, they are 5-2-0 in their last seven games and have taken over the first wild card spot in the Western Conference playoff race.  They have done so without resorting to scratching out close decisions.  In outscoring their opponents by a 21-13 margin, three of the wins were by margins of three or more goals.  Oh yes, they did have a pair of one-goal decisions in there, too.

In putting together that 5-2-0 record, the Predators have been able to do something Caps have not over the last couple of weeks – score on the power play.  Not with great regularity, perhaps, but they are 4-for-24 in those seven games (16.7 percent).  Their penalty kill had been perfect in 16 shorthanded situations over the first five games of this stretch, but they were 5-for-8 in their last two contest (a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and a win over the San Jose Sharks) to go 21-for-24 overall (87.5 percent).

Ryan Johansen has been just about everything the Predators and their fans might have hoped for when he was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Sean Jones in early January.  In 13 games with the Predators, Johansen is 4-10-14, plus-5, that plus-minus already ranking third on the team, and his three power play goals is tied for third on the club.  Over the Preds’ 5-2-0 run of late, Johansen leads the team in total points (2-5-7).  He is 4-5-9, even, in 12 career games against Washington.

Shea Weber is in his 11th season in the NHL.  In his previous ten seasons he received votes for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman eight times and was a finalist in the voting three times.  Alas, he has not yet won the award.  He is a bit of a throwback.  In an age that seems to prefer the offensive talents of an Erik Karlsson (a two-time winner) or the electricity of a P.K. Subban (the 2013 winner), Weber is that old-timey two way defenseman who can beat you with a booming shot from the point in the offensive end or by clearing you out in the corner in the defensive end.  This season, he is fifth among all NHL defensemen in goals, eighth in points, and 18th in credited hits.  Since he came into the league in 2005-2006, no defenseman in the league has more goals (160), and he ranks seventh in credited hits.  He is also 3-3-6 over the Predators’ last seven games to lead the team’s defensemen in scoring.  In ten career games against the Caps, Weber is 3-6-9, plus-5.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne is another of those often-close-but-no-cigar trophy candidates.  He was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender in three of the last five seasons, one of the seasons in which he was not have largely been lost to injury.  There is a hint of inconsistency in his game from season to season, though.  In his three Vezina finalist seasons he posted an aggregate save percentage of .925.  In the two in which he did not, his save percentage was .907.  So far this season, Rinne’s save percentage is .904, which would be his career low as the Predators’ full-time number one netminder.  He does, however, come into this game on something of a roll.  Appearing in six of the Predators’ games over the 5-2-0 run, he is 4-2-0, 2.01, .921, and has allowed a single goal in four of those games.  Despite being in his tenth season with the Predators, Rinne has only two career appearances against the Caps, both of them wins, with a 2.00 goals against average and a .941 save percentage.

Here is how the teams compare overall:


1.  If shot suppression means something, the Predators are a suppressive lot.  They are allowing the fewest shots on goal per game in the league (26.5).  Their plus-4.1 shot differential per game is second in the league to the Montreal Canadiens (plus-4.2).

2.  Nashville does not do a very good job of coming back late in games.  Their .100 winning percentage when trailing after two periods (2-15-3) is tied for the sixth-worst record in that statistic in the league.

3.  The Predators are the only team in the league having two defenseman with ten or more goals – Shea Weber (14) and Roman Josi (10).  They also happen to be the only team in the league having two defensemen with at least five power play goals – Weber (10) and Josi (6).

4.  Keeping things close suits the Predators, their recent record notwithstanding.  In multi-goal decisions, the Predators are 13-13.  In one-goal decisions they are 12-7-8.

5.  The shot suppression turns into rather impressive possession numbers at home for the Predators.  Their overall Corsi-for at 5-on-5 (55.0) ranks third in the league.  They finished above 60 percent 12 times in 26 home games this season (numbers from war-on-ice.com).

1.  Washington is one of five teams with six players topping the 30-point mark (Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Marcus Johansson, and Justin Williams).  Carolina, Chicago, Florida, and Ottawa are the others.

2.  The Capitals have gone five games without a power play goal, the first time they went that long without one since Games 44-48 in mid-January of the 2013-2014 season.

