The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THR AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals get no rest from their win in Boston on Saturday afternoon as they take the ice for a matinee against the Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center on Sunday, the first of what will be a home-and-home set against the Flyers that wraps up in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
The Capitals enter the game carrying with them a four-game winning streak and hoping to extend their good fortune to their longest winning streak of the season. Meanwhile, Philadelphia comes into the home-and-home with five wins in their last six contests since the beginning of February. This has the potential to be a pivotal point of the season for both teams with the Flyers holding a one-point lead over the Caps for third place in the Metropolitan Division and an automatic playoff berth.
The Flyers have outscored their opponents by a 19-13 margin in their recent 5-1-0 run. The 13 goals against is a bit misleading in that more than half of them came in a 7-3 rout at the hands of the San Jose Sharks last Thursday. One of the things that has made the Flyers successful lately has been the consistency of their power play. In posting five wins over their last six games the Flyers are 4-for-20 (20.0 percent) with the man advantage, part of a longer stretch in which Philadelphia is 9-for-36 over their last 11 games. As part of that run the Flyers had single power play goals in nine of those 11 games.
The penalty kill has been efficient over the Flyers’ 5-1-0 run (18-for-21; 85.7 percent), but consistency is what sets it apart. The Flyers have not allowed more than one power play goal in a game in this six-game stretch.
Individually, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds have done the heavy lifting for the Flyers since the beginning of February, scoring-wise. Giroux is 3-5-8 in his last six games, Simmonds 2-5-7. For Giroux it has been a long climb to rejoin the ranks of the top performers in the NHL. He opened the season without a point in his first five games, but since then has only gone consecutive games without a point three times. He has not gone consecutive games without a point since he was held off the score sheet by Calgary and Colorado on December 31st and January 2nd. Since then, Giroux is 8-13-21 in 20 games. He is 9-7-16 in 19 career games against Washington.
Where Giroux has been consistent, Simmonds has been streaky. He comes into this game on a four-game points streak (1-4-5), his fifth streak of four or more games with points this season. He also has had five streaks of three or more games without a point. Simmonds is 3-4-7 in 14 career games against the Caps.
With Ray Emery day-to-day with a lower body injury, Steve Mason seems unlikely to yield to call-up Cal Heeter in the role of number one netminder for at least the first game of the home-and-home. Mason has four of the five wins in the Flyers’ 5-1-0 run of late and has been solid in doing so. His goals against of 1.93 and save percentage of .939 is quite a turnaround from an eight-game stretch in which Mason was 2-4-1 (one no-decision), 3.83, .875. He is 4-3-2, 2.59, .917, with two shutouts against Washington in nine career appearances.
1. Philadelphia has had a reasonably good season, health-wise. The Flyers have dressed only 25 skaters this season. According to the site mangameslost.com the Flyers have a total of 163 man-games lost as of March 1st, only 39 lost to team-reported injuries, the latter being the fewest in the league.
2. Philly starts slowly and closes with a rush on offense. Their 42 goals scored in the first periods of games ranks 22nd in the league, their 69 third period goals ranks second. In the middle frame only Edmonton and the New York Islanders have allowed more goals than the 68 allowed by Philadelphia.
3. No team in the league has found itself shorthanded more frequently than the Flyers, 241 times in 61 games. They also happen to have had the second most power play opportunities (223).
4. The Flyers do very well against empty nets. They lead the league with ten goals into vacant cages. When you add in the seven empty net goals scored against Philadelphia (tied for 11th highest), it might explain why the Flyers have the fourth fewest number of one-goal decisions this season.
5. Philadelphia is a weak possession team. In 5-on-5 close score situations the Flyers rank 22nd in Corsi-for percentage, 26th in Fenwick-for percentage.
1. This home-and-home, which will close out the season series between the clubs, is the second home-and-home between Washington and Philadelphia this season. The previous instance was in mid-December when the Caps split the pair, winning 5-4 in a Gimmick at Verizon Center followed by a 5-2 loss in Philadelphia.
