The Washington Capitals take to the road with a trip to Boston for a Saturday matinee against the Bruins…
“Ooh…think they’ll have cartoons at the matinee, cousin?”
Cheerless, it’s a hockey game, not one of those old time afternoons at the movies.
“But you said it was a matinee, and they always have cartoons.”
Look, there is the pre-game warm-up, a hockey game, maybe some mites on the ice at intermission, and if you’re really good, maybe an overtime or a shootout.
“But no cartoons?”
“Not even a Woody Woodpecker?”
“No ‘Merrie Melodies’ or “Looney Tunes?’”
Nope…no Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck?
“You’re sure? How can it be a matinee without any cartoons.”
“So there ARE cartoons?”
Have you seen the Caps’ road power play lately?
Washington will be hoping to generate some spark on the power play in Boston on Saturday, not to mention some even strength…well, strength… and if they’re really in the mood, maybe a shortie or two. It would be novel. In the 2012 portion of the season, the Caps have played in 14 road games. They have scored more than three goals once. That happened to be their most recent road game, a 4-2 win over Toronto on February 25th. But the Caps are moving up in weight class in their next opponent.
Or are they? Boston built a reputation early this season as a juggernaut, leaving opponents’ wreckage in their wake from beating them and beating them up with a deep, talented, and edgy team. They won 10 in a row in November and were 14-0-1 from November 1st through December 5th. Then they ran off a seven-game streak from December 10th through December 28th. On January 12th the Bruins were 28-11-1, and folks were planning the parade down Boylston Street.
January 12th would be an important date in the Bruins’ season. It was the last time they won consecutive games until winning their last two this past week. Since January 12th Boston is a pedestrian 12-12-2. Tim Thomas, the hero of last season’s playoffs and who was rolling along with a record of 18-7-0, 1.95, .939, with four shutouts, was found to be mortal. He is 11-8-0, 2.74, .903, with no shutouts since January 12th.
Tyler Seguin, who started the season with 11 goals in his first 15 games (a 60-goal pace), has seven goals in his last 26 games (a 22-goal pace) since January 12th. Patrice Bergeron was a plus-27 in his first 40 games; is plus-3 in his last 26 games since January 12th. Brad Marchand had 32 points in his first 37 games; he has 11 in his last 23 games since January 12th.
The juggernaut is in a ditch. Here is how the teams compared going into last night's action:
(click pic for larger image)
1. Boston does bring the league’s top 5-on-5 offense into the game. They are averaging 2.30 goals per game at 5-on-5, more than Islanders, Kings, and Wild average in total per game.
2. The Bruins have a remarkable disparity in results when outshooting and when being outshot by their opponents, and not in the direction one might expect. They are 21-16-3 (a .525 winning percentage) in games in which they outshoot their opponents, but they are 19-7-0 in games in which they are outshot (a .731 winning percentage, second-best in the league to Detroit).
3. You have heard from time to time recently that the Caps are one of two teams with a perfect record (19-0-0) when leading after two periods. Boston is the other one – 26-0-0.
4. Big, bad Bruins? Boston is 22nd in the league in hits overall, 23rd in hits at home. But there is this… they are second in the league in fighting majors (52), trailing only the New York Rangers. Shawn Thornton has 18 fighting majors by himself, as many or more than five other teams. Only one team (Philadelphia) has more misconduct penalties, and the Bruins lead the league in game misconduct penalties. They do not work or play well with others.
5. As is befitting for their mascot, Boston mauls teams. Their 17-4 record in games decided by three or more goals is the second highest win total and second best winning percentage in such games in the NHL. They are “only” 15-10-3 in one-goal games.
1. About the Caps and that perfect record when leading after two periods. That’s nice, but only four teams have fewer wins when leading after two periods (Minnesota, Columbus, Carolina, and the Islanders…not exactly a Murderer’s Row). That is because no team has had fewer second intermission leads this season than the Caps.
2. The Caps are 7-for-61 on the power play when on the road under Dale Hunter (11.5 percent). Almost identical to their record under Bruce Boudreau (5-for-42; 11.9 percent). Only two teams have fewer road power play goals (Buffalo, Winnipeg), and overall they have the worst road power play in the league (11.6 percent). Add to that the fact that only two teams have allowed more shorthanded goals on the road than the Caps, and one can see that the Caps’ power play is a real adventure on the road.
3. Only three teams have a worse turnover ratio (takeaways to giveaways) on the road than the Caps (minus-62) – Buffalo, Phoenix, and New Jersey.
4. The Caps are 25th in the league in first period goals scored, fourth in the league in third period goals scored.
5. Only three teams have more wins than the Caps this season when trailing at the second intermission (Boston, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh). But don’t get a big head about it. The best team in the league (Pittsburgh) has a winning percentage of .308 in such games (8-16-2). The Caps have a winning percentage of .200 (6-22-2).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Boston: Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic comes into this game on a five-game points streak (1-5-6) and has an outside chance of reaching his career high in points (62, set last season). He currently has 50. He already has a career high in power play goals (seven) and is within striking distance of his career high in penalty minutes (120, 16 short of his 136 in 2008-2009). His is an interesting mix in skills – second on the team in goals, third in points, second in penalty minutes, first in hits, fourth in fights. Against the Caps he is 3-6-9, minus-5 in 16 career games.
Washington: Alexander Semin
Alexander Semin picked the worst time for his scoring well to go dry. He took an oh-fer for the five-game home stand – no goals on 19 shots, no points. But perhaps there is a glimmer of hope he can right himself in Boston. His road production (8-13-21 in 31 games) is little different than his home production (9-11-20 in 32 games). He has 15 points in 20 career games against the Bruins (4-11-15). Two of his goals are game-winners. But there is this, too. He has 20 penalty minutes in 20 games against Boston, a slightly higher rate than his career PIMs per game. Which Semin shows up – the one who produces on the ice, or the one that sits in the penalty box with an ill-timed penalty – could be the difference in this one.
1. Simplicity. Boston is not a complicated team. They are deep, and they can wear down opponents with their depth and their physical edge. Being fancy or cute might be just an exercise in frustration. This should be played as a textbook road game for the Caps. Simple equals success.
2. Secondary. In January the Caps knocked off the Bruins without Alex Ovechkin. Now, they have the challenge of matching that outcome without the services of Mike Green, who will be sitting for this game and two more under a suspension. That means guys like Mathieu Perreault (who had a hat trick in that January game), Jeff Halpern and Jay Beagle (an assist apiece) have to step up with secondary scoring.
3. Silence. The goal horn has gone off a lot for the home team when the Caps visit in the 2012 portion of the season – 43 goals in 14 road games (3.07 per game). Defense tightened up some in the last three games of the home stand (seven goals against), and now they have to do that on the road, because Boston doesn’t allow many at home (eight in their last four home games).
In the end, this begins the make-or-break portion of the Caps’ regular season. Six of the next seven games will be on the road, and the Caps will be traveling in what resembles an Original Six tour – they get Boston, Chicago, and Detroit on the road, plus Toronto in their only home game in this stretch. If the Caps can come out of these seven games breaking even, they give themselves a chance to make the last eight games of the season mean something. Getting off to a good start toward that goal would be nice.
Even if there aren't any cartoons.
Capitals 2 – Bruins 1