3.  Washington and Dallas are the only teams in the league with two players averaging at least a point a game (minimum: 20 games played).  Evgeny Kuznetsov (1.04) and Nicklas Backstrom (1.00) for the Caps, Jamie Benn (1.11) and Tyler Seguin (1.06) for the Stars.

4.  If the Caps can shake their power play blues and finish the season in first place in power play efficiency (they currently hold that position), it would make three seasons in four that the Caps led the league in power play efficiency.  The dominance of the Caps’ power play over the last three-plus seasons is stunning.  Their aggregate efficiency is 24.7 percent, far ahead of the second-place club (Pittsburgh: 21.6 percent).  They have 210 power play goals scored in that span to 189 for the Penguins.

5.  After a stretch of nine road games in which the Caps were under 50 percent Corsi-for at 5-on-5 (43.1 percent overall), they are 51.0 percent to the good over their last nine road contests (numbers from war-on-ice.com).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Nashville: Mike Ribeiro

Mike Ribeiro played in his 1,000th NHL game last Saturday when the Predators defeated the San Jose Sharks, 6-2.  It was a highlight in a season that does not rank among his best.  With six goals in 53 games he is on a pace to finish with fewer than ten goals over a season for the first time since 2002-2003, when he had five goals in 52 games for the Montreal Canadiens.  He is averaging less than a shot on goal per game for the first time since he had no shots in two games with the Canadiens in 2000-2001.  Never very good at taking faceoffs (only once in 15 seasons did he finish over 50 percent), he has been awful in that area this season, winning 38.7 percent of the 499 draws he has taken.  Among 135 players taking at least 250 draws, only Vancouver’s Jared McCann (34.5 percent) and the New York Rangers’ Kevin Hayes (33.2 percent) have been worse.  Ribeiro is 2-9-11, plus-3, in 22 career games against the Caps.

Washington: Mike Richards

Mike Richards has been a Washington Capital for eight games.  In that span of competition he has yet to register a point.  But when a player has as much experience as Richards, he can contribute in other ways.  For instance, he is 50.8 percent Corsi-for at 5-on-5 over those eight games.  He has won 54.5 percent of the faceoffs he has taken, a plus in the absence of Jay Beagle in that regard.  He has only been on ice for four goals against over those eight games.  He averaged 1:55 in shorthanded ice time per game, fourth among forwards.  Goals and points are important, but so is the detail work that serves as the mortar for the bricks in a successful season.  Richards is 6-4-10, minus-3, in 17 career games against Nashville.

In the end…

In a way, this week is a measuring stick for the Caps.  Three capable Western Conference opponents, two of whom they have yet to face this season, including the Predators (the Minnesota Wild are the other).  The Caps have a sparse history of games in Nashville, and what they have is not awe-inspiring (4-5-1-1.  They have not won in Nashville since October 2010, a 3-2 overtime win that featured goals from Alexander Semin and Tomas Fleischmann, plus an overtime winner by Brooks Laich.  The Caps have not won a game in regulation in Nashville since March 2008, a game in which Jason Arnott and Martin Erat played…for the Preds, before they became Capitals.  It’s been a while.  But, as we all know by this time, these are not those Capitals, and that will make for a happier ending than the team usually has in Tennessee.

Capitals 3 – Predators 2

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Washington Capitals Recap: A TWO-Point Afternoon: Capitals 3 - Flyers 2

The Washington Capitals made it a “super” Super Bowl weekend by completing a sweep of back-to-back games, beating the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-2, on Sunday afternoon.

Just as they did when the clubs met on the Verizon Center ice sheet on January 27th, the Caps spotted the Flyers the first goal.  Shayne Gostisbehere faked a shot from the right point and sent the puck across to Michael Del Zotto at the opposite point.  Del Zotto fired a shot that hit defenseman Matt Niskanen’s skate on the way through, bending the shot just enough to elude goalie Braden Holtby and give the Flyers a 1-0 lead with just 1:39 left in the first period.

That lead stood up well into the second period, but did not hold up to the end of the middle frame.  With less than five minutes to go in the second period the Caps tied the contest.  After a faceoff in the Flyer end, T.J. Oshie hounded Radko Gudas into sending the puck around the boards in a clearing attempt.  The puck made it only to Karl Alzner at the left point, who gathered up the puck and whipped it toward the Flyer net.  On the way through, Alex Ovechkin managed to get the blade of his stick on the puck and redirect it past goalie Steve Mason to make it 1-1 at the 15:56 mark.

