Friday, December 15, 2017

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 34: Ducks at Capitals, December 16th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up a bit of an odd stretch of their schedule on Saturday night when their alternating home-road-home-road-home itinerary comes to an end as they host the Anaheim Ducks.  The Ducks will come to Washington with their own slant on an alternating schedule, having alternated wins and losses in their last four games (2-0-2).

This game pits two teams on opposite ends of a strange continuum.  The Caps are tied for the fewest losses in the league in extra time games (one), while the Ducks are tied for the most losses in such games (seven).

The Ducks have not been an especially successful team on the road, either.  They have six wins in 14 road games.  Only five teams have fewer road wins in games played through Thursday night.  Their difficulties have not been on the defensive side, where they have allowed fewer goals than all but six teams.  Their problems have been in scoring goals on the road, their 37 goals scored being more than just five other clubs, and four of those teams have played fewer road games.

What makes the Ducks’ road show even less appealing is the fact that Corey Perry – their leading goal scorer (four, tied with two teammates) and point producer (ten) on the road – is out “week to week” with an apparent knee injury suffered against the Carolina Hurricanes on December 11th

Perry’s absence might mean guys like Rickard Rakell and Kevin Roy, who are tied with Perry for the team lead in road goals, need to raise their production.  Rakell has demonstrated an ability to score goals, his total jumping from nine in 71 games in 2014-2015 to 20 goals two seasons ago to 33 goals last year.  He is bit off that pace this year, though, with just eight goals in 26 games overall.  Rakell started the seasons smartly with five goals in his first ten games, but he has since cooled off, recording just three goals in his last 16 games.  He does have four goals in eight road games, so there is that.  Rakell is 1-0-1, even, in five career games against Washington.

Kevin Roy is at the other end of the experience spectrum.  He is in his rookie season with the Ducks, a former fourth-round draft pick (2012) who did not start the year with the parent club.  He was called up for the first time on November 9th, whereupon he started slowly with one goal in his first nine games.  However, he heated up some after that, posting five goals in his last seven games, including a pair in Anaheim’s 3-1 win over St. Louis on Thursday.  He did have a history as a consistent goal scorer when he was at Northeastern University, posting seasons of 17, 19, 17, and 10 (in fewer games played) as a member of the Huskies.  This will be Roy’s first appearance against the Caps.

Brandon Montour leads the Duck defensemen in scoring on the road so far this season (3-5-8), and he leads all Duck skaters in road plus-minus (plus-9, tied for sixth-best in the league).  He does show signs of cooling down on the road, though.  He was 3-1-4 in his first four road contests this season, but he is 0-4-4 in his last eight games on the road.  It is, perhaps, part of the ups and downs that goes with being a second-year player in the NHL.  He already has eclipsed his games played total of last season (30 compared to 27 last year) and has career highs in goals-assists-points (6-10-16).  He was something of a scorer in the AHL, so his production at this level comes as less of a surprise.  He was 26-73-00 in 118 games over three seasons in the AHL with Norfolk and San Diego.  He does not have a point, but he is plus-1 in two career games against the Caps.

1.  Anaheim does have an efficient power play on the road.  Their 24.2 percent on the man advantage in road games ranks sixth in the league.  Their penalty kill is also a top-ten team on the road (83.3 percent/10th)

2.  The Ducks have a strange record in one-goal games, winning seven and losing eight.  The thing with those eight losses is that seven of them are in extra time, only one in regulation.  Only Winnipeg has none such losses in regulation so far.  The Ducks would much rather a blowout.  Their 5-3 record in such games is tied for the seventh-best winning percentage in the league (.625).

3.  Only four teams have fewer wins this season when leading after the first period than Anaheim (5).  Florida (4), Arizona (4), Calgary (3),and Buffalo (1) are the unfortunates. 

4.  The Ducks are one of just four teams without a goal scored in overtime.  Detroit, Vancouver, and Winnipeg are the others.

5.  When the Ducks were a Stanley Cup contender a decade ago, they had the reputation of being a rambunctious team comfortable playing outside the rules.  That does not seem to have changed much.  Anaheim ranks second in penalty minutes per game (11:52), trailing only Nashville (13:56).

1.  If urgency can be reflected in possession numbers, such is the case with the Caps on home ice.  Their shot attempts-for percentage overall in home games ranks 24th in the league (48.0 percent).  The ranking is a bit better when they are ahead in home games (45.60 percent/18th).  However, when behind on home ice their 58.6 percent ranks fifth.

2.  Nevertheless, the Caps have done a better job lately of holding down shots on goal on home ice.  They held five of their last seven opponents at Capital One Arena under 30 shots, two of them (San  Jose and Colorado) to 25 or fewer.

3.  The Caps in recent years have had a very good power play at home.  This year’s edition could use improvement.  They rank 20th on the man advantage on home ice (17.2 percent).  After going 4-for-13 over a three-game stretch to open the December portion of their home schedule, they are 0-for-5 in their last two home games.

4.  On the other side, the penalty killers have been almost impenetrable recently on home ice.  They are 14-for-14 over their last six games at Capital One Arena.

5.  The Caps rank third in the league in wins by three or more goals with eight.  Three of their last five wins were by three or more goals, two others by two goals.  In fact, nine of their last ten wins have been by multi-goal margins.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Anaheim: John Gibson

John Gibson has developed into a solid, if as yet unspectacular goaltender for the Anaheim Ducks in his fifth NHL system.  He has been consistent, too.  Two seasons ago he posted a .920 save percentage in 40 games.  Last year he was .924 in 52 games.  This season he is squarely in that range at .922 through 25 appearances.  The difference for Gibson so far this season compared to the previous two is that while he had goals against averages of 2.07 two years ago and 2.22 last year, he has a goals against average of 2.83 this season, 28th of 48 goalies logging at least 500 minutes this season.  He is facing a lot more rubber.  Where he faced 28.9 shots per 60 minutes over the previous two seasons, he is facing 36.4 shots per 60 minutes so far this season.   He has already faced more than 40 shots six times this season, second-most in the league to Calgary’s Mike Smith (seven times).  In three career appearances against the Caps, Gibson is 0-2-1, 3.64, .888.

Washington: Braden Holtby

Braden Holtby has become perhaps the Capitals best weapon at home.  His 11 wins this season ranks second among 40 goalies with at least 250 minutes on home ice (tied with three other goalies), his goals against average ranks fifth (2.06), and his save percentage ranks second (.935).  In an odd reflection of his consistency, he is one of two goalies in the top ten in home save percentage without a shutout this season (Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray is the other).  But he has held five opponents to one goal on home ice, tied with Carey Price in the top spot.  He will be looking to tie his season high five-game winning streak on home ice.  Holtby is 2-1-0, 3.25, .878 in three career appearances against the Ducks.

