Sunday, November 17, 2013

Washington Capitals: A TWO point night -- Game 21: Capitals 4 - Blues 1

The Washington Capitals began play on Sunday in second place in the Metropolitan Division.  By evening’s end, they held the top spot all by themselves for the first time this season after beating the St. Louis Blues, 4-1, at Verizon Center.

What promised to be a hard slog for the Caps ended up being settled in the first 20 minutes of this contest.  It started, oddly enough, on a play on which Alex Ovechkin might have scored, but did not.  Ovechkin fired wide off a faceoff in the Blue’s end as the clock ticked past the seven-minute mark of the first period.  St. Louis managed to clear the errant puck out of the zone, but a backhand pass by Chris Stewart through the middle was too long for Brenden Morrow.  The puck was corralled by Steve Oleksy, who sent it up to Nicklas Backstrom.  From the red line, Backstrom bump-passed the puck to Ovechkin flying past him.  Ovechkin sailed in and launched a slap shot that handcuffed goalie Jaroslav Halak, sneaking under his right arm to put the Caps ahead, 1-0.

Five minutes later it was Ovechkin again.  Marcus Johansson started the play by sliding to the right wing boards to keep in an attempted clear by T.J. Oshie. Johansson sent the puck up the wall to Nicklas Backstrom, who wired the puck across to Karl Alzner at the left point.  Alzner fired the puck on net, and the puck once more appeared to handcuff Halak.  The puck popped up and plopped to the ice, and Ovechkin beat defenseman Ian Cole to it, flipping a backhand past Halak to put the Caps ahead, 2-0, at 15:41.

Barely three minutes later it was the Caps being rewarded for gaining the offensive zone with speed.  It started with a defensive zone faceoff win by Jason Chimera to John Carlson.  From behind the Capitals’ net, Carlson moved the puck up to Joel Ward, who relayed it ahead to Mikhail Grabovski steaming through the neutral zone.  Grabovski bumped the puck ahead to Jason Chimera at the St. Louis blue line, who wristed a shot at Halak.  With Halak leaving another rebound, it was Grabovski darting down the slot to flip the loose puck behind Halak to give the Caps a 3-0 lead with 4:19 left in the period and end Halak’s evening.

St. Louis got one back early in the second period on a power play when Vladimir Sobotka took advantage of the puck sliding off the end of Alexander Urbom’s stick, wristing it past goalie Braden Holtby at 5:29 of the second period.  The three-goal lead was restored just less than four minutes later on a power play for the Caps.  Nicklas Backstrom set it up from the right wing wall, sliding the puck to John Carlson at the top of the offensive zone.  Carlson one timed the puck through several Blues players and over the left pad of relief goalie Brian Elliott to make it 4-1 and end the scoring portion of the evening.

Other stuff…

-- The power play goal by John Carlson was the first allowed by the Blues on the road this season after 15 successful road kills.

-- Alex Ovechkin ended the evening tied with the Blues’ Alexander Steen in goals with 17 after his two-goal effort. 

-- This was only the second time this season Steen was held without a point.  In both instances the Blues lost.

-- Nicklas Backstrom recorded three assists for the third time this season.  He leads the league in games with three or more assists.  He is the only player with four three-point games this season so far.

-- Alex Ovechkin’s two goal effort was his fourth multi-goal game of the season, the most multi-goal games in the league so far.  In his last 82 games Ovechkin has 60 goals.

--  The three-goal win was the widest margin of victory over the Blues since the Caps beat them, 4-1, on October 7, 1995.

-- The 47 shots faced by Braden Holtby tied a career high for a regular season game set earlier this year against Winnipeg.  It is a career high in shots faced in regulation.  His 46 saves is a career high for a regular season game.

-- Boy, something just is not right with the second line.  Martin Erat, Troy Brouwer, and Brooks Laich had no points and only two shots on goal for the evening.  They are more like a third line at this point.  In fact, the even strength ice time for the players on the second (35:43) and third line (35:57) were very close.

-- The Caps were very good on faceoffs in the ends.  In the offensive zone they were 10-for-14 (71.4 percent), and in the defensive zone they were 15-for-28 (53.6 percent).

-- The 15:41 in ice time for Jaroslav Halak was his quickest hook since he gave up three goal on 10 shots in just 7:41 in a 5-3 loss to San Jose on March 19, 2011.