Barely a minute later, the Caps had the lead.  Andre Burakovsky walked the puck up the wall in the Flyers’ zone and fed Dmitry Orlov in the middle of the ice.  Orlov stepped around Brayden Schenn, whose stick broke, and Nick Cousins tried to annoy Orlov from behind.  Orlov would have none of it, circling in and firing a shot that beat Mason to the stick side to give the Caps a 2-1 lead at 17:05 of the period.

It took the Flyers less than a minute of the third period to tie the game, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare winning a faceoff back to Nick Schultz at the left point.  Schultz fired the puck through a maze of bodies and beat Holtby on the glove side 51 seconds into the period.

The game-winner came on what Caps fans might call end-to-end magic by Matt Niskanen, what Flyers fans might describe as $#@%ed up defense.   Niskanen collected a loose puck and started up ice.  He made it all the way to the Flyers’ blue line where he darted between Jakub Voraceka and Wayne Simmonds.  Continuing forward, he worked his way between Gostisbehere and Del Zotto and found himself on the doorstep.  He flipped the puck under Mason’s left arm, and the Caps had a 3-2 lead at the 5:24 mark.

That left things in the capable hands of Braden Holtby, who slammed the door over the last 14 minutes, and the Caps had a 3-2 win.

Other stuff…

-- The Caps hit the 80-point mark in their 51st game.  Last season they did not get there until Game 65.  In fact, the earliest the Caps reached the 80-point mark before this season was in 2009-2010, when they hit the 80-point mark in Game 55 on their way to a 121-point season and the Presidents Trophy for the league’s best record.

-- Andre Burakovsky’s assist gave him points in seven straight games (6-3-9), although his goal-scoring streak ended at five games.

-- Alex Ovechkin scored his 30th goal, making him the third player in NHL history to record 30 or more goal in each of his first 11 seasons.   Wayne Gretzky and Mike Gartner are the others.  Ovechkin is the only one to do it with one franchise.

-- Dmitry Orlov’s goal gave him 19 points on the season, tying his career high set in his rookie season of 2011-2012.

-- Matt Niskanen’s goal was his first game-winning goal as a Capital.  He also led the team with seven shots on goal, a season high for him, set just five days after his previous season high, five shots on goal against the Florida Panthers.

-- Karl Alzner had his first two-assist game of the season.  It was his first two-assist game since he had a pair in a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 16, 2014.

-- Odd fact…three centers did not have a shot attempt: Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Richards, and Michael Latta.

-- This was the third straight game in which Braden Holtby allowed two goals.  His save percentage over those three games (.929) is his season save percentage (.929).

-- The Caps went 0-for-2 on the power play, making it 0-for-17 over their last five games.

-- Washington was a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, the first time this season they held an opponent without a power play goal when facing five or more shorthanded situations.

In the end…

The Capitals have opened up a 17-point lead on the rest of the Metropolitan Division with every other team having played as many or more games than the Caps.  They are now 7-0-2 in their last nine division games.  Now they face a different kind of test.  They go on the road to face three Central Division teams – the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, and Dallas Stars – teams that are a combined 47-24-6 on home ice.  This might be the Caps’ biggest test of the season coming up.

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was -- Week 17

Week 17 was a topsy-turvy week for the Washington Capitals, starting with an unpleasant loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers, followed up by a gritty win over the New York Islanders, and ending with a lose-a-lead-come-from-behind trick shot win over the New Jersey Devils.  It was a week that had just about everything.  Well, almost everything.


Record: 2-1-0

The Capitals returned to their weekly winning ways in Week 17 after a .500 record in Week 16.  They now have 15 winning weeks and two .500 weeks so far this season.  It was not an outcome won easily, though.  The week started with a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers that might some cause for concern.  After beating the Panthers in their first meeting of the season, a 2-1 overtime win in Florida, the Caps have lost both meetings since by a combined 9-3 margin.

