The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
It’s a new week, and a new opportunity for the Washington Capitals to get some traction, win some games, and make a go of this season. They open their week by hosting a rematch against the Toronto Blue Jays, a team they fell to last Thursday night by a 3-2 score.
Since that loss the Caps have split a pair of decisions, while the Maple Leafs have a pair of losses on their record. For the Caps, there is nowhere to go but up. They sit in 15th and last place in the Eastern Conference, but only three points out of the top-eight.
The trouble the Caps have and will have going forward, standings-wise, is that there might be only the three points separating themselves from eighth place, but there are also seven teams to climb over to get there. Four of them have played fewer games and thus have more opportunities to add to their point totals.
The Leafs, on the other hand, have been bobbing back and forth across the playoff line. Going into last night’s action they sat in eighth place. However, after a 4-1 loss at home to the Carolina Hurricanes, they find themselves sitting in tenth place in the Eastern Conference by virtue of tie breakers (they are tied with Carolina in points for eighth place).
Here is how the teams match-up on the numbers…
1. Games involving the Maple Leafs are matters of feast or famine in a sense. Five of their games ended in one-goal decisions (a 3-2-0 record), while their other four games to date have ended in margins of three or more goals (a record of 1-3).
2. Scoring early does not seem to help in Toronto’s case. The Maple Leafs are 2-3-0 when scoring first, and they are 1-3-0 when trailing at the first intermission.
3. Only three teams have endured fewer shorthanded situations on the road than the 29 recorded so far by Toronto, and two of them have played in two fewer road games.
4. The third period continues to be a problem for the Leafs (well, except for that Caps game last week). With the two goals allowed to the Hurricanes last night, Toronto has now allowed 12 third period goals. Only Winnipeg and the New York Islanders have allowed more (14 each).
5. What a difference the Leafs have between their home and road power plays. At home they have enjoyed 28 man advantages in five games, but have converted on only 7.1 percent of them. Meanwhile, they have only 19 power plays in five road games, but they have converted on 21.0 percent of them.
1. In nine games Washington has taken a lead to the first intermission once… and they lost that game, 3-2, to Ottawa on January 29th.
2. The Caps have led after two periods three times… and they lost two of those games.
3. The Caps are 0-3-1 when trailing after one period, 0-3-1 when trailing after two periods. They can’t hold a lead, and they don’t make comebacks. That’s why they’re 2-6-1, kids.
4. One thing they are at home… sloppy. They have 68 giveaways against only 46 takeaways. While there is a subjective element to that statistic (each being essentially an “official scorer” ruling, much like hits), it has the ring of truth.
5. Oh, gone are the days of the Greatest Show on Ice. The Caps have had three games end in three or more goal margins… they lost them all. No team has a worse record in such games.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Toronto: Matt Frattin
Matt Frattin was a fourth-round draft pick in the 2007 entry draft. He is part of a rather fruitful draft in terms of what the Leafs selected late. Defenseman Carl Gunnarsson was selected in the seventh round (194th overall) in that draft as well. Frattin has emerged as a go-to goal scorer for the Leafs. He has four goals in his last four games, two of them game-winners including his goal against the Caps on January 31st in a 3-2 Toronto win. His five goals so far is already within a hat-trick’s striking distance of his career high in goals (eight) set last season in 56 games. That was his only game against the Caps to date in his career.
Washington: Mike Green
Mike Green has 44 power play goals in his last 306 regular season games with the Capitals. None of them have come in the nine games he has played to date this season despite being second in the league in average power play time on ice per game (5:52). The Caps’ power play is a work in progress, and there is no role that requires as much decision-making as that which Green plays at the top of the 1-3-1. But if the Caps are to climb into the upper half of the power play rankings (they currently rank 17th), Green will have to be heard from.
1. Fewer hills, fewer valleys. The Caps have had stretches this year when they looked like a very good hockey team. Unfortunately, they have interspersed those occasions with times when they looked as if they couldn’t find their backsides with a map and a flashlight. They need to find a happy consistency.
2. Five is a lucky number. The Caps have yet to record more than one power play goal in a game this season. They have only two games in which they killed off all of their shorthanded situations. But what is killing them as much as anything is this number: 0.70. That is their ratio of goals scored at five-on-five to goals against. They have been outscored at 5-on-5 by a 20-14 margin. Toronto is almost as bad with a 0.83 ratio. This has to be exploited by the Caps.
3. Save like ya mean it. Whoever gets the call in goal tonight, he does not have a save percentage above .900. Michal Neuvirth is at .899, and Braden Holtby is at .862. That kind of netminding is only going to fuel rumors of Roberto Luongo coming to Washington. More urgently, it is a formula for ending the night at 2-7-1. Both of these guys have to do better.
In the end, the Caps are the strongest team in the Eastern Conference. They are holding the other 14 teams up in the standings. OK, that’s a bad joke. Well, so is the Caps’ record so far. We’ll stop telling bad jokes when they start winning.
Capitals 4 – Maple Leafs 2