In the end…

It is not often the Caps get something of a laugher against a quality opponent.  This one qualifies as their best effort of the season.  Not as satisfying, perhaps, as the 7-0 pasting of Philadelphia to open the month, but this was a better hockey effort.  It made the final top end numbers somewhat misleasding.  For example, there is the anatomy of score effects. 

From the drop of the puck until the Caps scored the first goal of the game…
  • Shots on goal: St. Louis – 0, Washington 2 (including the first Ovechkin goal)
  • Shots blocked: St. Louis – 2, Washington – 4
  • Shots missed: St. Louis – 4, Washington – 2
  • Total shot attempts: St. Louis— 6, Washington - 8

From the first goal to the Caps’ second goal, it looked like this…
  • Shots on goal: St. Louis – 8, Washington – 2 (including the second Ovechkin goal). 
  • Shots blocked: St. Louis – 1, Washington – 0. 
  • Shots missed: St. Louis – 1, Washington – 0. 
  • Total shot attempts: St. Louis – 10, Washington – 2

From the second Caps goal to their third it looked like this…
  • Shots on goal: St. Louis – 2, Washington – 2 (including the Grabovski goal)
  • Shots blocked: St. Louis – 2, Washington – 1
  • Shots missed: St. Louis – 2, Washington – 1
  • Total shot attempts: St. Louis 6, Washington – 4

From 3-0 to game’s end…
  • Shots on goal: St. Louis – 37, Washington - 14
  • Shots blocked: St. Louis – 17, Washington - 7
  • Shots missed: St. Louis – 9, Washington - 14
  • Total shot attempts: St. Louis – 63, Washington 35

It was hockey’s equivalent of rope-a-dope.  In the larger context of the Caps tendency to allow a lot of shot attempts, it was one more instance.  But under the circumstances, it was not altogether surprising.  And given the way Braden Holtby has played (10-3-0, 2.25, .937, and one shutout in his last 13 appearances), the outcome was not entirely surprising, either.

The win leaves the Capitals on top of the Metropolitan Division for the first time in the short history of the new divisional alignment.  That might not last past tomorrow night, when second-place Pittsburgh hosts Anaheim, but they will be playing for the division lead when they face the Penguins on Wednesday.  It was a good start to a week that might yet get better.

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was -- Week 7

The Washington Capitals were outscored at even strength, were blanked on their power play, and saved barely 90 percent of the shots they faced this week.  And yet, it was their fifth straight winning week.  Proof that it’s not “how,” it’s “how many”… wins, that is.

Record: 2-1-0

The fifth straight winning week made the Caps 10-3-2 over those five weeks and 6-1-1 for the month of November.  If you are looking at quality of competition, the Caps looked as bad against the high-altitude Colorado Avalanche in Denver as they did against the Avs at lower altitude in Washington in October.  In that game they did not have a chance to succumb to their annoying habit of blowing third period leads.  They returned to that habit against Columbus before coming back late and winning in overtime.  The Caps turned the tables on the Detroit Red Wings in the last game of the week, coming back from two goals down in the third period to force extra time, where they made it a winning week in the freestyle competition.

Offense: 2.67/game (season: 3.00 / rank:T-8th)

It was not an especially prolific week for the Caps, but it was a balanced one.  Six player shared in the eight goals for the week, Joel Ward and Alex Ovechkin with the two-goal efforts.  There were 14 players recording points, with Mikhail Grabovski and John Carlson (both 1-2-3 for the week) the somewhat unlikely leaders.

Something odd, but familiar, took place in the last game of the week.  Head coach Adam Oates had been experimenting (he seems to do more of that than a graduate organic chemistry student) with a top line of Martin Erat joining Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the left wing, dropping Marcus Johansson down to the second line centering Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer.  That was not working.  Through two games and two periods those two lines combined for one goal, that by Brooks Laich (assisted by Steve Oleksy, not either of his linemates) in the first period of the game against the Red Wings.

