Get your sun screen, pack your speedos. The Caps are off to the balmy climes of Winnipeg, Manitoba (predicted temperature at game time – 18 degrees...Fahrenheit). Hopefully, the Caps can provide some warmth with a little more heat from the offense, which has been limited to 11 goals in their last five games. In none of those games did they score more than three goals.
Meanwhile, the Jets are basking in the still new-found glow of a new city with eager and adoring fans. Those fans not only had to wait 15 years for the NHL to return to Manitoba, but they have seen their Jets at MTS Centre only twice in the last three-plus weeks. Eight of their last ten games have come on the road, a seven-game road trip starting this stretch. That road trip started with what might be to date the wildest game of the year, a 9-8 win over Philadelphia. Of course, they lost their next game – in Tampa – by a 1-0 score. Over these ten games the Jets are 4-4-2, which when you think about it, is not really much different from the Caps’ 4-5-1 record over their last ten. Here is how the two teams compare to date:
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The Jets have averaged 3.00 goals per game over their last ten games, but it has been a bumpy ride to get there. Three times they scored five or more goals in a game; twice they were shutout, and they scored only one goal against the hapless Columbus Blue Jackets (which is almost like a shutout). They have allowed 33 goals over those ten games, three times allowing five or more goals.
2. Winnipeg is like the horse that sets the pace in a Triple Crown race. Out fast, fade late. The goals scored by period go 19-14-14. Their goals against go 16-19-22. And the Jets lost their only two games settled in overtime. Only two teams have scored more first period goals; only three have allowed more third period goals.
3. Only one team in the league has taken more minor penalties than the Jets (Philadelphia). Twelve Jets have at least ten minutes in penalties (compare that to four for the Caps). No team averages more shorthanded situations at home than does Winnipeg (5.0 occurrences per game).
4. Only three teams have a worse takeaway-to-giveaway ratio at home than the Jets (0.48:1). Only seven of 16 Jets playing in ten or more games overall have more takeaways than giveaways. Compare that to 13 of 17 Caps playing in at least ten games.
5. Once upon a time, the Caps beat up on this team. From April 5, 2009 thorough November 14, 2010, the Caps beat the Jets (then as the Atlanta Thrashers) in ten of eleven games. Since then, however, the Jets are 4-1-1, and they have shut out the Caps twice in their last three meetings, both of them on Jet/Thrasher ice.
1. From the “It’s not where you are, it’s how you get there” file… The Caps are 10-5-1 at the moment. After 16 games last year they were 12-4-0. Not a lot different. But last year the Caps were riding a six-game winning streak into Game 17 (which they lost in overtime to Buffalo). At the moment the Caps are 1-3-1 in their last five games and 3-5-1 in their last nine.
2. Winnipeg is the only team in the league against whom John Erskine has more than one goal (two).
3. After eight games the Caps had a 5-on-5 goals for-to-goals against ratio of 2.33:1. Since then the Caps have been outscored, 24-20, at even strength, and they have been outscored at even strength by 15-6 since Alex Ovechkin scored at 18:41 of the first period against the Islanders on November 5th.
4. The Caps have the best intradivisional record to date. Their 4-0-0 record against the Southeast Division is one of two unblemished records against foes in their own division, and it is one more win than Pittsburgh has (3-0-0).
5. Through 16 games no Capital forward is averaging more than 19 minutes of total ice time per game. Alex Ovechkin leads the team’s forwards with 18:45 per game. No Cap forward having played in ten or more games is averaging less than ten minutes per game.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Winnipeg: Ondrej Pavelec
Ondrej Pavelec has had a very uneven career record against the Caps. Overall he is 4-8-0, 2.99, .911. However, in his last three appearances against Washington he stopped 110 of 111 shots (.991) and won all three decisions. But he is currently on a 1-3-2 skid (3.32, .890). The Jets are 3-9-3 when they score three or fewer goals. They are not getting any games from their goaltenders in which the netminder steals a win in a close, low scoring affair. The Caps have only 11 goals in their last five games. And it is not as if Pavelec hasn’t been successful against this team recently. As he goes, so will the Jets.
Washington: Nicklas Backstrom
Nicklas Backstrom is in uncharted territory in the young season. He is on a two-game streak without a point. And, among the other four teams in the Southeast Division, Winnipeg is the only one against which he is averaging less than a point per game for his career (24 points in 26 games). If he breaks through, it would seem likely he would do it himself instead of setting up a teammate. His eight career goals against the Jets are the most he has against any single team except Carolina.
1. It’s three periods…three. As noted, the Jets are not a third period team when it comes to scoring. In their last five losses the Caps have allowed 12 third period goals, four times allowing three goals in the final frame. If the Jets punch through late, the Caps have real problems.
2. Unleash the Russian Machine. Alex Ovechkin is in the same uncharted territory in which Backstrom finds himself at the moment – a two-game streak without a point, his first this season (you’d hardly know that from the ink he gets). And this is the team tailor-made for him to bust out. The Jets are not an especially good defensive team, they are getting inconsistent goaltending, and the Jets are the only team in the league against which Ovechkin has at least 30 career goals (in 42 career games). If not now, when?
3. No Peeking Past the 'Peg. The Caps might be in Winnipeg, but they might be thinking of a Hockey Night in Canada date with Toronto on Saturday night at Air Canada Centre. The Caps have been guilty of at least the appearance of doing that sort of thing a few times this year… a 6-5 Gimmick win over Tampa Bay before a visit to Pittsburgh, a 2-1 loss to Edmonton before a visit to Vancouver, a 5-3 loss to the Islanders before hosting Dallas. In two of those three games they allowed multiple goals in the third period (two to Tampa Bay, three to the Islanders).
In the end, let’s go back to the tale o’ the tape. The Caps have a better record, better offense, better defense, better 5-on-5 results, better power play, better penalty kill, and they are healthier, even on the blue line where Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey, Randy Jones, and Derek Meech are on injured reserve, and Brett Festerling is questionable. The Caps can, should, and really ought to make the competitive portion of this game short and ugly for the home team. But how has that logic worked out so far this season?
Caps 3 – Jets 2