The Caps followed up that defeat with a couple of come-from behind wins.  They spotted the New York Islanders the game’s first goal before overcoming the deficit in a 3-2 win.  Then, the Caps lost a 1-0 lead by allowing a pair of third period goals, tying the game late on Paul Carey’s first NHL goal.  The more skilled Caps then won in a trick shot competition, 3-2, their third win in the Gimmick in four tries this season.


Offense:  2.33/game (season: 3.26 /game; rank: 1st)

It was a light week for the league’s top scoring offense.  Who they faced in goal had a lot to do with that.  The Caps opened the week against a hot goalie in Florida’s Al Montoya, who was 5-1-0, 1.74, .933, in his previous eight appearances.  They ended the week against an all-star goalie in Cory Schneider.  In between they faced nemesis Jaroslav Halak.  In retrospect, a comparatively light week in goal scoring was not surprising.

The Caps were lied in goals by Andre Burakovsky, who had goals in each of the week’s three games to extend his goal-scoring streak to five games, a career high.  He was joined by Nicklas Backstrom (1-2-3) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (0-3-3) with three-point weeks to lead the team. 

It was a week in which the Caps lacked for secondary scoring.  The top line had three goals, Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, and Backstrom each recording one.  The second line had Burakovsky’s three goals.  The bottom six, however, could only contribute Carey’s game-tying goal in the contest in New Jersey for the week.  The defense did not contribute and goals and had single assists from only Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen.

Defense: 3.00/game (season: 2.24 /game; rank: 2nd)

The week might have been a lot worse but for the fact that the Caps did a good job in limiting shots on goal.  They allowed their three opponents just 69 shots on goal for the week (23.0 per game), the first time they held three consecutive opponents under 30 shots since Games 15-17 in mid-November.  In only one of the nine regulation periods for the week did the Caps allow a double-digit shot total (12 in the third period against the Islanders). 

An odd thing about the goals against on-ice for the Caps.  By the time the Panthers had a 3-0 lead in the first 21 minutes of the first game of the week, 13 different skaters were on ice for the Caps for the goals allowed, the maximum (the Panthers scored one of those goals on a 5-on-3 power play).  For the week, John Carlson and Nate Schmidt had a difficult time of it, being on ice for five goals against and four goals against, respectively.

The Caps had a pretty good week in terms of possession, although on an individual game basis it was more feast or famine.  Washington book-ended a 37.0 percent Corsi-for effort at 5-on-5 against the Islanders (their second-worst of the season) with a pair of 60-plus percent games (67.2 percent in the loss to Florida and 62.3 percent against the Devils to close the week).  Overall they were 53.5 percent to the good and finished the week 14th overall in Corsi-for at 5-on-5 (50.5 percent (numbers from war-on-ice.com).

Goaltending: 2.61 /.882 (season: 2.12 / .926 / 2 shutouts)

Uneven is perhaps the best description of goaltending for the week overall.  Looking at it by goaltender, it was a good week for Braden Holtby (2-0-0, 1.92, .920), not so good for Philipp Grubauer.  Perhaps it was time after a string of fine performances by Grubauer that he would struggle, as hard as it is for a backup goaltender to get into any comfortable playing rhythm.  But struggle Grubauer did against the Panthers in the first game of the week, allowing four goals on 14 shots in two periods (18 shots faced for the game).

As for Holtby, the good overall mark could have been better had he been sharper in the third periods of games.  He was a combined 13-for-14 for the week in the first period (.929 save percentage), a perfect 14-for-14 in the second period, but just 17-for-20 in the third period (.850).

Power Play: 0-for-13 / 0.0 percent (season: 24.5 percent; rank: 1st)

What else does one call an 0-for-13 week than a bad one.  Thirteen opportunities with the man-advantage over three games is a luxury for the Caps these days (they rank 22nd in total power play opportunities), and to have taken the collar on the week is opportunity lost.  Part of the problem was timing.  The Caps enjoyed eight power play chances in against Florida in the first game of the week, a season high in opportunities.  However, they were missing their most potent power play goal-scoring weapon with Alex Ovechkin serving a suspension for missing the All-Star game.  He was on hand for the last two games of the week in which the Caps combined for five opportunities, but it did not make any difference in the end.

