The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals spent last week locked up with teams that were banged up (Carolina), struggling (Winnipeg), or both (Philadelphia). They will open this week against a team that is neither banged up, nor struggling. The Boston Bruins come to town in ill humor, a team that has lost only three games in regulation, but having suffered one of those losses to their arch-rivals – the Montreal Canadiens – in their last outing.
The Bruins lost their top defenseman and captain – Zdeno Chara – for 17 minutes of that contest after having chosen to educate Montreal defenseman Alexei Emelin on the finer points of coming to the aid of a teammate, Tyler Seguin having been rudely cross-checked by Emelin at center ice only moments earlier. Montreal used Chara’s absence to come from behind with a pair of goals to give Boston their first loss in regulation at home since January 31st.
And now the Caps get an angry bunch of Bruins, looking to regain the top spot in the Northeast Division and in the Eastern Conference that they relinquished as a result of that loss to Montreal. That loss to Montreal broke a six-game winning streak for the B’s, their longest of the season and their longest since peeling off a seven-game winning streak in late December last season.
In this most recent 6-1-0 stretch of games Boston outscored their opponents by a 23-13 margin. That 1.86 goals-per-game scoring defense has been in part the product of a stout Boston defense, but it also has been due to some fine goaltending by Tuukka Rask. The sixth-year pro is 5-1-0 in these last seven games for Boston with a 1.82 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.
The four goals Rask allowed in Sunday’s game against Montreal was just the fourth time in 15 appearances this season in which he allowed more than two goals. Rask has not had much success against the Caps, though. In three career appearances he is 0-2-1 with a 3.45 goals-against average and a .877 save percentage.
Brad Marchand, the “Little Ball of Player Everyone in the League Would Like to Smear on the Glass,” is the leading goal scorer for Boston in this 6-1-0 run. He is 4-5-9 and has taken over the team lead in goals with 11. His reputation for antics aside, he has gone without a point in only five of 18 games this season. In ten career games against the Caps he is 3-4-7, plus-1.
Patrice Bergeron is the leading point-getter for the Bruins over these last seven games (3-8-11). What he also brings to this game is a four-game streak in which he has won more than 60 percent of faceoffs taken. He has 13 such games this season and is second in the league in faceoff winning percentage among players taking at least 100 draws (62.4 percent).
Here is how the two teams, uh… match up in their respective numbers:
1. Thirteen different Bruins have goals in this 6-1-0 run, 17 have points. The Bruins are not an especially extraordinary offensive team (eighth in scoring offense), but they do have balance. Five different players have at least five goals (the Caps have four), and seven have at least ten points (the Caps have five).
2. Dougie Hamilton is second among rookie defensemen in points (2-9-11) and is not shy about shooting the puck. He is second among rookie defensemen in shots on goal, but he has only a 4.4 percent shooting percentage.
3. Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin are tied for the league plus-minus lead at plus-15 (curiously enough, three of the other four players with whom they are tied all play for Carolina).
4. Boston has the worst negative differential between home and road power play success in the league. At home the Bruins have converted only two of 33 chances (6.1 percent), but are 7-for-28 on the road (25.0 percent). They also have the second “worst” – if you can call it that – negative differential between their home and road penalty kill. They have an 85.7 percent penalty kill at home and a 97.3 percent penalty kill on the road (36-for-37). Montreal is the only team to score a power play goal on their home ice against Boston.
5. Former Cap Chris Bourque already has set a career high in points (1-3-4 in 17 games). He also already has tied a career worst plus-minus at minus-4.
1. Including last spring’s seven-game playoff series, the Caps and Bruins have played 35 times against one another. Of those games, 25 ended in one-goal decisions. The Caps are 11-7-7 in those games.
2. The Caps might actually miss Marcus Johansson (injured) in this game. He has three goals in seven regular season games against Boston, tied for the most he has against any team in his brief career, and he has scored against Boston more frequently than against any other team.
3. The Caps will miss Brooks Laich (injured), too. Laich has more goals against Boston (10) than he does against any other non-divisional team (he has 10 against Florida).
4. The Caps have climbed to ninth in the league’s faceoff winning percentage rankings, but they still have only one player in the top-45 in faceoff winning percentage (Jay Beagle, 14th at 57.3 percent).
5. Only Edmonton (four) has fewer major penalties taken so far this season than Washington (six).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Boston: Chris Kelly
Few Bruins could be said to be disappointments this season, but Chris Kelly comes close. After recording a career high in goals last season with 20 (does this start to sound familiar, Jason Chimera fans?) and signing a four-year, $12 million contract, Kelly has one goal in 19 games so far, that one coming against the woeful Florida Panthers. He has never finished a full season in single digits in goals, but unless he has a big push he seems destined for that this season. Kelly has one goal in 27 career regular season games against the Caps, although he did have an overtime winner in the B’s 1-0 win in Game 1 of last season’s first round playoff series.
Washington: Troy Brouwer
Troy Brouwer is the unlikely leader in goals for the Caps so far this season with nine. However, six of them have come against Southeast Division competition. He has those six goals against the Southeast on only 23 shots (26.1 percent). He has three goals on 23 shots against everyone else in the East (13.0 percent). Not bad, but not the Southeast, either. Brouwer has no career goals against the Bruins, although he does have four assists to his credit. He does have six goals in his last nine games, though, so he has more than a passing familiarity with the back of the opponent’s net recently.
1. Don’t be the second to swing. The Bruins don’t take as many penalties as you might think. Sure, they drop the mitts (only seven teams have more major penalties), but with 83 minors they rank in the middle third in the league (tied for 11th). And they do not do an especially good job of drawing penalties (they are last in power play opportunities). It speaks to the need to stay disciplined and not give in to the sort of Marchandish antics that the B’s might engage in. Don't give the Bruins freebies.
2. Show up in the last 20. Boston locks teams down in the third period. No team has allowed fewer goals in the last 20 minutes than the Bruins (10). Meanwhile, the Caps are tied for the fourth highest number of third period goals scored. Something has to give.
3. Pressure, pressure, pressure. Only six teams have allowed fewer shots than Boston, and the Bruins have outshot opponents in 14 of 19 games (they are 10-3-1 in those games). The Caps need to get pucks to the net on Tuukka Rask.
In the end, we have noted that the Caps need to start posting wins against quality teams if they have a hope of making up either the six point margin they face between themselves and eighth place or the eight points they have to make up with Carolina in the division to secure an automatic top-three playoff seed. Boston qualifies as a quality team, one that is 6-0-0 against teams in the Southeast Division so far this season (one of two teams with a perfect record against the Southeast Division). It is going to take a whole team effort to earn two points in this one, but this is still a team that has memories of just that kind of effort from last spring.
Capitals 3 – Bruins 1