It’s a new year, a chance for a new start, to start anew, to kindle a flame…hey, flame…Flames…that’s who the Caps are playing. The Caps start the 2012 portion of the season by hosting the Calgary Flames. The Flames are not a club the Caps get to face very often, but it is one of the Western Conference teams against which the Caps have had some success in recent years. Since the turn of the millennium, the Caps are 7-2-2 against Calgary, although they have lost two of the last three meetings against the Flames.
The last time these teams met, the Caps turned a 2-1 deficit at the first intermission into a 7-2 lead after 40 minutes with a six-goal second period that included three power play goals and a short-handed penalty shot goal from David Steckel that closed the scoring in a 7-2 win on October 30, 2010.
The last time the clubs met in Washington, it was Calgary skating off with the win, a 5-3 decision on March 28, 2010, in which the Flames raced off to a 5-1 lead in the second period and held on for the win despite Alex Ovechkin recording his 100th point of the 2009-2010 season.
This game finds two teams outside the playoff bubble looking in, although they do happen to be going in opposite directions. The Caps come into this game on a three-game winning streak, and the Flames having lost three in a row. Here is how the teams stack up against one another:
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2. Few teams hit on the road like Calgary. Only three, in fact. Calgary is fourth in the league in hits recorded on the road. The Flames also happen to be second in blocked shots on the road.
3. Calgary does not play well with a lead. First, they do not get the first goal often – only 17 times in 40 games. They have a 10-6-1 record when scoring first, 21st in the league. They have led at the first intermission only 12 times in 40 games and have a 7-4-1 record, fourth-worst in the league.
4. The Flames are one of only three teams in the league not to have scored a 5-on-3 goal this season.
5. Goalie Miikka Kiprusoff is seventh in the league in minutes played among goaltenders, but he is on a pace for 3,911 minutes. If he finishes with fewer than 4,000 minutes played it will be the first time he has done so in any of his seven full seasons in Calgary. The last time he had fewer minutes was in 2002-2003, when he split the season between San Jose and the Flames (3,400 minutes).
2. Intermissions are big for Washington. If they are leading at the first, they are 8-1-1 (12-14-1 when they are not). If they are leading at the second, they are 11-0-0 (9-15-2 when they are not). Now, if they could just be leading more often at the breaks. The Caps are tied for the ninth fewest leads at the first intermission; only two teams (Ottawa and Dallas) have fewer leads at the second break.
3. No team has a wider disparity between their home and road penalty kills than the Caps. With an 89.5 percent home penalty kill and a 76.7 percent road penalty kill, the plus-12.8 point difference is the widest in the league.
4. Similarly for the power play, the 9.8 point difference (22.7 percent at home, 12.9 percent on the road) is the third largest disparity in the league, behind only the Rangers and Tampa Bay.
5. No team has a larger difference of hits at home and on the road than the Caps – 230. Only San Jose has a lower percentage of road hits to home hits than the Caps (55.1 percent to 56.0 percent).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Calgary: Jarome Iginla
Who else? The Calgary Captain’s next goal will be his 500th of his career. Only six of them have come against the Caps in 17 career games. His last one came in a 2-1 Flames win over the Caps on October 21, 2008 in Calgary. The last time he lit the lamp in Washington was in a 3-2 Capitals win on March 12, 2008. Iginla comes into this game with an odd pattern to his recent goal scoring. Starting with his scoring a goal in 5-4 overtime loss to Tampa Bay on December 15th, his pattern in games has been, “goal-no goal-no goal.” If the pattern holds, his having scored against Nashville in his last game means he will not get his 500th in this game, but rather at home against Minnesota on January 7th.
Washington: Jay Beagle
Beagle has been eased back into the lineup since missing more than two months to a concussion. In games against the Rangers and Buffalo, he skated a total of 13:30 (no points recorded), and he did not dress for the game against Columbus on Saturday. Including the four games he has played this year, he has gone 14 games without a point. It would be nice to break that string against his hometown team.
1. Win the first period. The Caps have had a good run of third-period success lately, but winning games late is not something that many teams do often in the NHL. Calgary has one win all season when trailing at the first intermission.
2. More Power. The Caps are 13-5-0 when they score at least one power play goal, 7-10-2 when they do not. They have power play goals in each of their last two games (both wins), and four of their last six (3-1-0). Calgary is 5-10-3 when allowing at least one power play goal.
3. Grind for goals. The three members of what has been the “Meat and Potatoes” line did not have a goal last week in four games. Mike Knuble has not had one in his last 11 games. Mathieu Perreault – 18 games without a goal. Matt Hendricks – one in 33 games. It is nice to have the stars playing like stars, but the Caps are going to need something from the undercard among the forwards from time to time, too.
In the end, this is the beginning of the long, slow slog through the winter – a weeknight game against an opponent the Caps do not see often and one that fans might not have much interest in seeing (save for seeing Jarome Iginla). But if the Caps are going to jump into the playoff-eight, they have to win games like these, games against an opponent struggling to put wins together, tonight playing their sixth of a seven-game road trip and losers of their last three. That, and the Caps’ ability to win at home (most standing points per home game in the East), spells a Caps win.
Capitals 3 – Flames 2