In the end…

This is one of those rivalries that isn’t.  The Caps have faced the Ducks only 33 times in 24 years and hold a 16-15-1 advantage with one tie.  If anything, the Caps have been better in recent years, going 9-3-1 in their last 13 games against Anaheim dating back to November 2008.  They are teams going in somewhat different directions at the moment, the Caps one of, it not the hottest team in the league with an 8-2-0 record in their last ten games.  On the other side, Anaheim is just 4-2-4 in their last ten contests, although they have won two in a row.  They will not make it three.

Capitals 4 – Ducks 1

A TWO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 33: Capitals 5 - Bruins 3

The Washington Capitals extended their domination of the Boston Bruins to an eleventh straight game on Thursday night when they defeated the Bruins, 5-3, at TD Garden in Boston.  The 11 straight wins against the Bruins is one short of the club's longest winning streak against any single team (12 straight wins against the Tampa Bay Lightning from December 15, 2007 through December 7, 2009).  The longest unbeaten streak the Caps have against any single team in franchise history is 22 games against the New York Islanders (19 wins and three ties) from April 12, 1997 through March 30, 2002.

The teams went scoreless for the first 17 minutes, but the Caps broke through late in the first period when Jakub Vrana split the defense, skated in on goalie Anton Khudobin, and potted his 10th goal of the season at the 17:34 mark.

The teams exchanged power play goals to open the second period, the Bruins tying the score on a man advantage goal by Patrice Bergeron in the fifth minute of the period and the Caps taking the lead back on a power play eight minutes later when Nicklas Backstrom redirected an Evgeny Kuznetsov centering feed from the top of the crease.

Then it became the Alex Chiasson Show in what would be a wild third period. Chiasson opened the scoring in the frame at the 7:52 mark when he dug out a rebound from under Khudobin’s pads and stuffed it under him to give the Caps a 3-1 lead. Four minutes later, while killing a penalty, Chiasson picked up a loose puck at his own blue line and took off on a breakaway. He outraced Torey Krug the length of the ice and flipped a backhand over Khudobin’s right pad to make it 4-1, 11:31 into the period.

David Krejci cut the lead to two goals at the 16:20 mark, but Alex Ovechkin put it away two minutes later on an odd empty netter. From the right wing wall in his own end he tried to lead Tom Wilson with a cross ice pass. The puck was far out in front of Wilson though, caroming off the left wing side boards. The carom was perfect, though, as the puck slid the rest of the way and settled into the back of the net at the 18:31 mark.

Bergeron scored a window dressing goal for the Bruins with 27 seconds left, but it was far from enough as the Caps skated off with the 5-3 win.

Other stuff…

-- The Caps are now a perfect 20-0-0 against Boston in games that Nicklas Backstrom recorded a point.

-- Alex Chiasson had his first two-goal game since he recorded a pair against the Calgary Flames as a member of the Dallas Stars in a 5-1 win on October 24, 2013.

-- Alex Ovechkin’s 22nd goal of the season tied Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov for the league lead.

-- Matt NIskanen finished plus-3. He is plus-13 in his last ten games and is now tied for ninth in the league in that statistic (plus-14). With two assists, he had his first multi-point game of the season.

-- Four Caps did not record a shot attempt – Brett Connolly, Chandler Stephenson, Madison Bowey, and Devante Smith-Pelly.

-- Dmitry Orlov led the team in credited hits with five.

-- The Caps were schooled on faceoffs, Lars Eller the only player taking more than one draw finishing over 50 percent (7-for-13/53.8 percent).

-- Washington allowed the Bruins five power plays. It is the first time this season in ten games that they allowed an opponent five or more power plays and won in regulation (they have two extra time wins).

-- Boston dominated the shot attempts, finishing the game with a 74-55 edge.

-- Braden Holtby improved his career record against Boston to 13-2-0, 1.89, .942, with three shutouts.

In the end…

The Caps are 10-3-0 in their last 13 games with this win, and for the ninth time in that run posted a multi-goal win.  It has brought the Caps close enough to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the top of the Metropolitan Division to know what flavor chewing gum they are (that’s a “Hoosiers” reference…look it up).  The win over the Bruins sets up the Caps for a final home game before heading out on a four-game holiday road trip to the southwest and to Manhattan.  By the time the Caps return from that trip to host these same Boston Bruins, the standings in the Metro might look even better.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 33: Capitals at Bruins, December 14th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals, fresh off their fourth straight win on home ice – a 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night – try to break out of a road slump when they head to Boston to take on the Bruins on Thursday evening.

The Caps have lost four of their last five contests on the road and have yet to put together consecutive wins on the road this season in assembling a 6-7-1 record away from Capital One Arena. On the other side, the Bruins will bring a three-game home winning streak into this game after alternating wins and losses over their first 12 contests (6-4-2) at TD Garden.

Boston has had a very up-and-down record on defense at home this season. They allowed three or more goals in each of their first four home games this season, followed that up with allowing two or fewer in three straight, then allowed three or more in five consecutive games before clamping down in their three-game winning streak at home, allowing just four goals in all.

That brings us to goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has not been an especially consistent or efficient netminder at home, even if he has been “effective” as measured in his goals against average. Among 38 goalies logging at least 250 minutes on home ice through Tuesday’s games, Rask ranks just 22nd in save percentage (.915). He suffered from inconsistent performances at home over his first eight appearances at TD Garden this season, going 3-4-1, 2.62, .906 and failing to win consecutive decisions. He might be righting himself, at least on home ice, having gone 3-0-0, 1.33, .945 in his last three appearances at TD Garden. In 17 career appearances against the Caps, Rask is 1-10-5, 3.07, .889, with one shutout.

Given that this game will be the second of a back-to-back set for the Bruins (they play in Detroit against the Red Wings on Wednesday night), it could be Anton Khudobin getting the call. Khudobin has had numbers somewhat similar to Rask (a .922 save percentage overall to .912 for Rask, a 2.53 GAA to 2.43 for Rask), but he has skated in better luck with a 7-1-2 record in 11 appearances. And that loss in regulation only came in his last appearance when he allowed four goals on 14 shots in 24 minutes of work in a 5-3 loss to the Nashville Predators on December 4th. His luck appears to be especially evident on home ice, where he is 3-0-1, 2.97, .906, three of his appearances ending with save percentages under .900. In eight career appearances against the Caps, Khudobin is 4-3-1, 2.59, .919, with one shutout.