As it was, the Caps were not very efficient with their man advantage.  They managed just 11 shots on goal in 21:15 of power play time for the week (0.52 shots per minute).  None of those shots on goal were registered by Ovechkin.  John Carlson led the team with three power play shots on goal.  In a week in which there was almost everything for the Caps, a successful power play was not in the basket.


Penalty Killing: 5-for-8 / 62.5 percent (season: 83.5 percent; rank: 5th)

It was not a good week on the other side of special teams, either.  The 5-for-8 week extended a string of lackluster performance that have reached a combined 21-for-28 (75 percent) over their last eight games.  They have allowed at least one power play goal in six of those eight games.  Two of the power play goals against came against the Panthers in four chances, and the Caps tightened up a bit to kill three of four to end the week.  In that sense the week was another case of opportunity lost, holding opponents to under three chances a game over all and still allowing three goals.


Faceoffs: 86-for-176 / 48.9 percent (season: 50.1% / rank: 16th)

The Caps did not have a bad week in the circle in Week 17 until you look at how the results fell out among the players.  The scoring line centers – Nicklas Backstrom (42.3 percent) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (47.4 percent) – combined to go 40-for-90 on draws for the week (44.4 percent).  The centers taking most of the draws on the bottom six – Mike Richards (51.4 percent) and Zach Sill (52.9 percent) – combined to go 27-for-52 (51.9 percent).

Then there were the results by zone.  The Caps managed to go one-better than 50 percent in the neutral zone (31-for-61/50.8 percent), but did not reach that threshold in either of the ends, going 34-for-69 (49.3 percent) in the offensive zone and 21 for 46 (45.7 percent) in the defensive zone.  It was not a bad week, but the weakness (and the absence of the very proficient Jay Beagle) was felt in the end of overtime against the Devils when Evgeny Kuznetsov and Mike Richards lost consecutive draws to Adam Henrique in a span of six seconds in the last 15 seconds of the period that led to dangerous situations for the Caps.  T.J. Oshie finally put an end to that, winning a draw with Henrique with four seconds left to push the game to the Gimmick, where the Caps prevailed.

Goals by Period:

It is not often that the Caps fail to win a period for a week, but it happened in Week 17.  They were outscored in the first periods of games, 3-1, a product of that week-opening game against Florida in which they were outscored, 2-0.  They held their own in the other two periods overall and kep the Devils from securing an extra standings point in an overtime period, but the best that can be said for that is that they ground out a winning week in spite of it.


In the end…

It is a hallmark of a good team when they can grind out wins when things do not come easy.  Little came easy for the Caps in Week 17.  They were missing their top goal scorer in the first game of the week, couldn’t score a power play goal in more than a dozen chances for the week, and had to deal with an annoyingly suffocating defense against the Devils to close the week.  And, they were still missing their top faceoff player (Jay Beagle), a top pair defenseman (Brooks Orpik), and a solid contributor in the offensive end (Marcus Johansson).  Still, the Caps came out of the week with two wins in three tries.  They now seem to have their skating legs back under them, a good thing given that in the coming week they will play four games, a matinee at home against the Philadelphia Flyers followed by a three-game trip to Nashville, Minnesota, and Dallas.  It will be quite a test.

Three Stars:
  • First Star: Andre Burakovsky (3-0-3, plus-1, 13 shots on goal, 15 shot attempts, 4-for-8 on faceoffs)
  • Second Star: Nicklas Backstrom (1-2-3, even, 21:32 average ice time, 11-for-21 in offensive zone draws)
  • Third Star: Evgeny Kuznetsov (0-3-3, plus-1, 9 shots on goal, 14 shot attempts)


The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 51: Flyers at Capitals, February 7th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

No rest for the wicked, or more precisely, the filthy, as in the freestyle goal scorers in the Washington Capitals’s 3-2 Gimmick win over the New Jersey Devils yesterday.  T.J. Oshie and Alex Ovechkin made sure the Caps had a happy Saturday, but now they return home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday at Verizon Center.

The Caps dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the Flyers on January 27th and will be looking for a measure of payback.  The Flyers come into Washington having played a Gimmick game of their own yesterday, dropping a 3-2 decision to the New York Rangers in Philadelphia.  The loss snapped a three-game winning streak that started with that win over the Caps 11 days ago.