Then, to start the third period of the game against Detroit, Oates shook things up again.  On the first even strength face off of the period (the Caps started the period on a power play), Oates sent out his third line, the most consistent in its assembly and production over the last few weeks.  The next shift saw the return of the Johansson-Backstrom-Ovechkin line.  The result?  Nineteen seconds into its shift, Johansson fed Ovechkin for a goal that brought the Caps to within a goal of the Red Wings and propelled them to a successful third period.  They tied the game later, then won in a Gimmick.  It looked for the time being as if the first line was back.  Now, about that second line…

Defense: 3.33/game (season: 2.85 / rank:20th )

The Caps broke a streak of sorts last week.  Going into Week 7 Washington was riding a streak of 12 games in which they allowed opponents 30 or more shots on goal.  The streak had not caused any undue harm to the Caps’ win-loss record, posting an 8-3-1 record in the process.  But that might be the kind of thing that, should it continue, puts too much wear and tear on goalies. 

The Caps broke that streak against the Columbus Blue Jackets, allowing the Blue Jackets “only” 27 shots on goal, the lowest total by an opponent since Dallas recorded 21 shots on goal in a 2-1 win back on October 5th.  Not that it was a perfect week, or all that much an improvement.  The 101 shots by opponents for the week were heavily front-loaded, 36 of them coming in the first period of games, 37 of them in the second period.

Then there is the matter of possession.  It is something the Caps have struggled with all season at 5-on-5, and this week was not an exception.  Their ratios of for/against Corsi and Fenwick at 5-on-5 overall were on the wrong side of 50 percent in the games against Colorado (45.7 percent Corsi/47.8 percent Fenwick) and Detroit (47.1/48.3) and barely over 50 percent against Columbus (50.6/50.8).  In 5-on-5 close situations the Caps were underwater in each of the three games against Colorado (42.2/44.0), Columbus (48.7/47.1), and Detroit (46.4/47.9).  Given the shot totals, the Caps are still allowing too much on the defensive side of the ledger (source:

Goaltending: 3.23 GAA / .901 save percentage (season: 2.75 / .918 / 1 shutout)

Braden Holtby got all the minutes this week, and all things considered it might not have been his best seven-day stretch, but he fought through things to scratch out a pair of wins to end the week.  There was a “glass half full/glass half empty” aspect to the week, though.  In the “glass half full” sense, he had an even strength save percentage of .933 in the first period of games and a .967 save percentage in the second period.  On the flip side, there is that .765 save percentage at even strength in the third period (13 saves on 17 shots).  Perhaps it is shot volumes that keeps Holtby’s mind from wandering.  Three of the four goals scored against him in the third period came in the last ten minutes of the period.

Power Play: 0-11 / 0.0 percent (season: 24.4 percent / rank: 2nd)

Three games, three blanks on the power play.  The streak matches the Caps longest drought of the season on the man advantage.  The 0-for-11 for the week extended the Caps streak of power plays without a goal to 14, dating back to the second period of 4-3 Gimmick loss to Phoenix to close Week 6.

It might be thought of as an instance of regression in this respect.  Alex Ovechkin is the primary trigger man on the power play.  If you look at his five year performance ending with last season, he shot to a 13.1 percent rate at 5-on-4, 64 goals on 488 shots (source:  Even if you consider the “Oates effect” from the changes last season, Ovechkin had 16 goals on 71 shots.  That works out to a 22.5 percent shooting rate.  Quite an improvement compared to the five-year context.  Coming into this week Ovechkin was 7-for-26 shooting at 5-on-4 (26.9 percent).  He was 0-for-4 for the week, dropping him to 23.3 percent.  Not inconsistent with last year’s performance, but still much better than his five-year conversion rate.

As for the rest of the power play squad, it is worth noting that it was John Carlson who led the week in power play shots on goal (six), making up for the absence of a wonky Mike Green.  There is the matter of performance, and if Green is going to miss any more time, Carlson has to keep up the pressure.  On the other side, there was Troy Brouwer, who in 13:08 of power play time did not record a shot on goal.

Penalty Killing: 9-11 / 81.8 percent (season: 87.3 percent / rank: 2nd)

Since putting together a streak of 35 shorthanded situations without allowing a power play goal, the Caps are 20-for-26 over their last six-plus games (76.9 percent), including 9-for-11 this week (81.8 percent).  This might have been a really nice week, a return to perfection, but for a stumble early on in their game against Detroit to end the week.

What happened against the Red Wings might be an example of past events influencing future behavior.  The first Wings goal was a matter of a bit of passive play by the Caps.  Johan Franzen had the puck at the left point and was looking over his options.  Not seeing a passing option, he started to walk the puck down the left wing boards.  As he was doing so, defenseman Steve Oleksy and forward Joel Ward were on that side of the ice, paying attention but not pressing the issue.  