David Pastrnak has done the most damage at the offensive end at TD Garden so far this season, leading the team in home goals (eight) and points (14). He has points in each of his last five home contests (2-4-6, plus-3) and in seven of his last eight games at home (4-5-9, plus-1). It is part of a larger pattern of enjoying home cooking for Pastrnak, who has 41 goals in 96 career games at home (0.43 goals per game) versus 32 goals in 103 road games (0.31 goals per game). One indicator of how well the Bruins might be doing is in his ice time. Boston is just 2-4-1 in seven games in which he skated more than 20 minutes this season, but they have not lost when he logged less than 17 minutes (6-0-0). Pastrnak is 3-3-6, minus-4, in seven career games against Washington.

1.  Boston is very stingy about letting teams get shot attempts. They have allowed the fewest shot attempts at 5-on-5 in the league (1,133/42.0 per game).

2.  Only the New York Islanders have fewer losses in regulation when scoring first in games (none) than Boston (one, tied with three other teams through Tuesday’s games).

3.  Three teams in the NHL have not yet won a game (through Tuesday) when trailing after two periods. Boston is one of them. Nashville and Dallas are the others. That might seem odd since they have 49 wins among them.

4.  No team has more major penalties on home ice this season than the Bruins (eight).

5.  Boston is one of two teams in the league to have scored and allowed fewer than 30 goals this season in all of the three regulation periods of games (San Jose is the other).

1.  Washington has the second best goal differential in the first periods of games in the league at plus-9 (Winnipeg is plus-11).

2.  The Caps have the second-best road power play in the league (26.3 percent), trailing only Pittsburgh (31.4 percent). If only they had more chances; they rank 25th in power play opportunities on the road (38).

3.  The Caps have four players in double digits in points in road games this season – Alex Ovechkin (15), T.J. Oshie (15), Evgeny Kuznetsov (14), and Nicklas Backstrom (12). John Carlson could join that group with a point in this game.

4.  Speaking of Carlson, he and Brooks Orpik share a number they would probably not like to own on their own, let alone share. Both are minus-12 on the road, tied for sixth-worst among 748 skaters through Tuesday’s games.

5.  Washington has more wins when leading after one period (13) than any team in the league. Only two teams have more wins when leading after two period than the Caps (14) – St. Louis (17) and Tampa Bay (15). Intermissions matter, it would seem.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Boston: Brad Marchand

Brad Marchand, villain and despised player in 30 NHL cities, is closing in on a personal milestone. He is three points shy of 400 for his career, which is about the number of slashes and spears he has (seemingly) gotten away with over his nine-year career in Boston. Which brings us to another milestone. With 536 career penalty minutes (you can be forgiven if you thought it was more), he is seven short of tying Gord Kluzak for 34th place on the all-time Bruins ranking (you can also be forgiven if you thought he was ranked higher). Within the rules, Marchand set a personal best of 39 goals last season, and he would be on a pace to shatter that this season (he has 11 in 19 games, a 47 goal pace over 82 games) but for missing eight games to injury. It matters, since Boston has lost just once in regulation in the ten games in which he scored a goal this season (6-1-3). He also has points in 15 of the 19 games in which he has dressed. In 24 career games against the Caps, Marchand is 7-8-15, minus-5.

Washington: Brett Connolly

When Brett Connolly takes the ice on Thursday night, he will do so for the 300th time in his NHL career. You might not think this especially noteworthy (he will tie Barry Melrose for 2,297th place on the all-time games played list, and he will be the 455th active player to reach that mark, according to, but he will reach that mark not having yet reached his 26th birthday (next May). He has a long way to go to add to that total. In the here and now, Connolly has overcome a slow start (a goal on Opening Night, then crickets for 11 games and only two goals in his first 17 contests) to record four goals in his last six games. The amazing part of that is that he did it while recording only seven shots on goal. In another odd fact concerning this game, it will be just his second road contest getting a sweater cine November 16th. Shots on goal in road games has been a rarity for Connolly as well, his having recorded just six shots on goal in nine road contests so far, three of them in a 4-3 overtime loss to Tampa Bay last October 9th. Connolly, who spent the 2015-2016 season with Boston, going 9-16-25 in 71 games, is 1-1-2, minus-2, in six career games against the Bruins.

In the end…

The Capitals must like chowder. They have a five-game winning streak in Beantown, are 8-2-0 in their last ten visits to Boston, and they are 11-4-0 in their last 15 trips to New England since February 2009. It could be a tonic for what ails the Caps on the road at the moment, a team that has suffered four losses in their last five road contests, all by multi-goal margins. They catch Boston turning things around in their own rink, but you know how this ends.

Capitals 3 – Bruins 2

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A TWO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 32: Capitals 5 - Avalanche 2

The Washington Capitals bounced back from their 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday night with a convincing 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night. 

First Period

It did not take the Capitals too long to open the scoring, Jakub Vrana doing the honors.  Taking a feed from Evgeny Kuznetsov as he was skating through the left wing circle, he snapped a shot that hit goalie Semyon Varlamov in the shoulder and snuck under the crossbar on the short side at the 5:25 mark.

It would be all the scoring in the first period.  The only penalty of the frame was charged to the Caps at the 20-minute mark, John Carlson getting the gate for tripping Gabriel Landeskog after he lost the puck in the defensive zone.  The teams spit 14 shots down the middle, while the Caps enjoyed an 18-15 edge in shot attempts.  Jay Beagle was the only player on either team with more than one shot on goal (two).  Matt Niskanen was the only player on either club with more than one of his attempts blocked (three).

Second Period

Colorado tied the score in the fifth minute of the period on a broken play.  Matt Nieto controlled the puck behind the Capitals’ net and tried to feed it out to Blake Comeau at the doorstep.  Matt Niskanen got enough of his stick to keep him from getting a shot off, and the puck slid through to Colin Wilson, who had just jumped off the bench and was filling in on the weak side.  Wilson chipped a backhand past goalie Braden Holtby at 4:13, and the game was tied.

The Caps regained the lead late in the period when Varlamov made an error.  Tom Wilson tried to send a pass across the ice from the right side, but it was muffled and settled at Varlamov’s pads, but he could not control the puck.  An attempted clear by Tyson Barrie up the middle was picked off by John Carlson, who leaned into a shot that sailed past Varlamov’s glove and into the back of the net to give the Caps a 2-1 lead at the 17:42 mark, a lead they took into the second intermission.

Colorado had three power plays in the period, failing on the first two while the third carried over into the third period.  The Caps were still waiting on their first power play of the evening.  The Caps had a 10-7 advantage in shots on goal for the period and had a 17-16 edge in shot attempts overall, despite spending 5:08 killing penalties.