In those four games, the Flyers outscored their opponents by a 16-10 margin, the 16-goal output being a bit unusual for a club ranked 25th in scoring offense (2.38 goals per game).  The Flyers are led in goal scoring over those four games by Wayne Simmonds (four), but he was hit with a match penalty in yesterday’s game against the Rangers for intent to injure Ryan McDonagh.  The match penalty means Simmonds is suspended until the Department of Player Safety issues a ruling on his actions on the ice.

That leaves Brayden Schenn as the top goal scorer over the last four games (three) who is likely to take the ice this afternoon.  Schenn has become something of a reliable half-point a game player for the Flyers, having hit or topped that threshold in each of the last four seasons, including this one.  He has been an even more productive player of late, going 4-3-7 over his last six games.  Schenn is 2-5-7, minus-3, in 17 career games against the Caps.

Shayne Gostisbehere has more than twice as many points from the blue line than any other Flyer defenseman, and he has done it in just 32 games.  He is also leading all rookie defensemen in goals (nine), assists (17), and points (26), despite playing in 20 fewer games (32) than the second-place rookie scorer among defensemen (St. Louis’ Colton Parayko: 6-13-19).  He is 1-5-6 in the Flyers’ last four games to lead their defense in scoring, including a pair of assists in the 4-3 win over the Caps on January 27th in his only career appearance against Washington.

Michal Neuvirth won that overtime decision over the Caps 11 days ago, and since Steve Mason got the call in yesterday’s loss to the Rangers, he might have been called upon again for this game.  However, he is out with a groin injury, and Anthony Stolarz was recalled from Lehigh Valley in the AHL to fill in.  He has not yet appeared in an NHL game. 

That might leave things up to Mason in the end.  He stopped 26 of 28 shots in the shootout loss yesterday.  He has been solid of late, going 4-2-2, 2.22, .932, with a shutout over his last eight appearances.  He is 7-4-2, 2.83, .904, with two shutouts in 14 career appearances against the Capitals.

Here is how the teams compare overall…


1. The Flyers have allowed the second-highest number of shots per game in the league (32.4).

2.  No team has taken fewer leads into the first intermission than the Flyers.  They are 7-1-0 in those instances, but eight leads at the first intermission is far behind Toronto, with the second-fewest instances (12).

3.  Not that the Flyers do all that well when they score first, either.  Their .640 winning percentage in such games (16-6-3) ranks just 23rd in the league.

4.  If the Caps’ power play is going to get well, it might come at Philadelphia’s expense. The Flyers rank 24th in road penalty killing efficiency (78.5 percent).

5.  Philadelphia is not an especially good team on the road in terms of possession, but neither are they especially bad.  Their 49.2 percent Corsi-for at 5-on-5 overall ranks 12th in the league (numbers from war-on-ice.com).

1.  Winter Storm Jonas seems to have swept the “power” out of the Caps’ power play.  Before the storm hit, the Caps had been on a 10-for-29 run over nine games (34.5 percent).  Since the storm, and the postponed games against Anaheim and Pittsburgh, the Caps are 0-for-15 in four contests.

2.  Penalty killing has not been a lot better lately.  The Caps allowed a power play goal to the New Jersey Devils yesterday, making it six games in their last eight in which they allowed at least one power play goal.  Their penalty kill over those eight games is 21-for-28 (75.0 percent).  Their special teams index over their last four games (power play efficiency plus penalty kill efficiency) is 69.2.

3.  The Caps come into this game as a top-ten team in goals scored in each of the three regulations periods, 43 in the first period (6th), 55 in the second period (55), and 62 in the third period (2nd).

4.  The Caps remain the only team in the league to have allowed 40 or fewer goals in each of the three regulation periods (36 in the first, 33 in the second, and 40 in the third).

5.  Your odd Corsi fact for the day… the Caps are 9-1-1 in the last 11 games in which they were below 50 percent in Corsi-for overall (numbers from war-on-ice.com).  This is not likely a sustainable outcome.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Philadelphia: Jakub Voracek

Jakub Voracek scored the game-winning overtime goal against the Caps on January 27th.  Starting with that game, Voracek is 2-6-8 to lead the Flyers in overall points during that span.  He has closed to within two points (8-34-42) of Claude Giroux (16-28-44) for the team lead in total scoring, and his 34 assists is tied for seventh in the league overall.  He comes into this game on a six-game points streak (3-8-11) and is 7-20-27 in his last 21 games.  He is 11-7-16, plus-7, in 23 career games against the Caps.

