Twelfth place. Twelfth freakin’ place. When this team was assembled in training camp, you would have had to be drunk beyond consciousness or perhaps Don Cherry to think it was possible that as the Caps gear up to play their 30th game of the season they would be in twelfth place in the Eastern Conference.
But there is where they sit as they head off to the balmy climes of Winnipeg. The Caps are 8-11-1 since November 1st, 3-3-0 since the beginning of December. They have not won three games in succession since starting the year 7-0-0. That kind of thing that can play on men’s minds, even the strongest and most refined athletes. It can be…
“The mind is a strange thing, men. We must begin by asking it... What is losing? Losing is a disease...
...as contagious as polio.”
Didn’t I see you trying this on a baseball team?
“Yeah…worked, didn’t it?”
Got a point there…go on.
“Losing is a disease...
...as contagious as syphilis.
Losing is a disease...
...as contagious as bubonic plague...
... attacking one...
... but infecting all.
Now, I want you to imagine...you are on a ship at sea.
Gently rocking. “
Yeah, yeah…maybe the Caps should find Roy Hobbs, because right now nothing is coming “naturally.”
Here is how the teams line up against one another:
(click on pic for larger image)
2. Winnipeg comes into this game with the second most minor penalties taken in the league so far this year. No team has found itself shorthanded more often than the Jets – tied with Ottawa for 29th with 136 shorthanded situations faced. They are better at home, but with 4.50 shorthanded situations faced per game on home ice, the Caps should get opportunities.
3. Winnipeg has the fourth worst takeaway-to-giveaway ratio on home ice (0.50).
4. If the result is a blowout, it is not likely to end well for the home team (humor me). Only six teams have a worse winning percentage in games decided by three or more goals (3-6, .333). Of course, one of the wins came against the Caps.
5. Winnipeg is second in the league in first period goals scored. Overall, they are plus-9 in goals scored/goals allowed in the first period. They are minus-6 in the second period, minus-9 in the third period, and minus-3 in overtime (they have yet to score an overtime goal). This is not a team that finishes well.
2. Washington is a mirror image of Winnipeg in this respect – minus-5 in the first period, goals scored to goals allowed; minus-7 in the second period; plus-2 in the third period; and plus-5 in overtime (they have yet to allow an overtime goal). The Caps’ best bet at the moment might be to take this game to overtime.
3. Only six teams have been shorthanded in the second period more often than the Caps. It probably goes a long way to explaining why the Caps have allowed the fifth highest total of second period goals.
4. If it is a blowout, it is likely that it will not end well for the Caps (hey, Peerless…didn’t you say the opposite up above?). The Caps are 8-4-1 in one-goal games, 3-2 in games decided by two goals, but only 4-7 in games decided by three or more goals.
5. Odd fact…the Caps are averaging 30.3 shots per game and are averaging 30.3 shots allowed. Yet, their record when shots are even: 0-0-0. The Caps are 9-5-0 when outshooting the opposition. They are 6-8-1 when getting outshot. Shoot. The. Puck. Write it down.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Winnipeg: Evander Kane
The youngster is hot. He has not had consecutive games without a point since November 6-8. Since then he is 10-6-16, plus-7, in 15 games. He has one game-winning goal among those ten (against the Caps…natch). He has seven goals in nine career games against the Caps.
Washington: Michal Neuvirth
Before the season is over, Michal Neuvirth is going to have to demonstrate that he can be either a reliable backup goaltender or able to jump into the top role when number one goaltender Tomas Vokoun falters. Vokoun had a shaky outing against Philadelphia on Tuesday, and this could be an opportunity for Neuvirth to step up. In his last eight appearances, including 20 minutes of mop-up duty against the Flyers on Tuesday, Neuvirth is 1-4-1, 4.03, .864. Among 44 qualifying goaltenders, Neuvirth ranks last in the league in both goals against average (3.73) and save percentage (.875). He has nowhere to go but up, and this would be a fine time to head in that direction.
1. Don’t make this game “special.” The Caps rank in the bottom third of the league in both power play and penalty killing on the road. No playoff-eligible team in the East ranks so low in both categories.
2. Keep in touch. Winnipeg is 10-2-0 when leading after one period, 12-0-1 when leading after two. If the Caps lose touch with the Jets early, the night is not likely to end well.
3. Shoot, not cute. There is that record when the Caps outshoot the opposition – 9-5-0. Stop being cute, get pucks to the net. Good things happen.
In the end, absent a blockbuster trade, this is the team the Caps are. They’ve done the “change coaches” thing. It is on the players now. It probably always has been. And it is the players who have to take the initiative to get out of this 20-plus game funk they have been in. Winnipeg is a club that despite a so-so record has played the Caps tough over the past couple of years. The Caps have had a particular problem solving goalie Ondrej Pavelec. It is time to figure it out, both against this team and in general.
Caps 3 – Jets 2