Third Period

Washington took a two-goal lead 5:15 into the third period on a delayed penalty.  With the Caps having a sixth attacker on the ice until the next whistle, Madison Bowey had the puck in the right wing circle when he looked off Varlamov and fed Brett Connolly in the left wing circle for a one-timer that beat Varlamov before he could scramble across the paint.

With the teams skating four-a-side late in the period, the Caps put an end to the suspense.  Off a Colorado turnover in their own zone, Kuznetsov ended up with the puck on his stick and skated in to Varlamov’s left.  Just out of the goalie’s reach, Kuznetsov wrapped a pass around his body and out to Matt Niskanen trailing on the play.  Niskanen wasted no time planting the puck behind Varlamov to make it 4-1 at the 16:19 mark.

Colorado scored with 1:03 left on a shot by Tyson Jost on a shot just under the crossbar, but the Caps answered with an empty net goal by Devante Smith-Pelly with 45 seconds left for the final 5-2 margin.

Other stuff…

-- Madison Bowey broke a 13-game streak without a point with a pair of assists, his second career multi-point game and first since he had a pair of assists against the Edmonton Oilers back on October 28th in a 5-2 win.

-- Brett Connolly’s goal was his fourth in December on just seven shots on goal (57.1 percent shooting).

-- Evgeny Kuznetsov had three assists, his ninth multi-point game of the season.

-- Andre Burakovsky had an assist on the Caps’ fourth goal, his 100th point in the NHL.  He became the 77th player in team history to hit the 100-point mark with the club.

-- The Caps won for the 13th time on home ice this season to tie the Tampa Bay Lightning once more for the league lead.

-- It isn’t often that a center leads the Caps in shots on goal, and if they do, one might think it would be Nicklas Backstrom.  Rarely will it be Jay Beagle, but he was the leader with four shots on goal.

-- The Caps held the Avalanche to 24 shots on goal, the second-fewest allowed this season on home ice.  Washington allowed the Florida Panthers 23 shots in a 4-1 loss on October 21st.

-- John Carlson wins the all-you-can-eat buffet coupon for this one.  He had a goal, finished plus-2, took two minor penalties, had two shots on goal, seven shot attempts, two takeaways, and three blocked shots.

-- The defense contributed two goals (Matt Niskanen, Carlson) and two assists (Bowey).

-- Braden Holtby shook off what was his shortest stint of the season last night (21:34) to post the win.  In three games following those in which he was pulled early, he is 3-0-0, 1.67, .947.

In the end…

A solid win, giving the Caps an 12-2-0 record in their last 14 games on home ice.  It was another shared effort with five goals scored by five different players an ten players sharing in the points.  The Caps played a bit dangerously in allowing Colorado four power plays, but in one of their most dominating efforts of the season did not allow the Avalanche a power play shot on goal in 6:25 of shorthanded ice time.  It was not flashy, just a solid, all-around effort of the sort the Caps can build on as they take their show on the road to Boston on Thursday.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 31: Capitals at Islanders, December 11th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

It has been almost two months since the Washington Capitals played consecutive games against Metropolitan Division rivals.  That streak will end on Monday night when, following up on their 4-2 win over the New York Rangers on Friday night, the Caps will visit Brooklyn to take on the New York Islanders.

The last – the only – time that the Caps faced division rivals in consecutive games, they beat the New Jersey Devils, 5-2, in Newark on October 13th before dropping an 8-2 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers in South Philly the following night.

The Islanders come into this game losers of three straight (0-2-1) and coming home after what must seem a disappointing four-game road trip (their only win coming in a Gimmick in Florida against the Panthers to open the trip).

Home is a different story, altogether.  No team has played fewer games so far this season on home ice than the Isles (11), but they have made it count when they did, posting a home record of 8-1-2.  They did not suffer a loss in regulation time until dropping a 6-5 decision to the Ottawa Senators in their last contest on home ice, back on December 1st. 

That they have been successful in their limited home ice opportunities is a reflection of their offense, which has 51 goals in those 11 games (4.64 per game), and that starts with John Tavares, who is 9-9-18 in the 11 home games, the team leader in both goals and points at Barclays Center.  Tavares, who is one of the real bargains in the league with a $5.5 million cap hit, is in the last year of a six-year deal.  Overall this season, he overcame a sluggish start, one in which he was 2-1-3 in his first seven games (all of those points recorded in a 6-3 win in the Islanders’ home opener) to go 15-13-28, plus-4, in his last 22 games.  Over that span he is tied for the league lead in goals (with Las Vegas’ William Karlsson) and tied for fourth in points.  In 31 career games against the Caps, Tavares is 13-15-28, plus-6.

Over that same span over which Tavares has been among the hottest scorers in the league, Anders Lee has 14 goals of his own, third in the league over that span.  Lee had something of a breakout season in 2016-2017, posting 34 goals, tied for tenth in the league.  He might also be shaking off the last of the inconsistency in his game, his goals having swung from 25 in 76 games in 2014-2015 to 15 in 80 games of the 2015-2016 season to that 34-goal total last year.  This season he has 17 goals in 29 games, tied for third in the league overall.  Six of those goals have come on home ice, second on the club, while his 14 points at Barclays Center ranks third with the Islanders this season.  Lee is 7-2-9, plus-1, in 15 career games against the Caps.

Through Saturday’s games, 43 goaltenders logged at least 500 minutes in ice time this season.  Jaroslav Halak ranked 27 in that group in goals against average (2.93) and 30th in save percentage (.905).  And he was the better of the two Islander goalies in that group, Thomas Greiss ranking 42nd in goals against average (3.78) and 39th in save percentage (.890).  Halak’s success, such as it has been this season, has been entirely a product of support on the offensive side of the ledger.  He opened the season with a 5-2-0 record in his first eight appearances this season, with a goals against average of 2.66 and a save percentage of .916.  Decent, if somewhat middle of the road numbers on his own behalf.  But in his last nine appearances he is 3-5-1, 3.17, .896.  He is 8-8-0, 2.75, .902, with one shutout, in 16 career appearances against the Capitals.

1.  If you are going to beat the Islanders, chances are it won’t be a blowout.  Only two teams have had fewer losses by three or more goals than the Islanders (3) this season – Tampa Bay with two and Los Angeles with one.

2.  Score first, and win.  The Islanders are the only team in the league with a perfect record when scoring first in games (10-0-0).

3.  The Islanders are among the least penalized teams in the league, one of only seven teams averaging less than eight minutes in penalties per game (7:57).

4.  The Islanders are the second most efficient team shooting the puck this season, scoring goals on 11.43 percent of their shots so far.  Only Tampa Bay has been better (11.68 percent).

5.  Home cooking has done little for the Islanders penalty killers.  They have the fourth-worst penalty kill on home ice this season (73.7 percent).

