Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 19: Coyotes at Capitals, November 21st

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Thanksgiving week is upon us, and it is time for all of us to give thanks that we have hockey here in Washington. Even though the Caps have hit a rough patch, it is not like being a Redskins fan or a Nationals fan or a Wizards fan. The Caps are still above .500, still in the playoff mix, and still with more than 60 games to figure out what ails them. The three-game home stand that is Thanksgiving week opens with a visit from the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Coyotes have been something of “The Little Engine that Could” this season, not putting together much in the way of winning streaks (three is their longest) or enduring long stretches of adversity (they have not lost more than two in a row so far this season). They just keep on plugging, puttering along with a 10-5-3 mark so far. Here is how they stack up with the Caps so far this season:

(click pic for larger image)
(note: The Caps dropped to ninth place in the East after we first published this)

What the Coyotes do bring is a dedicated adherence to a system approach to the game, allowing little in terms of scoring by opponents and playing conservatively on offense. The result is that they are 7-2-1 in their last ten games and have allowed more than two goals in regulation only twice in those ten games.

1. Since Dave Tippett took over behind the Phoenix bench the Coyotes are 103-56-23. This without a player with as many as 25 goals (Radim Vrbata had 24 in 2009-2010), more than 60 points (Shane Doan had 60 points last season), or as much as a plus-20 (Adrian Aucoin was plus-18 last season). If there is a team that is more a product of “system” hockey, it would be hard to find.

2. Former Capital Boyd Gordon has already matched his point total of last season. Through 18 games Gordon is 3-6-9. What’s more, his plus-7 is on pace to leave him with his a career best total in that number (he was plus-10 with Washington in 2006-2007). He remains one of the best faceoff men in the league, currently ranking 11th with a 55.7 percent winning percentage.

3. Phoenix has the third lowest shooting percentage allowed of any team in the league. Opponents are converting only 7.1 percent of their shots on goal so far. They have allowed more than 30 shots on goal in 10 of their last 11 games, yet have allowed only 26 goals (on 385 shots – 6.8 percent shooting).

4. The Caps have had a thing for balancing ice time this year, but they have nothing on the Coyotes. Only one skater is averaging more than 20 minutes a game – defenseman Keith Yandle (22:14). On the other hand, 13 skaters are averaging more than 15 minutes per game.

5. Phoenix knows how to milk a lead. No team has more wins when leading after two periods than the Coyotes (10). No team has more wins when scoring first (nine). Of course, the flip side of that is that the Coyotes are 0-5-1 when trailing after 40 minutes, and only one team has fewer wins when allowing the first goal (the Coyotes have one win in six such games).

1. On the matter of ice time, the top five Caps in that category are all defensemen in terms of average ice time per game. No Cap forward averages more than the 18:46 of Alex Ovechkin (that is not a misprint – 18:46). Ovechkin has only five games this season in which he has more than 20 minutes. His season high is 21:47, a number he exceeded 39 times last season.

2. So far, no “Young Gun” has a game-winning goal in regulation time. Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green each have one, both coming in overtime. But they have dominated for the Caps on the power play. Of the 12 power play goals the Caps have, that quartet has seven.

3. Marcus Johansson is second on the team in goals (six), leads in game-winning goals (three), and is second on the team in shooting percentage (22.2 percent). He also has only four shots on goal in his last six games, not recording more than one shot on goal in any of them.

4. New guys… Joel Ward does not have a point in his last six games, Roman Hamrlik does not have one in his last 12, and Jeff Halpern does not have one in his last six. If not for Troy Brouwer (4-5-9 in his last 13 games), it would be quite a drought for the new guys.

5. Playing it close has been best for the Caps so far. They are 1-2 in games decided by two goals, 4-4 in games decided by three or more goals. But in one-goal decisions, the Caps are 5-1-1, the third best record in such decisions in the league.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Phoenix: Paul Bissonnette

“BizNasty2point0” has 173,937 followers on Twitter. He has fewer than 600 minutes played in the National Hockey League. He is the Lady Gaga of the NHL.

Washington: Jason Chimera

No Cap will go into this game with more career goals against Phoenix than Jason Chimera (six in 26 career games). He is 2-2-4 in his last five games. He has not had a run of points in five of six games since he opened the 2008-2009 season with five in six games as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He is tied for second in points, tied for fourth in points, second in plus-minus, has both a shorthanded and a game-winning goal on his ledger this season for the Caps. On a roster with too many underachievers at the moment, Chimera is not among them.


1. Win the 5-on-5. Phoenix and Washington are two of the least penalized teams in the NHL. The Coyotes have the fewest penalty minutes per game so far (8.3), and the Caps have the fourth fewest (9.9). The Caps have slumped considerably in five-on-five play since their seven-game winning streak to open the season, and they are currently ranked below the Coyotes in this category. The Caps need to get back to basics, and it doesn’t get any more basic than winning at 5-on-5.

2. Best players playing best. The Caps are 1-5-1 in their last seven games. Over that span, Mike Green has been sidelined, but his fellow travelers on the Young Guns roster – Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin – are a combined 4-4-8, minus-15. It isn’t the scoring as much as it is the indifference they seem to be showing in playing 200 feet of hockey. That minus-15 screams off the page.

3. Have fun, for cryin’ out loud. You’re getting paid to play a game. You are the best at your profession. You’ve been fantasizing about this sort of thing since you were kids on a pond or in a rink. Winning is fun, but fun is winning, too. If you’re not having fun, chances are you’re not going to be winning much. “Play” the game. Don’t make it look like 9-to-5 drudgery.

In the end, all streaks come to a close. Winning or losing, they all have a shelf life. This 1-5-1 nastiness will end, too. And then the matter will be what the Caps do from then on. They have shown a certain resiliency when enduring similar streaks in the past few years, finishing strong over the rest of the regular season. If they can put this behind them and perform in a similar fashion, then all this will be an unpleasant memory, leaving Caps fans with only the terror that is confronting the playoffs. But if the Caps continue to founder, then things will become very interesting over the next couple of weeks, and not in a good way.

Phoenix presents a difficult obstacle for the Caps to overcome in trying to right their ship. They are dedicated to a stifling style that will bore you to sleep and that adds another notch in your loss column more often than not. The Caps have to assert themselves and impose their will on the Coyotes to end this slide.

Caps 3 – Coyotes 2

1 comment:

RT said...

It's a looong season and that can have very different meanings by the time April arrives