Monday, November 11, 2013

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 19: Blue Jackets at Capitals, November 12th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Well, aren’t we glad THAT’S over with?  The Washington Capitals wrapped up their last trip out of the Eastern time zone until the new year in disappointing fashion, managing a single standings point in trips to Phoenix and Colorado.

Now, they get to come home for one of the fabled Metropolitan Matchups that have been a staple of National Hockey League history for, oh, about six weeks.  On Tuesday the Columbus Blue Jackets make their second visit to Verizon Center to take on the Caps, who beat the Jackets, 4-1, on October 19th.

Since then Columbus has been struggling to tread water even in what is a mediocre division.  The Blue Jackets are 4-5-0 since their visit to Verizon in October, and it is a record that reflects two very different teams. There was the team that won three in a row after leaving Washington, two of those wins coming in impressive fashion against Vancouver (3-1) and Toronto (5-2).  Then there is the other team that followed up that streak with a five-game losing streak in which they scored only eight goals.  The Blue Jackets broke that streak last Saturday with a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders.

Columbus will be facing an unusual situation in preparing for this game – hotel rooms.  Since they left Washington last month the Blue Jackets have had just one game away from Nationwide Arena.  That was a 4-2 loss in Pittsburgh, which doesn’t even qualify as a day trip, seeing as how the cities are less than 200 miles apart.  In these parts, that’s almost a commute.

What it means is that Columbus (four) ranks only ahead of the woeful Florida Panthers (three) in road points earned to date in the NHL.  This is not a team that can be called road warriors.  Including their progress to date this season the Blue Jackets have not ranked higher than 20th in road points earned in any of the last five seasons.

Here are how the teams compare, numbers-wise:

1.  James Wisniewski, Scoring Machine.  With 13 points in 16 games, Wisniewski is on a pace (13-56-69) to obliterate his career best points effort (10-41-51 in 2010-2011).  He got here by going 2-8-10 in nine games since he and his Columbus teammates last cast their shadows across Verizon Center ice.  He is 0-2-2, plus-2, in six career games against Washington.

2.  Another player looking to jump well past his career high in scoring is Ryan Johansen.  He does not have the length of resume Wisniewski has, but he is off to an impressive start nonetheless.  With a 5-6-11 scoring line to date, he is on a pace to go 26-31-57.  That would smash his career best, set in his rookie year two years ago when he was 9-12-21 in 67 games.  Much of that pace is fueled by a 4-4-8 scoring line in nine games since he faced Washington.

3.  For what it’s worth, no team has allowed more empty net goals than the Blue Jackets (5).  The Caps are one of six teams not yet scoring one.  Will something crack?

4.  No team has fewer one-goal wins than Columbus (1).  That goes with no team having played fewer one-goal games than Columbus (4).

5.  Only Florida has taken fewer leads (1) into the third period of games than Columbus (2).  The Blue Jackets did, however, win both games.

1.  Going into Monday’s games, 54 players had more shots on goal than Mike Green.  All 54 players had at least one goal to show for it.  Alas, Green is still looking for his.  He is tied with Winnipeg’s Zach Bogosian for early season futility, both being 0-for-49 in shooting.

2.  Washington has spent more than a minute more of 5-on-3 power play time (5:46) than the next highest participant at 5-on-3 (Anaheim – 4:28).  At least Anaheim has a goal to show for it.  The Caps are one of two teams with more than four minutes of 5-on-3 power play time without a goal.  The other is Buffalo.  This is not company you want to keep.

3.  Of the Caps’ 53 goals scored this season, 20 were scored on the power play.  The percentage of total goals claimed by the power play (37.7 percent) is by far the largest in the league.  Montreal is next with 33.3 percent of their goals scored on power plays.

4.  Braden Holtby did not face 40 shots against Colorado on Saturday.  Pity. Five times in his career he has faced 40 or more shots with a record of 4-1-0, 2.55, .939.

5.  In today’s Fenwickiness, consider “5-on-5 close.”  As defined at, score “close” refers to “game situations where the score is either tied, or within one goal in the first or second periods.”  For the Caps, here is how that translates into results.  Six times this season the Caps finished a game with a share of Fenwick events with the score close of more than 50 percent.  In those games they are 4-1-1.  One loss was a one-goal decision in regulation, the other a Gimmick loss.  Twelve times they finished 50 percent or worse and are 5-7-0 in those games.  Four of the losses were by three or more goals.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Columbus: Brandon Dubinsky

A more familiar face to Caps fans seems to have found his game in the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers.  Brandon Dubinsky is 3-7-10 in his last nine games, a point total that by itself is half as many as he posted in 29 games all of last season for Columbus.  He is tied for the team lead in scoring (13 points) and is one of only 14 players in the league at the moment who has an even-strength goal, a power play goal, and a shorthanded goal.  He remains his feisty self, leading the Blue Jackets in both penalty minutes and hits.  Dubinsky also has won more than 54 percent of his faceoffs and has only three giveaways charged to him in more than 300 minutes of ice time.  In 19 career games against the Caps (all of them as a New York Ranger), he is 3-8-11, plus-3.