1.  Odd as it is, the Capitals have played only seven games against Metropolitan Division teams so far this season.  Only nine teams have had fewer meetings against teams in the Metro through Saturday’s games.  Stranger still, perhaps, three of those teams are Metropolitan Division teams themselves, the Pittsburgh Penguins (6), the New Jersey Devils (5), and the Philadelphia Flyers (4).

2.  Washington is going to have to ramp up its effort on the penalty kill against Metropolitan Division teams.  In seven games they are just 16-for-23 killing penalties against teams in the Metro (69.6 percent).  If there is a silver lining in this game, the Islanders are worse (13-for-20/65.0 percent).

3.  The Caps have the second-best road power play in the league at 27.8 percent.  Only Pittsburgh is better (31.4 percent).

4.  Washington is also an efficient team shooting the puck on the road, fourth in the league with a 10.6 percent shooting percentage in road games.

5.  The Capitals could use improvement in their road possession numbers.  They have the fifth-lowest shot attempts-for percentage in the league in close situations in road games (46.29 percent).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New York: Nick Leddy

Nick Leddy has quietly assembled a rather impressive body of work as an NHL defenseman.  Ove eight seasons, four with the Chicago Blackhawks and now in his fourth season with the Islanders, he has steadily improved his offensive numbers from the blue line.  His point totals have increased in each of the last four seasons, and he is on a pace to do so again for a fifth consecutive season.  Through Saturday’s games, Leddy’s 24 points (6-18-24) ranks second among league defensemen, topped only by Dallas’ John Klingberg (25).  He has been hot lately, going 3-11-14 in his last 13 games with points in ten of those contests.  Leddy is 1-5-6, minus-2, in 18 career games against the Capitals.

Washington: Brooks Orpik

Brooks Orpik has one of the most bizarre statistics in the league since the 2005-2006 season.  In that time, only four players have had more games in which they registered a point without recording a shot on goal.  Orpik has done that 65 times in that span, a number exceeded only by Henrik Sedin (120), Joe Thornton (111), Mike Ribeiro (91), and Bryan Campbell (78).  He has done it 15 times as a member of the Caps, more than any Capital in his four years with the club except for Nicklas Backstrom (22 times), Tom Wilson (20), and Karl Alzner (16).  He leads the club in such instances this season, having recorded a point in five games in which he did not have a shot on goal.  His ice time has made a difference this season as well, the Caps having a 10-2-1 record in games in which he recorded more than 22 minutes of ice time, although he is just 0-2-2, plus-2 in those games.  In 37 career games against the Islanders, Orpik is 0-7-7, minus-9.

In the end…

The Caps have had reasonable success as guest of the Islanders in recent years, although not without effort.  Since 2005-2006, Washington is 13-8-3 in 24 games on the road against the Isles, but seven of those 13 wins have come in extra time.  The Caps have done well to avoid having to resort to extra time to settle outcomes this season, going to extra time just five times, although they do have four wins in those five instances.  So, will the Caps, who have gone to extra time ten times in their last 19 visits to Long Island, need extra time to subdue the Isles?  Given New York’s iffy goaltending and the Caps’ recent success on offense – four straight games with four or more goals – we’re thinking it will not be necessary.

Capitals 4 – Islanders 2

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

For the Washington Capitals, Week 10 was the best week of the year, a perfect 3-0-0 week that represented their first unbeaten week since going 2-0-0 in Week 1.  They scored early, scored late, beat teams from three different time zones, and  did it all in multi-goal wins.  If you were to draw it up at the beginning of the week, it would have looked a lot like this.

Record: 3-0-0

When Week 10 started, the Caps sat in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division, four points behind the first place Columbus Blue Jackets and one point ahead of the sixth place New York Rangers.  At week’s end, despite a perfect week, they made up two points on first place, finishing the week in second place, two points behind the Blue Jackets.  The win over the Rangers to end the week left the Caps with a 5-2-0 record against teams in the Metropolitan Division through Week 10.

The 3-0-0 week was the first in which they posted as many wins without a loss, either in regulation or extra time, since they posted four wins without a loss in Week 26 (the last full week of the regular season), last year.  The three wins extended the Caps’ winning streak to four games, all of the wins by multi-goal margins.  It is the last time that the Caps recorded four straight wins by more than one goal since they recorded that achievement in Games 53-56 last season, all of them at home, as they did in this instance.

Offense: 4.67 /game (season: 3.06 /game, rank: T-10th)

The Caps had 14 goals spread among nine players in Week 10, led by Tom Wilson with three in the three games.  Wilson had a career week with points in all three games, one of them a four-point effort against the Chicago Blackhawks (2-2-4), his first such game in the NHL.  Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Brett Connolly each had two-goal weeks that were noteworthy for each. 

For Ovechkin, the two goals gave him 21 for the season and left him as the 11th player in NHL history to record 20 or more goals in each of his first 13 NHL seasons.  He also finished the week at the top of the goal scoring rankings with 21. 

When Backstrom scored the game’s first goal in the Caps’ 6-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the middle game of the week, it snapped a 21-game streak without a goal for the center.  He added a goal in the Caps’ 4-2 win over the Rangers to end the week, the first time he scored goals in consecutive games since early October, the last goals he scored before his 21-game drought.

Both of Connolly’s goals came on power plays and extended his goals streak to three games before it was ended in the Caps’ 4-1 win over the New York Rangers to end the week.  It was the first time that Connolly had goals in three consecutive games since last February, when he put together a three-game goal streak against Los Angeles, Carolina, and Detroit.

Meanwhile, Jay Beagle built on a fine record when he hits the score sheet.  When he posted an assist in the win over San Jose to open the week and a goal in the Caps’ 4-2 win over the Rangers to end it, it made the Caps 76-9-7 in games in which Beagle recorded a point over his career and 38-1-5 in games in which he recorded a goal.  As for points, 13 different Caps posted points in the three games, led by Wilson and Ovechkin with seven apiece.

Defense: 1.67 / game (season: 2.93 /game, rank: 14th)

It was not a bad week on defense, given the nature of the opponents.  Chicago and San Jose were, by week’s end, among the top ten teams in the league in shots per game, the Blackhawks fifth (34.8 shots per game) and the Sharks tenth (33.0).  But where the Caps did particularly well was in shutting things down late.  They did not allow any of their three opponents as many as ten shots in the third period for the week and held those three teams to a total of 23 third period shots on goal.

Oddly, perhaps, but the week was not especially good from a shots attempts point of view.  The Caps were under 50 percent for the week in shot attempts-for at 5-on-5 (46.97 percent; numbers from, and it might have been worse but for a good effort against the Rangers to end the week (54.17 percent).