Washington:  Andre Burakovsky

When Andre Burakovsky nudged a loose puck past New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider in yesterday’s win, it was his fifth consecutive game with a goal.  Until this streak he had not had consecutive games with a goal in his young career.  It is not just his goal scoring that make him one of the hottest players in the league.  He has points in six straight games and in eight of his last nine contests (6-6-12), four multi-point games among them.  That stretch included a ten-shots on goal effort in the Caps’ 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers five days ago, a career high in shots.  He is 2-0-2, plus-1, in four career games against the Flyers.

In the end…

Both teams are coming off trick shot games yesterday.  The Caps have the advantage of having slept in their own beds last night and have some incentive to repay the Flyers for the overtime loss they suffered in the last week in January.  They will be facing a team that has been hot at the offensive end of the ice in recent games, and this could put a premium on the Caps finding a way out of their power play slump.  The Caps have been a particularly resilient team of late, though, fighting off power play issues and unimpressive possession numbers to chug along with a 4-1-1 record in their last six games.  Good teams find a way to get things done when some of the particulars aren’t going so well.  The Caps, through those speed bumps and potholes, have been a pretty good team.

Capitals 4 – Flyers 2

Friday, February 05, 2016

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 50: Capitals at Devils, February 6th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Fresh off their 3-2 win over the New York Islanders on Thursday night, the Washington Capitals head to the Prudential Center in Newark to take on the New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon.  This will be the Capitals’ first visit to “The Rock” this season, and they will be looking to improve their record against New York City area teams from the 3-1-0 mark they have against the Rangers and Islanders on their ice so far this season.

The Caps got back to business in an important way in the win against the Isles on Thursday, holding an opponent to fewer than three goals after three straight games of allowing three or more, the first time they did so this season.

The stinginess might be returning just in time for Washington.  They will be facing a team that is 5-1-1 in their last seven games, outscoring their opponents by a 20-12 margin.  Over those games the Devils are 6-for-20 on the power play (30.0 percent) and 19-for-24 on the penalty kill (79.2 percent).

Holding their opponents to 12 goals in seven games is largely the product of the performance of Cory Schneider in goal.  He appeared in six of the seven games, posting a record of 5-1-0 with a 1.98 goals against average and a .946 save percentage.  Schneider, like his counterpart Braden Holtby for the Caps, ranks highly among the league’s netminders.  Among 36 goalies with at least 1,200 minutes played, Schneider ranks as follows:
  • Games Played: 43 (T-2nd)
  • Minutes: 2,569 (2nd)
  • Wins: 23 (T-6th)
  • Shots Faced: 1,224 (4th)
  • Saves: 1,137 (4th)
  • Goals-Against Average: 2.03 (3rd)
  • Save Percentage: .929 (6th)

Schneider has found New Jersey to his liking.  Since moving their from Vancouver for the 2013-2014 season, his .925 save percentage is second among 31 goalies appearing in at least 100 games (Carey Price is first: .931).  His goals against average of 2.11 tops that group.  What he has not done is beat the Caps with any regularity.  In eight career appearances against Washington, Schneider is 3-4-1, 2.22, .918, with one shutout.  He has had particularly bad luck against the Caps in a Devils’ sweater.  In six appearances he is 3-3-0, 1.93, .933, but he has held the Caps to one or no goals in four of those six appearances.

In their 5-1-1 run, 16 different skaters recorded points for the Devils.  And it is a bit of an odd list, one with names the might be unfamiliar to Caps fans who have followed this rivalry over the years.  Take Joseph Blandisi.  A sixth-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2012, he was ultimately not offered a contract by the Avalanche and was re-entered into the 2014 draft.  He was not selected, but he signed a three-year entry level deal with the Devils in January 2015 and later that year had the honor of finishing second to Connor McDavid in voting for the Ontario Hockey League’s most outstanding player.  He worked his way up to the Devils this past December, and after a slow start has come on of late.  His five assists over the last seven games ties for most in that span with Travis Zajac, and he is 2-5-7 overall in those games.  This will be his first career appearance against the Caps.