Washington:  Alex Ovechkin

At 1:24 of the third period of the Caps’ 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on October 24th, Nicklas Backstrom scored on assists from Marcus Johansson and Alex Ovechkin.  In the rest of that game and six games played since – 96:36 of even strength ice time – Ovechkin has not added to his even strength point total.  He has three goals and two assists, all of it on the power play.  It speaks to a certain amount of depth, not to mention power play production, that the Caps are 4-3-1 in games since the Edmonton game (including those missed by Ovechkin to injury), but Ovechkin – who is staring up at 109 skaters with more even strength points – is going to have to be more than a power play trigger man for the Caps to sustain any level of success over the long term.


1.  30.  Sergei Bobrovsky has been easy to predict in goal for Columbus this season.  Fail to get more than 30 shots on goal on him, and you lose.  Get more than 30, you win.  Bobrovsky is 5-2-0 in games in which he faced 30 or fewer shots on goal (in one of the losses he was pulled after facing 13 shots in 23 minutes), 0-5-0 in games in which he faced more than 30.  He faced a season high 39 shots on goal in Washington’s 4-1 win over Columbus on October 19th.

2.  As Nicky Goes…  The Caps are 9-2-0 in games in which Nicklas Backstrom records a point, 0-6-1 in games in which he does not.

3.  Zone starts. Columbus is second in the Eastern Conference in faceoff winning percentage.  The odd part is that only Tampa Bay has taken fewer draws than the Blue Jackets in the East.  Keep things moving., and perhaps the Caps will not have to put up with doing something that Columbus actually does well.

In the end… Here is a game the Caps could, should, and need to win.  As it is, even if the Caps win it will be the latest into the season that they won their 10th game (in a full NHL season) since the 2007-2008 season when it took them until Game 29 to get to ten wins.  After this game the quality of competition in the six games on the schedule before Thanksgiving ramps up.  Only Ottawa, who the Caps play on the day before Thanksgiving, currently has a worse record than the Caps, and that is by a single standings point (the Senators have a game in hand at the moment).  This is as important a should-win game as you might find in November.

Capitals 4 – Blue Jackets 2

Washington Capitals: Metro versus Metro...Know the Differences

Washington Capitals fans, living where they do, might still be confused about the naming of the new "Metropolitan Division" in which the Caps play.  After so many years of patronizing "Metro" to get to games, a new "Metro" might be a bit much, even for the sophisticates that live and work in the region.  So, we bring you this handy table of comparisons that will help you differentiate between "Metro" -- a finely tuned instrument that brings its patrons hours of comfort and pleasure -- and that contraption you ride to hockey games...

Washington Capitals: A NO point night -- Game 18: Avalanche 4 - Capitals 1

You have heard us say from time to time that in an 82-game season there are 20 games you are going to lose, no matter what, that there are 20 games you will win, no matter what, and it is in the rest that your season’s success or failure resides.

Well, this was one of those games you can chalk up as being a game you would lose, no matter what.  At least it makes what happened at Pepsi Center in Denver a little more palatable.  The Washington Capitals did just that – lose – to the Colorado Avalanche, 4-1.  It was a game that was daunting enough, given the record the Avalanche assembled to date.  It was downright disheartening when heaped on top of that was the anvil chorus of Capital shots hitting pipes and some iffy officiating of both the omission and commission sort.

The Caps started slowly, and they paid for it, helped along by some of that iffy officiating.  It started when the Avalanche tried to execute a long cross-ice clearing pass out of their own zone.  The puck skittered through Mike Green and Cody MacLeod, who were tangled up at the Capitals’ blue line.  Goalie Braden Holtby played the puck off the boards behind his own net, but Nate Schmidt could not get his stick on the ricocheting puck.  It slid out to the high slot where MacLeod backhanded a shot toward the Capitals’ net.  Patrick Bordeleau… the six-foot-six-inch before you consider the skates Patrick Bordeleau… deflected the puck down and past Holtby for an apparent goal.  The goal was allowed by the on-ice official and confirmed by video review, but it did not seem to pass either the smell or the sight test…

The Caps regrouped and competed harder, holding the Avs off the scoreboard for the rest of the period despite the ice titled steeply toward the Caps’ end.  Colorado outshot the Caps, 12-4, in the first period.  The second period was a much more evenly played affair, and the Caps evened things up when Joel Ward took advantage of the same springy end boards that victimized Braden Holtby on the Avalanche goal.  Off a faceoff to goalie Semyon Varlamov’s left the puck came back hard off the end wall and angled back toward the low slot where no Colorado player was occupied.  Ward slid in and with time and space deposited a backhand shot past Varlamov’s right pad to tie the game.