Goaltending: 1.67 / .946 (season: 2.76 / .913)

It was a fine week all around for Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer in combining for the three wins.  Grubauer opened the week by following up a strong 25 saves on 26 shots performance against Tampa Bay in his previous start with a 24 save effort in the Caps’ 4-1 win over San Jose.  Two straight wins for Grubauer after going 0-5-1 in his first eight appearances (two no-decisions) was a welcome sight for Caps fans.

Braden Holtby got the call in the other two games in Week 10, and he built on a strong run of late.  With 64 saves on 68 shots (.941 save percentage) over the two games, it brought his record to 5-1-0, 2.34, .926 over his last six games.

Grubauer and Holtby combined for strong first periods in games in Week 10, stopping 32 of the 33 first period shots they faced (.970 save percentage).  That save percentage dropped off somewhat from period to period (.946 in the second periods of games, .913 in the third periods of games), but it was still a solid week overall for the Caps in net. 

Power Play: 3-for-13 / 23.1 percent (season: 21.2 percent, rank: 7th)

The Caps were effective and efficient on the power play in Week 10, posting their fifth straight week at 20.0 percent or better on the man advantage.  They achieved that by pummeling opponents for 22 shots with the man advantage in 18:47 of power play ice time.  Washington has now gone 16 games without having recorded consecutive games without a power play goal.  Over those 16 games they are 13-for-56 (23.2 percent).  Not a spectacular power play (ninth-best over that span) but solid.

One of the encouraging things about the power play this week was in the unexpected sources of goal scoring.  Brett Connolly had a pair of man advantage goals, and Jakub Vrana had the other.  In a reversal of roles, Alex Ovechkin had a pair of power play assists, bringing him to within two of 200 career power play assists (he is the only non-center among the top dozen in power play assists since 2005-2006).  Seven different players recorded points on the power play.  One of them was Nicklas Backstrom, who with an assist on the man advantage finished the week with 256 career power play assists, by far the most in the league since he entered the NHL in 2007-2008 (Joe Thornton has 217).

Penalty Killing: 8-for-8 / 100.0 percent (season: 79.4 percent, rank: 20th)

The Caps were perfect on the penalty kill for the second straight week, the first time this season they went consecutive weeks without giving up a power play goal.  They went the entire five-game home stand without allowing a power play goal and extended the consecutive games streak without having allowed one to six.

The penalty kill was impressive in its efficiency as well, holding three opponents to just eight shots on goal over eight power plays in 14:23 of shorthanded ice time.  As a bonus, they recorded a shorthanded goal when Tom Wilson flicked a shot the length of the ice to seal the Caps’ 6-2 win over Chicago in the middle game of the week.

Faceoffs: 98-for-179 / 54.7 percent (season: 52.2 percent, rank: 6th)

As with most other aspects of their week, it was a good one in the circle for the Caps overall, even if they slipped under 50 percent in their 6-2 win over the Blackhawks in the middle game of the week (44.8 percent).  They were 54.7 percent overall, and they were 50 percent or better in all three zones – 55.8 percent in the offensive zone (24-for-43), 50.0 percent in the defensive zone (33-for-66), and 48.6 percent in the neutral zone (41-for-70).

Individually, the top faceoff guys were top faceoff guys.  Each of the four players taking at least ten draws for the week finished over 50 percent – Nicklas Backstrom (29-for-52/55.8 percent), Lars Eller (21-for-38/55.3 percent), Jay Beagle (19-for-36/52.8 percent), and Evgeny Kuznetsov (21-for-40/52.5 percent).

Goals by Period:

The dominant week extended to domination by period, the Caps outscoring opponents by at least two goals overall in each of the three periods of the week.  What is more, the Caps scored the first goal in eight of the nine periods played in Week 10, allowing the period’s first goal only in the last period of the week, when the Rangers tied the game, 2-2, 9:37 into the third period of the Caps’ 4-2 win.

Of note is the continued good fortune that the Caps are enjoying early in games, outscoring opponents by an 8-2 margin over the last two weeks to open up a plus-9 goal differential in the first periods of games overall this season.  With five first period goals in three games this week, the Caps now have 32 first period goals this season, tied with Tampa Bay for third most in the league.  In holding their three opponents to just one first period goal, the Caps jumped into the top ten in fewest first period goals allowed (23/tied for eighth fewest).

In the end…

Three wins for the Caps in Week 10 left them with a 4-1-0 home stand, and 12 home wins this season.  Only the Tampa Bay Lightning have more home wins (13) in the league, and only the Los Angeles Kings have a better record over their last ten games (8-1-1) than the Caps do in theirs (8-2-0).  Since November 1st, the Caps have the second best record/points total in the league (13-5-0/26 points), topped only by the Nashville Predators (13-3-2/28 points).

However, the injury T.J. Oshie suffered in the 4-1 win over San Jose to open the week looms large for the Caps, who did get Andre Burakovsky back off the injured list to wrap up the week.  Oshie’s absence is important in a broad sense, given his contributions at even strength and on the power play, and in his energetic style overall.  It was encouraging to see Brett Connolly step up to contribute on the man advantage and for Tom Wilson to make a difference on the right side of the top line.  Spreading out the contributions can make up for a player’s absence, at least in the short term, and will undoubtedly make the Caps a better overall group when Oshie returns. 

In the meantime, the Caps inched up the standings, finishing the week in second place in the Metropolitan Division, two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets.  However, just five points separate the top six teams in the division, meaning that even a short slump can leave a team looking up at several teams in a very crowded division.

The Caps now face the challenge of taking the momentum they built with their four-game winning streak on the road, spending six of the next eight games away from Capital One Arena.

Three Stars:

  • First Star: Tom Wilson (3-4-7, plus-6, 11 PIMs, 1 SHG, first career four-point game)
  • Second Star: Alex Ovechkin (2-5-7, plus-6, 2 PPA, 2 GWG, 15 shots on goal, 25 shot attempts)
  • Third Star: Nicklas Backstrom (2-3-5, plus-5, snapped 21-game goalless streak, 55.8 percent faceoff wins)

Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 30: Rangers at Capitals, December 8th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up their five-game home stand on Friday night when the New York Rangers visit Capital One Arena.  It will be a contest of two teams on fire.  Washington will take a 7-2-0 record in their last nine games into the contest, while the Rangers will be sporting a record of 6-1-0 in their last seven contests and 12-3-0 in their last 15 games.