2. John Carlson is the first Caps-drafted defenseman other than Mike Green to register ten goals in a season since Sergei Gonchar recorded 18 goals in 2002-2003. He is the first American-born defenseman drafted by the Caps to record ten goals since Kevin Hatcher had 16 for the Caps in 1993-1994.
3. The Caps have power play goals in four consecutive games against Philadelphia, going 6-for-21 (28.6 percent). You probably knew that Alex Ovechkin led the way, but he was not alone. Marcus Johansson has two of those six power play goals, matching Ovechkin’s total. Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer have the others.
4. For you plus-minus fans… Nine Caps are on the plus side of the ledger this season. Three of them (Steve Oleksy/+7, Nate Schmidt/+4, and Patrick Wey/+4) are in Hershey. Two others (Julien Brouillette/+4, Casey Wellman/+3) have a combined 12 games with the Caps this season, the remainder of their time having been spent in Hershey. One (Alexander Urbom/+1) was waived in early-January. One (Mikhail Grabovski/+4) is injured. That leaves Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, both plus-1.
5. The recent Caps possession numbers can be summed up in one word… yikes! In six of their last eight games the Caps were at or under 50 percent in both Corsi-for and Fenwick-for in 5-on-5 close score situations. On the other hand, they are 5-2-1 in those games. Go figure.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Philadelphia: Kimmo Timonen
Teemu Selanne is not the only Finnish hockey player who is having an effective twilight to his career. Kimmo Timonen, the 38-year old native of Kuopio, Finland, has been just about as effective in defensive terms as Selanne has on offense for the Anaheim Ducks. Of defensemen playing in at least 45 games this season, Kimonen has the third highest Corsi-for relative percentage (plus-6.9%) at 5-on-5, the Corsi-for percentage relative to team's Corsi-for with the player not on ice. His 54.4 percent Corsi-for is 18th among 141 defensemen in this group. He will no doubt draw the tough assignment of marking Alex Ovechkin in this contest.
Washington: Mike Green
Mike Green, who is just coming off a stint on the injured list with what appeared to be a concussion, does not have a point in the last three games in which he appeared, and he has been on ice for four of the last six goals scored against the Caps. He is tied for 250th among 286 defensemen in plus-minus. Yet he is still a positive possession player. He has the best Corsi-for relative percentage among any defensemen playing in more than 10 games for the Caps (plus-7.6%), and his Corsi-for and Fenwick-for percentage are over 50 percent. What the Caps need as their regular season winds down is for Green to bring all the good points back together and translate it into production.
1. Rerun. Playing Philadelphia is not unlike playing Boston, although the Flyers are not quite in the Bruins' class as a hockey club. The same things apply here as they did against Boston. The Caps will have to be sturdy in the tough areas – the boards, behind the net, top of the crease.
2. Five-on-Five. Beating Boston is always good, especially these days when wins will be hard to come by. However, the Caps still need to do better at 5-on-5 going forward. The Flyers are not an especially effective club at 5-on-5, their 0.93 goals for/against ratio being essentially equivalent to that of the Caps (0.92). The Caps need to establish 5-on-5 dominance.
3. Line of sight. The Flyers are not bashful about going into dark places to try to get ugly goals. Washington needs to give their goalies a chance to see pucks.
In the end…
When faced with a home-and-home, fans might have a tendency to look at them as a set. In a real sense this home-and-home is exactly that. These teams are barely distinguishable statistically – scoring offense, scoring defense, 5-on-5 play, home record, road record. The difference is how they get there in terms of style. Philadelphia does it with a more physical style, the Caps with a deeper skills approach. The team that can imprint these games with their style will be the one to take three or four points out of them.
Sunday: Capitals 4 – Flyers 2
Wednesday: Capitals 3 – Flyers 2