As Franzen moved in, Oleksy was low and inside the faceoff dot, Ward outside the dot but above Franzen and not in a position to force a decision.  Franzen walked the puck in slowly, getting below the dot, but Oleksy did not come out to challenge, and Ward did not drop down to pressure him.  It allowed Franzen what amounted to a free look at the net, and he picked the corner over goalie Braden Holtby’s right shoulder, ricocheting the puck off iron and in.

Franzen would score later from the same side of the ice at even strength on what looked like a missed coverage deep in the zone.  That set up a situation on the Wings power play late in the second period where you had a hot shooter on the left side of the ice with the puck.  The Caps might have been forgiven for now paying lots of attention to what Franzen was doing,  However, when Franzen showed “shot,” and the Caps slid to that side of the ice, Franzen had a passing lane to Danny DeKeyser on the right side, who one timed the puck into the open side of the net.  It made for a “not bad” week when it might have ended a lot better.

Even Strength Goals For/Against: 7-7 (season: 39-44; 5-on-5 GF/GA ratio: 0.93 / rank: 18th)

The even week masks one that started poorly and ended well at evens.  All of the goals scored in the game against Colorado to open the week came at even strength, leaving the Caps in a 1-4 hole.  Washington made up the difference over the last two games, outscoring Columbus, 3-2, at even strength in their 4-3 overtime win (including the game-winner at 4-on-4), and 3-1 against Detroit in the 4-3 trick shot win over the Red Wings (including two to tie the game in the third period).

Overall it was a breakeven week in more than goals.  Shots were virtually even, 79 for the Caps and 80 for their opponents in the three games.  Only against Columbus did the Caps have an edge, 31-25, but they did not have large deficits against either of the other teams.

It was an odd week in one respect, though.  There was the usual high-volume from Ovechkin (14 of the 79 even strength shots), but there was also the feast-or-famine performance sprinkled in.  Jason Chimera had eight shots on goal at even strength, but he had five of them against Columbus, none against Colorado.  Mike Green played in two games for the week, recording six even strength shots against Colorado, none against Columbus.  Marcus Johansson sandwiched a pair of no-shot efforts at even strength around a four-shot total against Columbus. 

Faceoffs: 83-175 / 47.4 percent (season: 48.5 percent / rank: 23rd)

The week was worse than it looks.  In no game did the Caps win more than 50 percent of draws overall, and their performance in the ends was poor.  In the three games they won only 33 of 77 offensive zone draws (42.9 percent).  In the defensive end it was hardly better – 23 for 52 (44.2 percent). 

Part of it was unexpectedly poor performances in games – Nicklas Backstrom going 0-for-10 in the offensive end against Columbus.  Part of it was a lot of little slips among players – four of six players taking draws in the defensive zone against Columbus being under 50 percent, all six of them being under 50 percent in the defensive zone against Detroit.  What it means is that over the last three weeks the Caps were under 50 percent in each, only 47.1 percent overall. 

Goals For/Against by Period:

The third period saved the week for the Caps.  They could not dig out of a hole against Colorado, but the Caps got a late goal from Mikhail Grabovski against Columbus after the Caps blew a third period lead, then they scored a pair in the third against Detroit, the latter of the two being Michael Latta’s first NHL goal, to tie a game that they would win in extra time. 

It masks a relatively deficient first period, extending the Caps tendency to start games in sluggish fashion.  Washington was outscored by a 3-1 margin in the first period of the three games.  It left the Caps with only 11 first period goals for the season.  Only Florida, Carolina, and Buffalo have scored fewer.   None of those three teams are in the playoff mix, and Florida and Buffalo are ranked 28th and 30th in the league in standings points.  This is not company the Caps want to keep.

In the end…

The Caps did not do it this week with dominant play; they did it this week by finding a way.  Poor first periods, poor faceoff performance, poor possession numbers, and they still managed to scrape out a pair of wins in three games, putting them on the cusp of the Metropolitan Division lead, a lead they can take if the defeat the St. Louis Blues on Sunday evening to begin Week 8.

Consider the wins “banked” against a schedule that gets more difficult this week.  It is a tough week in that the Caps have four games coming up in the next seven days, all of them in the playoff mix of their respective division and with a combined record of 47-26-6.