The Rangers were stuck in a deep hole on October 28th when they dropped a 5-4 decision to the Montreal Canadiens.  At 3-7-2 they were tied with the Buffalo Sabres with the fourth-worst record in the league.  They were leaking goals, having allowed, with the Canadiens, the fourth-highest number of goals in the league (42).  Their penalty killing was poor (77.7 percent/25th), and they were an iffy possession team (48.61 percent shot attempts-for at 5-on-5/22nd).

In 15 games since, the Rangers are no better a possession team (47.20 percent/26th), but they have allowed just 38 goals, tied with Tampa Bay for second-fewest in that span.  Is it goaltending?  Perhaps.  Henrik Lundqvist started the season looking as if at age 35, the back side of his career might be in sight.  In that early rut in which the Rangers found themselves, he was 2-4-2, 3.12, .900, with one shutout.  Since then, however, Lundqvist is 11-2-0, 2.36, .927, with one shutout, more “Lundqvistian” numbers.  He is doing this despite a heavier workload in shots faced, seeing 31.16 shots per 60 minutes in his sluggish opening and 32.34 shots per 60 minutes on his hot run of late.  In 36 career games against the Caps, Lundqvist is 21-11-4, 2.61, .909, with four shutouts.

After making 14 straight appearances, Lundqvist was unable to go against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday due to the flu, leaving thing to Ondrej Pavelec, who presumably would get the call if Lundqvist is still under the weather.  Now with his third team in an 11-year career (two franchises, since he was with the Atlanta Thrashers when they moved to Winnipeg to become the Jets), Pavelec’s career arc has been descending into that of a backup for more than a few seasons now.  He appeared in a career high 68 games in 2011-2012 with the Jets and led the league with 44 appearances in the next, abbreviated 2012-2013 campaign.  His appearances diminished thereafter, from 57 in 82 games in 2013-2014 to 50 the following season, then 33 in 2015-2016 (he missed 33 games to a knee injury) to eight last season (another 24 games missed to injuries). 

Pavelec has never been an especially efficient goaltender at this level, posting a save percentage over .915 just once in 11 seasons (.920 with the Jets in 2014-2015).  He has just one season with a goals against average under 2.70, that in the same 2014-2015 season when he finished with a 2.28 GAA.  He is not having a particularly noteworthy season as Lundqvist’s backup, going 2-4-0, 3.45, .899 in seven appearances.  He is 10-15-2, 2.89, .907, with three shutouts in 29 career appearances against the Caps.

The Rangers have really spread things around, scoring-wise, on their 12-3-0 run, nine different players with points in double digits.  Mats Zuccarello leads the club with 14 points in that stretch (3-11-14).  He is looking to have a bounceback year after seeing his goal total drop from 26 in 81 games in 2015-2016 to 15 in 80 games last season, even if his points fell just two, from 61 to 59.  Zuccarello’s problem last year was efficiency.  He recorded more shots on goal last season than in the one before (189 to 166) but saw his shooting percentage cut almost in half, from 15.7 percent to 7.9 percent.  He has been streaky on the road this season, recording a four-point game in the Rangers’ road opener this season, in Toronto (an 8-5 loss to the Maple Leafs) and a two-point game against the Penguins on Tuesday, but he is also without a point in five of nine road games overall.  Zuccarello is 1-8-9, even, in 18 career games against Washington.

1.  The Rangers have outscored opponents by a 56-38 margin in their 12-3-0 run.  Seven of their 12 wins were by multi-goal margins, and they are 4-0-0 in extra-time games in that streak.

2.  No team has played fewer games on the road this season than the Rangers, going 4-5-0 in nine games away from Madison Square Garden.  Four teams have 12 road games on their record.

3.  The road has not been kind to the Rangers in terms of possession numbers.  They rank 301th of 31 teams in shot attempts-for at 5-on-5 (45.75 percent), ahead of only the Anaheim Ducks (43.49 percent; numbers from

4.  The Rangers have four players with five or more goals in their 12-3-0 run.  By way of comparison, the Caps have only five players with five or more goals overall for the season (although they do have five players with four).

5.  Remember when the Rangers were a bunch of shot-blocking freaks?  Well now, not so much.  They rank 21st in blocked shots this season (393).  In the other grittership category, they rank 19th in credited hits.  The low rankings might be good if they were masters of possession, but as we have seen, they are not (47.78 percent overall in shot attempts-for at fives, home and road).

1.  Alex Ovechkin has not gone consecutive home games without a point over his last 11 contests at Capital One Arena (6-6-12, plus-1), and he has points in his last three home games (3-4-7, plus-1).

2.  When Nicklas Backstrom scored a goal the other night, it broke a 21-game streak without a goal.  With four goals, he is still tied for sixth on the club (with Lars Eller, Devante Smith-Pelly, Tom Wilson, and Alex Chiasson). 

3.  When Tom Wilson recorded a four-point game against Chicago on Wednesday night, it was his first multi-point result since Game 10 (2-0-2 in a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on November 4th), and it was as many points as he recorded in his previous nine games.  He has four goals this season on 34 shots, a career best (to date) 11.8 shooting percentage.

4.  That 6-2 win over Chicago on Wednesday evened the Caps’ record at 7-7 in games decided by three or more goals.  Their 14 decisions in such games is second-most in the league, trailing only the 17 such decisions the Winnipeg Jets have (11-6).

5.  Only two teams have more blocked shots on home ice than the Caps (245).  The Rangers have 260, and the Montreal Canadiens have 293.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New York: Michael Grabner

In the Rangers’ 12-3-0 run since late October, Michael Grabner has ten goals to lead the club.  It largely negates a sluggish start in which he recorded just one goal in his first ten games of the season and puts him on a pace that could mean a career high before the season is done.  That career high was set back in 2010-2011 with the New York Islanders, his first full season in the NHL after playing 20 games with the Vancouver Canucks the previous year.  That 34-goal total was a hard thing for Grabner to live up to, as his goal totals sank like a stone in the five years thereafter, settling at nine goals in his only season with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015-2016.  He rebounded last season in his first year with the Rangers, finishing with 27 goals in 76 games.  He is currently on a pace to finish with 39 goals.  What he has not yet done this season though, is make much of a dent on the road.  Only one of his 13 goals have been scored away from Madison Square Garden.  Grabner is 2-3-5, minus-1, in 23 career games against the Caps.

Washington: Alex Chiasson

It will no doubt seem odd to Capitals fans, but Alex Chiasson is averaging more power play ice time per game this season (1:03) than is Jakub Vrana (1:01).  After all, this is a player who does not have a power play goal in his last 173 games, not since he potted one as a member of the Ottawa Senators in a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes back on November 7, 2015.  He does not have a power play point this season for the Caps, despite getting, if not top minutes, than substantial time on the man advantage.  He does, however, provide two attributes that at least suggest he get some time on the power play.  He is a big body that can screen goaltenders (6’4”/208), and he is a right-handed shot, a plus playing in the middle on a 1-3-1 power play that the Caps feature.  What he does get is more ice time killing penalties, ranking second among Caps forwards with 2:16 per game in shorthanded ice time, trailing only Jay Beagle (2:50).  It is some note than more than a quarter of his ice time per game (3:19 of 12:41) is spent on special teams.  He is the only forward on the club who can make that claim.  In eight career games against the Rangers, Chiasson is 1-4-5, plus-3.