Then the Caps went all…Caps.  On the ensuing shift Colorado regained the lead when Gabriel Landeskog mesmerized the Caps into looking his way as he was handling the puck behind the Caps net.  It gave Nick Holden a chance to step into a seem where Landeskog found him.  One snap shot later, from the left wing faceoff circle, and Holden had his first NHL goal that gave the Avs the lead they would not relinquish.

The third period turned into a home town affair, the Avs getting an insurance goal in the ninth minute when PA Parenteau snuck one through Holtby’s pads after the Avs controlled the puck in the Caps’ end for a long shift.  Gabriel Landeskog added some cosmetic touches late when he collected a loose puck in his own end, sped up the right wing boards, stepped around Alex Ovechkin at the Capitals’ blue line and ripped a shot past Holby for the final indignity.  Avalanche 4 – Caps 1.

Other stuff…

-- Ovechkin gets high-sticked…no call.  Martin Erat was boarded…no call.  Ovechkin was helped into the end boards head and shoulders first…no call.  Jason Chimera offends the delicate sensibilities of an official…two minutes.  It might not have made any difference in the end, given the Caps’ struggles on their own power play this evening, but it still had a foul smell to it.

-- Speaking of the power play… 56 seconds of 5-on-3 time, one shot on goal, and that one was a long range try by Mike Green.  The Caps had only three shot attempts, two of them by Green.  It was the 11th consecutive dry well for the Caps at 5-on-3.

-- Not that the conventional power plays were any more effective.  In 6:03 at 5-on-4 the Caps had seven shots, only one of them by Alex Ovechkin.  You might remember that when these two teams met last month, Ovechkin was held without a power play shot in 3:48 of power play ice time. 

-- The Caps are 7-2-1 in games in which they score at least one power play goal.  They are 2-6-0 in games in which they do not.  Tonight, they did not.

-- Coming into this evening’s play, only Dustin Byfuglien and Duncan Keith had more shots on goal than Mike Green without having lit the lamp.  Both Keith and Byfuglien scored tonight.  Green has the top spot to himself.

-- One of the things getting a bit lost in the noise…the new top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Erat is making no noise of their own at even strength.  Ovechkin has not had an even strength point in more than six games, dating back to the third period of the Caps’ 4-1 win over Edmonton on October 24th.  Backstrom doesn’t have an even strength point in his last four games.  Erat doesn’t have a point of any flavor in his last five contests.

-- There was no fun in Fenwick tonight.  The Caps’ Fenwick-For percentage at 5-on-5 close was 44 percent.  In 11 games this year when they were on the wrong side of that statistic in that situation the Caps have only two wins in regulation (source:

-- At least they seemed to get the zone starts down.  Of 27 offensive zone faceoffs for the Caps, Nicklas Backstrom took 15 of them, winning nine. 

--  In fact, if you looked at faceoffs only, you would think the Caps dominated possession.  There were those 27 faceoffs in the Caps’ offensive zone.  There were only 14 draws taken in the Caps’ end of the ice.  But here is what that tells us.  Given the shot volumes, the Avs were able to put together combinations or otherwise keep the puck moving without play stopping on a Holtby save.  At the other end, Varlamov was either stopping pucks or they were going out of play.  The Caps were not able to put together combinations or flurries.

-- Colorado has been an equal opportunity abuser of Capitals goaltending.  Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth each have lost to the Avalanche and have a combined line of 0-2-0, 4.50, .862 against them.  Against everyone else they are 9-6-1, 2.52, .926, with one shutout.  The Caps are done with the Avs this season, unless…

In the end… Maybe the Avs will rediscover their 2012-2013 spirit in which they had the second worst record in the league.  But at the moment they look like another club that has passed the Caps by in the development of a contending team.  Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles.  They were once young and awful, or more precisely, awful, then young, then champions.  Colorado looks like the most recent incarnation of such a club.  

Yes, this was the back half of a back-to-back, played at altitude.  And, there is a lot of time left in the season.  However, if the two games against the Avs serve as any sort of benchmark to compare where these teams stand, Caps fans are not going to like the view unless they like craning their necks to look up at the Avalanche.