If the Caps come out of the coming week leading the Metropolitan Division, it will be quite a week.  To do so, they will have to play better than they did this past week.

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 21: Blues at Capitals, November 17th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals return from their one-game road trip to Detroit to host the St. Louis Blues Sunday evening at Verizon Center.  The Caps return home fresh off a 4-3 trick shot win over the Red Wings and bring a 6-1-1 record for the month of November into the game. 

The Blues will be coming to Washington the day after a 4-2 win over Carolina.  It is not as if the Blues get out of the house often, so to speak.  Their visit to Washington will be only their seventh road game this season, which will tie Boston for fewest road contests in the league.

St. Louis is the hottest team in the league (with Phoenix and Minnesota) with an 8-1-1 record over their last ten games.  They outscored their opponents by a 35-20 margin in those ten games, three of the wins coming by margins of three or more goals.  Their power play is 9-for-38 in that span (23.7 percent), while their penalty kill is 28-for-31 (90.3 percent).

Balance has been the key, scoring wise.  Fifteen different players have goals over the last ten games, led by Alexander Steen (nine) and Alex Pietrangelo (four).  Nineteen players shared in the points, led by Steen (9-4-13), David Backes (2-9-11), T.J. Oshie (2-8-10), and Pietrangelo (4-6-10).

Steen has packed a season’s worth of production into his first 18 games.  He leads the club and the league in goals scored with 17, a pace that would produce 77 per 82 games (bet the under).  Almost as incredible, he has points in 17 of his 18 games, including a 13-game streak that he will bring to Verizon Center on Sunday.  Only the San Jose Sharks held him off the score sheet, blanking him in a 6-2 win over the Blues in what is St. Louis’ worst loss of the season to date.

Here is how the teams compare overall…

1.  Is possession your thing?  Then the St. Louis Blues are for you.  Only the Chicago Blackhawks have a better ratio of Fenwick for events to those against in 5-on-5 close situations.  And it shows up in how they tilt the ice, shooting wise.  Only Chicago and the Minnesota Wild have higher shares of total shots taken than St. Louis in 5-on-5 close situations (source:

2.  Talk about your lucky 13’s.  So far this season the Blues have allowed 13 goals in each of the first, second, and third periods of games.  St. Louis is the only team in the league that has a positive margin of five or more goals scored to goals allowed in each period overall this season.

3.  No team in the league has scored first in more games than St. Louis.  Fifteen times in eighteen games they scored first and play to a 12-1-2 record when doing so.

4.  Only Minnesota has allowed fewer goals at 5-on-5 (18) than St. Louis (25).  The Blues are plus-16 at 5-on-5 this season.  Only Chicago (plus-21) and Anaheim (plus-17) are better.

5.  St. Louis is the only team in the league perfect in killing penalties on the road.  They are 15-for-15.  The flip side of that is the frequency.  Only once have the Blues faced more than three shorthanded situations in any of their six road games.  They faced four when they beat Chicago, 3-2 in a Gimmick, back on October 17th.

1.  Washington leads the NHL in special teams index (power play plus penalty killing percentages) at 111.7.

2.  Bettman’s Folly has been kind to the Caps this season.  Their five wins in six games is tied with Winnipeg for the league lead in wins.  Their 57.9 percent shooting percentage is third in the NHL, led by Nicklas Backstrom, who is 4-for-4 in his attempts so far.

3.  You are probably not surprised that Alex Ovechkin leads the league in average power play ice time per game. What you might not know is that he is averaging more than a minute more (5:06) than that of the next ranked winger, the Islanders’ Kyle Okposo (4:03).

4.  Speaking of power play, Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom rank one-two in power play points.  Ovechkin is 7-6-13, and Backstrom is 1-11-12.  The surprise here, though, might be Marcus Johansson, who is tied for 18th (with, among others: Henrik Zetterberg, Henrik Sedin, Joe Thornton, and Mike Green).  He is 1-6-7 on the power play.