In the end…

The Caps are firing on all cylinders at the moment, their 14 goals over their last three games representing the first time this season that the Caps scored four or more goals in three consecutive games.  And they have spread things around, too, with eight different players sharing in the goal scoring, 16 different players recording points.  It will be a challenge against the recently hot Rangers, though.  Let’s just see if the Rangers are all that on the road, where they have just two wins in regulation this season.  Okay, so they happen to be in their last two road games.  Still…

Capitals 4 – Rangers 2

A TWO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 29: Capitals 6 - Blackhawks 2

The Washington Capitals made it seven wins in a row on home ice against the Chicago Blackhawks when they took down their Windy City visitors by a 6-2 margin on Wednesday night in a nationally televised game.

The teams felt each other out over the first half of the opening period, but then the Caps broke through.  Nicklas Backstrom broke a 21-game streak without a goal at the 11:54 mark.  Tom Wilson picked off a pass in the Chicago zone and fed Alex Ovechkin at the goal line to the left of goalie Anton Forsberg.  Ovechkin bump-passed the puck to Backstrom in the slot, and Backstrom snapped a shot past Forsberg’s blocker to give the Caps the lead.

Three minutes later, the Caps had a two-goal lead. Tom Wilson got one of his own when he took a pass from Christian Djoos on the far edge of the left wing circle, turned, and wristed a shot that eluded Forsberg, certainly a chance the goalie would want back.

The Caps poured it on less than a minute later when Wilson got behind the Chicago defense.  With three defenders in pursuit, Wilson broke in and tried to split Forsberg’s pads, but the puck was kicked back out by the netminder.  The puck slid between the skates of Artem Anisimov onto the stick of the trailing Alex Ovechkin, who didn’t miss.  His shot beat Forsberg on the glove side, and it was 3-0, 15:22 into the period.

Chicago got one back before on a Lance Bouma goal, and things settled down after that through most of the second period.  However, late in the middle frame Brett Connolly restored the Caps’ three-goal lead on a power play.  Failing on two attempts to clear the puck, Chicago was left to defend an Ovechkin shot from the top of the left wing circle.  J-F Berube, in relief of Forsberg, kicked out the shot to his right, but Connolly was in perfect position to collect the puck and wire it past Berube on the short side to make it 4-1 with just 1:28 left in the period.

Mid-way through the third period, Evgeny Kuznetsov got on the board, converting some back and forth between Ovechkin and himself.  From the left wing corner, Ovechkin paddled the puck back to Kuznetsov coming down the wall.  Kuznetsov sent it back down the wall to Ovechkin behind the Blackhawk net.  As Ovechkin was receiving the puck, Kuznetsov darted to the net, putting himself in position for a return pass from Ovechkin that he snapped past Berube to make it 5-1 at the 10:23 mark.

Jonathan Toews made things a little more respectable for the visitors with under four minutes left with an unassisted goal off a breakaway.  It got Chicago close enough to pull their goaltender late on a power play, and Wilson made them pay for it, flicking the puck from the left wing circle in his own end the length of the ice and in at the 17:40 mark for the final 6-2 margin.

Other stuff…

-- Tom Wilson recorded the first four-point game of his career (2-2-4) and the 45th in Capitals history.  He joined Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Evgeny Kuznetsov among Capitals with four-point games this season.

-- Alex Ovechkin’s goal was the game-winner, his 97th career game-winning goal, breaking a tie with Guy Lafleur for eighth place, all-time.  Next up, Jarome Iginla with 101.

-- Nicklas Backstrom had his third game this season with three or more points (1-2-3).  Only Ovechkin (79) and those two centers from Pittsburgh (Sidney Crosby: 96, and Evgeni Malkin: 72) have more such games since Backstrom came into the league in 2007-2008 (67), Backstrom breaking a tie with Patrick Kane in the process.

-- Ovechkin had his 23rd career game of four or more points (1-3-4), second most since he came into the league in 2005-2006 (Crosby: 30).

-- Perhaps odd for a team that scored six goals, but only 12 of 18 skaters recorded shots on goal for the Caps.  Three of them were defensemen – Dmitry Orlov, Christian Djoos, and Brooks Orpik.  The other three were nominal centers – Chandler Stephenson, Lars Eller, and Travis Boyd.

-- Matt Niskanen became the second player this season to record a plus-4 in a game for the Caps.  Ovechkin did it in a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on October 28th. 

-- The six shots on goal recorded by Ovechkin led the team and was the ninth time this season that he finished with more than five shots in a game, breaking a tie with Vladimir Tarasenko for most in the league.

-- Chicago enjoyed a big advantage in shot attempts at fives (59.65 percent Corsi-for, from, but…score effects?

-- Devante Smith-Pelly did not record a point, but otherwise gets the buffet coupon for the game… two shots on goal, two missed shots, two credited hits, a giveaway, a takeaway, three blocked shots and a faceoff taken (lost).  All in just 11:03 of ice time.

-- John Carlson skated 25:47, the 23rd time this season his ice time exceeded 25 minutes.  That ties Minnesota’s Ryan Suter and Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty for most in the league.

-- Braden Holtby stopped 37 of 39 shots, leaving him with a .937 save percentage on home ice this season, third best in the league among goalies with at least 200 minutes played on home ice (Sergei Bobrovsky: .942; Aaron Dell: .941).

In the end…

It is hard to find a lot to complain about in this one (well, you Corsi-freaks might have some things to chew on).  The Backstrom-Ovechkin-Wilson top line had four goals and 11 points.  The power play scored a goal (1-for-3); the penalty killers were perfect (4-for-4).  They got out to a lead, built it, and stifled the Blackhawks when they might have gained some momentum with their late first period goal.  They took advantage of a team with issues in goal, with Corey Crawford out for the Blackhawks, chasing one goalie and taking advantage of his relief, even if the chances were not as plentiful.

The Caps are now 3-1-0 on this five-game home stand and have climbed to within a point of the Metropolitan Division lead.  Their 15 wins in regulation or overtime are tied with Pittsburgh for most in the division (four teams have 14).  They will get to do some direct damage on the division in their next contest, one against the New York Rangers to close out what would be a very successful home stand with a win.