The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
Well, guys. Here we are. Things are not looking too good for the Washington Capitals these days. They can’t seem to get on a good little run without stumbling right back to where they started, 5-5-0 over their last ten games.
“It is progress, cousin, considering their awful start. They are 9-7-0 over their last 16 games after that 2-8-1 start.”
True, Fearless, but if they put up standings points at that rate, they still do not get to 50 points.
“Cuz, it ain’t even that good. That 9-7-0 record? 7-1-0 against the Southeast Division, 2-6-0 against everyone else.”
Yeah, it is a shame they don’t play all their games against the Southeast, eh, Cheerless?
“Makes you wonder about that whole realignment thing next year, doesn’t it?”
That it does, Fearless.
“I just got one question, cuz…”
What’s that, Cheerless?
“Who’s the top-rated draft pick in 2014?”
Well, we are getting waaaaay ahead of ourselves. There is a game to be played Sunday evening as the Buffalo Sabres come to town. And if there is a team as disappointing as the Capitals, it might be the Sabres.
Buffalo has not managed to string more than three wins together only once this season, while they have three four-game losing streaks to their credit (or discredit). Only Florida has fewer wins in the league in regulation and overtime than do the Sabres. They have gone 13 straight games not having scored more than three goals in a game.
The Sabres will come into this game losers of five of their last six games. In putting up a 1-2-3 record over those six games, the Sabres and their opponents have split 30 goals evenly, but they have dropped a pair of games in the Gimmick, those game-losing goals not showing up on their goals for and against ledger.
Special teams have truly been an adventure for Buffalo in their last six games. Their power play is 2-for-22 (9.1 percent), while their penalty kill is 13-for-20 (65.0 percent) and has allowed power play goals in each of their five losses in this block of games (they were 1-for-1 in their 3-1 win over the New York Rangers).
Buffalo has spread their scoring around, despite the 1-2-3 record in their last six games. Eighteen different Sabres have points, nine different Sabres have goals. But when you score only 15 goals over six games with that kind of distribution, no one stands out. Drew Stafford does have three goals over those six games, but he does not have an assist. Steve Ott and Andrej Sekera each have four assists in the six games, but neither has a goal.
Here is how the teams match up in their overall numbers…
1. Ryan Miller has not won in goal since stopping 28 of 31 shots in the hockey portion of the contest and both shots he faced in the Gimmick in a 4-3 trick shot win over the New Jersey Devils. Since then he is 0-2-3, 3.08, .893.
2. No team in the league has fewer power play goals than the 11 the Sabres have. Of that total, Thomas Vanek has six, good for ninth in the league. But of those six power play goals for Vanek, he had three of them in the Sabres’ first six games, then three in his next 19 games.
3. Only three teams in the league have faced more shorthanded situations than Buffalo (112 in 28 games), which goes a long way toward explaining why no team has allowed more power play goals than the 24 allowed by the Sabres.
4. From the “does not play well with others” file, only Toronto (six) has more misconduct penalties than the Sabres (five).
5. Only two teams (Ottawa and Columbus) have played in more one-goal games to date than Buffalo. The Sabres are 6-7-4 in such games, the third worst winning percentage, ahead of only Florida and Tampa Bay. One of those losses was a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Caps on January 27th.
1. The Caps are 7-1-1 in their last nine games against Buffalo at home, outscoring the Sabres by a 30-23 margin.
2. The Caps allowed Boston only one power play on Saturday and still managed to allow a power play goal. That makes the Caps 1-13-1 in games in which they allowed at least one power play goal.
3. Caps games are either nail-biters or blow-outs. Of the 27 games played by the Caps to date, 12 of them were decided by one-goal (a record of 6-5-1), and 14 were decided by three or more goals (5-9).
4. Only three teams have more power play goals at home than the Caps. Overall, despite the fact that the Caps rank second in power play efficiency (24.4 percent), they are a minus-5 on special teams (22 power play plus a shorthanded goal versus 24 power play and four shorthanded goals allowed).
5. No team has won fewer games when leading at the first intermission than have the Caps this season. Only three times did they win after leading after 20 minutes.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Buffalo: Brian Flynn
Who? Brian Flynn has taken the express elevator to the NHL for a player who went undrafted. In 2012 he completed his four-year eligibility as a member of the University of Maine Black Bears hockey team. He was signed by Buffalo in late March, then played five games with the Rochester Americans in the AHL. This year he was 16-16-32 in 45 games at Rochester, good for tenth among AHL rookies in both goals and points. Since his call-up to the Sabres on March 1st, he is 2-1-3, plus-1, in seven games, both goals coming on the road.
Washington: Troy Brouwer
Troy Brouwer is in the midst of his longest goal-scoring drought of the season – six games and counting. He does not have a point in eight career games against Buffalo. He has only a lone assist in four Sunday games so far this season. One would think, “he’s due.” If Brouwer is to reverse the curse here, it could come on the power play. He has four power play goals this season, three in Washington wins. Ten of his 17 points this season have come with the man advantage.
1. Rev up the power tools. The Caps have a 27.1 percent power play at home. They need to unleash it, especially since the Sabres are only 13-for-20 (65.0 percent) on the penalty kill in their last five road games.
2. This game brought to you by the letter “J.” Odd numbers… John Carlson, no goals in his last five games. Joel Ward, no goals in his last eight games. Jay Beagle, no goals in his last 13 games. Jason Chimera, Jeff Schultz, and Jack Hillen – oh-for-the-season. Someone whose first name that starts with the letter “J” needs to score. Joey Crabb can’t do this by himself (a goal on Thursday).
3. Less tending makes for better tending. The Caps have allowed 30 or more shots in their last ten games (an average of 35.0 per game) and in 14 of their last 15. Goaltenders are facing too many shots.
In the end…
Here we have two teams that combined have the win total of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Both are shells of what they were not too long ago. Buffalo was a 100-point team as recently as 2009-2010, and the Caps were a 100-point team as recently as 2010-2011. It is not likely that the two teams will combine for 100 points in this abbreviated season. Neither gets timely scoring on a consistent basis, neither can kill penalties with consistency, and both have had goaltending issues from time to time. Both have earned their diminished position in the standings. That in itself might make this game entertaining, if not especially meaningful in the standings.
Capitals 5 – Sabres 4