5.  There are five teams with two players among the league leaders in shooting with percentages of 20 percent of greater, including Washington.  Joel Ward leads the league at 28.1 percent; Mikhail Grabovski is tied for 18th at 20.7 percent.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

St. Louis: Alex Pietrangelo

Alex Pietrangelo might be the best defenseman you have never heard of.  Such is the problem playing in St. Louis for a team that lacks stars and star quality, despite their superb record.  At age 23, the former first round pick (fourth overall in 2008) is already accomplished.  Since the 2010-2011 season, only four defensemen have more points than he does – Erik Karlsson, Keith Yandle, Dustin Byfuglien, and Kris Letang.  Only Letang and Zdeno Chara have a better plus-minus over that span. 

He is not just an offensive defenseman.  Pietrangelo averages more shorthanded ice time (3:21/game before Saturday’s game against Carolina) than any of the aforementioned defensemen, and he has been on the minus side of the ledger only three times in 18 games this season.  On a team whose motto might be “Relentlessly Effective,” Pietrangelo certainly makes his contributions in that regard.  He will be coming into Sunday’s game on a three-game points streak (including the game against Carolina), but what he does not have is a point against Washington in two career appearances.

Washington:  Troy Brouwer

Hey, you remember this guy, don’t you?  Big, strapping guy, plays right wing and mans the middle on the power play, scored at a 33-goal pace in last year’s abbreviated schedule?  One might be excused for wondering where Brouwer has been.  Since recording three goals in four games in late October, he is 2-1-3, minus-2, in his last 11 games.  He has more penalty minutes (18) than shots on goal (15) in that span, not necessarily what one would expect from a second line winger.  Even more disappointing, Brouwer has one even strength point this season, an insurance goal scored in a 4-1 win over Columbus on October 19th.  Compare that to last season when he had 11 even strength goals and 16 points.

The second line has had some churning at center (Mikhail Grabovski, Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson) and at left wing (Laich, Martin Erat), but the common denominator has been Brouwer at right wing.  If the second line is going to put an end to having the adjective “disappointing” attached to it, Brouwer is going to have to be heard from.  He is 3-4-7, minus-2, in 16 career games against the Blues.


1.  Space, the final frontier.  Any team coached by Ken Hitchcock is going to play a stifling, hound you all over the ice kind of defense.  Only three teams are allowing fewer shots on goal per game (25.3) than the Blues.  If the Caps are going to win, chances are they are going to have to solve that problem and create some space for themselves.  This is where the second line might have to make a statement.  Assuming that the second line for this game will be Brooks Laich, Martin Erat, and Troy Browuer, that group has a total of 79 shots on goal in 20 games.  Four shots on goal a game from a scoring line means you might get a goal every other game out of it, if their shooting percentage is good.  The Caps need more in this one.

2.  It would be keen to keep Steen from eighteen.  Alexander Steen scored his 17th goal of the season against Carolina on Saturday night, his league-leading fourth game-winning goal of the season (tied with Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry).  And when he scores, the Blues win.  In 13 St. Louis wins this season Steen has at least one goal in 12 of them.  In five losses he scored in only two of them.  In 17 games against the Caps he is 4-5-9, plus-2.

3.  It’s better to be Halak-y than good.  Since Brian Elliott got the call against Carolina it would seem the goaltending chores in this one would fall to Jaroslav Halak.  You remember him, right Caps fans?   Well, he no longer torments the Capitals on a regular basis, but he has assembled a solid record since signing with the Blues after his remarkable 2010 post-season.  In 133 games with the Blues, Halak is 69-40-17, 2.24, .915, with 17 shutouts.  The odd statistic about his 2013-2014 season is that since he faced 30 shots in a 4-2 opening night win against Nashville, he has not faced as many as 30 shots in a game since in 13 appearances and has faced more than 25 shots only five times, once in his last eight games.

In the end…

This is not going to be a pleasant game to watch, let alone in which to play.  St. Louis is a burlier version of the old New Jersey Devils, almost robotic in their approach to the game, even with the higher-octane offense they have displayed thus far this season.  The Caps can match the Blues, size wise (both teams are likely to start nine skaters weighing at least 210 pounds), but the Blues have a more physical edge to their game (third in total penalty minutes per game, fifth in fighting majors).  These are two teams with identical November records (6-1-1), the difference being that while Washington forged that record after a slow start, the Blues have played more or less at that level all season.  The Capitals have the added incentive of being able to take over the Metropolitan Division lead with a win.  It should make for a an interesting – and an interesting benchmark – game for the Capitals.

Capitals 2 – Blues 1