Then there is David Schlemko.  An eight year veteran who spent his first seven seasons knocking around the Western Conference (six seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes, then three teams – the Coyotes, Dallas Stars, and Calgary Flames – last season), the defenseman had not produced much in the way of offensive numbers.  In 231 games coming into this season he was 9-41-50.  However, in 44 games with the Devils he has a career high in goals (six) and points (15).  Over the Devils’ last seven games he is 2-4-6.  In three career games against Washington, Schlemko has one assist.

Here is how the teams compare overall:


1.  New Jersey is the only team in the league this season not to have lost a game in regulation when scoring first.  The odd part of that is they rank only eighth in winning percentage in those games (17-0-4/.810).

2.  Only one team has more losses in regulation when allowing the first goal than the Devils.  Their 20 losses in 35 such games is one less than the Columbus Blue Jackets in 30 such games.

3.  New Jersey has had only 76 power play opportunities on home ice, the fifth fewest in the league.

4.  Only the Arizona Coyotes (10) have allowed more shorthanded goals against than the Devils (7).

5.  New Jersey is probably going to struggle making the playoff-eight in the Eastern Conference if they do not improve their possession numbers, particularly on the road.  The Devils rank 28th of 30 teams in Corsi-for overall in road games (45.1 percent; numbers from war-on-ice.com).

1.  This will be the 200th regular season meeting between these two clubs.  In 199 previous meetings the Caps hold a 99-74-13-13 edge.

2.  It has been almost 18 years since the Caps won as many as five games in a row in this rivalry.  They did it in December 1987 – March 1988.  They can do it again on Saturday afternoon.

3.  Both of these teams came into the NHL in the 1974-1975 season, the Devils doing so as the Kansas City Scouts before becoming the Colorado Rockies, then moving to New Jersey in 1982.  Strangely enough, the Capitals have more franchise regular season wins than the Devils (1,451 to 1,372).  The Caps also have more 50-win seasons (3-1).  The Devils lead the Caps in Stanley Cups, 3-0.

4.  The Caps have scored more power play goals on the road this season (38) than any other team in the league, despite having the ninth fewest number of chances (152).

5. The Capitals have shown a glimmier of lifting themselves out of the possession funk they have been in for a couple of months, at least at home.  In their last seven home games they have an aggregate overall Corsi-for of 53.4 percent, an improvement over the 48.0 percent they had in the preceding eight home contests (numbers from war-on-ice.com).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New Jersey: Lee Stempniak

New Jersey has been the fountain of youth for right winger Lee Stempniak.  In 52 games with the Devils this season he has 15 goals (third on the club), as many as he had last season in 71 games with the New York Rangers and Winnipeg Jets, and more than he has had in any other season since he had 19 for the Phoenix Coyotes in 2010-2011.  His 38 points this season is eclipsed only by his 52-point campaign with the St. Louis Blues in 2007-2008.  He is the leading goal scorer and point producer for the Devils in their recent 5-1-1 run (5-3-8).  In 16 career games against the Capitals, Stempniak is 4-6-10, plus-1.

Washington: Jason Chimera

It would surprise no one to know that since the 2004-2005 lockout, Alex Ovechkin leads all current Capitals (and non-current ones, too) in goals scored against the New Jersey Devils (18 in 38 games).  It might surprise some folks that Jason Chimera is second on that list (nine goals in 21 games).  This game might set up nicely for Chimera, and not just for the opponent he will be facing.  Of his 13 goals scored this season, ten have been on the road, including six of his last seven tallies.  Oh, and the Caps are 12-0-1 in games in which he recorded a goal so far this season.  Career-wise, Chimera is 9-2-1, plus-6, in 26 games against New Jersey.

In the end…

The Capitals prevented a Metropolitan Division rival from inching closer when they dispatched the Islanders on Thursday night.  They have the chance to do so once more on Saturday afternoon against a team that is tied with the Isles in points (although the Islanders have three games in hand against the Devils).  However, if not exactly a “trap” game, this contest does pose a challenge as the first in a set of back-to-back games, the second of which will be played against a Flyers team that beat the Caps ten days ago.  If the Caps look past this team just the slightest, they could be in for a Devil of a time.

Capitals 2 – Devils 1