The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals look to extend their three-game winning streak to four as they host the New Jersey Devils on Friday night at Verizon Center. This will be the second of five meetings between the clubs, the first of which was won by the Caps on October 16th by a 6-2 score.
Starting with that first meeting with the Caps, one that ended the Devils’ three-game winning streak to open the season, New Jersey is 4-7-2. They have won consecutive games only once in those 13 games, October 30 and November 2nd against Winnipeg and Columbus, respectively, teams with a combined record of 12-16-3. Their power play has been anemic, their 8-for-42 run (19.0 percent) skewed by the fact that seven of those eight power play goals were scored in three games. They went without a power play goal in nine of the 13 contests. The penalty kill (28-for-46; 60.1 percent) has been worse. It is almost impossible these days to have a special teams index lower than 90.0 (sum of power play and penalty kill percentages). But there, they are, with a special teams index number of 87.1 for the season (79.1 in their 13-game skid). It is hardly surprising that they have been outscored overall, 43-29 in those 13 games. At the moment, this is not the New Jersey Devils team we came to know over the past two decades.
The Devils come into this game losers of four in a row before snapping their streak with a 3-1 win over Minnesota on Tuesday. Over those last five games the Devils have only ten goals. That’s the bad part. Not that there is a good one, but if you’re looking for one, their meager scoring is balanced. Eight different players share the ten goals, 17 different players have points.
The Ageless Wonder, Jaromir Jagr, leads the Devils in points in those five games with four (1-3-4). It figures. Jagr leads the team in total scoring (3-9-12). But here’s the thing. That team-leading 12 points ranks tied for 53rd in the league. If that’s your leader, what does the rest of the team look like?
As it turns out, not much, at least on offense. Mike Cammalleri is the only other Devil in double digits in points (6-4-10) and leads the team in goals. Those six goals rank tied for 27th in the league. This is not a team that scores much, at least lately.
But here is where things take a turn. Almost a quarter of the Devils’ goals this season come from the blue line. Five different defensemen have goals, led by Damon Severson, who has four of them, including both of the Devils’ goals in the 6-2 loss to Washington in October. He has only one goal since, covering a span of 12 games. In this five-game skid in which the Devils find themselves, they have only on goal from the defense, that coming from Marek Zidlicky in a 4-3 loss at St. Louis on November 6th.
Here is how the teams compare in their numbers through Wednesday’s games:
1. New Jersey is a respectable defensive team at 5-on-5, having allowed only 25 goals in 16 games (tied for ninth fewest). They are the only ones getting killed on their penalty kill, though, allowing 20 power play goals to opponents, easily the worst in the league (Buffalo: 16).
2. The Devils have not scored more than three goals in a game since Game 2 on October 11th, a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers.
3. It’s not even as if the Devils are a poor-efficiency team when it comes to shooting the puck. The league average shooting percentage is 8.9 percent; the Devils are shooting 9.9 percent as a team. Four players appearing in at least ten games are shooting better than 15 percent.
4. New Jersey’s problem is shooting the puck. They are 29th in shots per game and have out-shot teams only five times in 16 games. The strange part of that is that the Devils are just 1-3-1 in those five games. Only Ottawa has won fewer games when outshooting their opponent (0).
5. Despite their offensive shortcomings, the Devils remain a decent possession team. They are 11th in Corsi-for percentage at 5-on-5 (51.60), right behind Washington (51.74), numbers from war-on-ice.com.
1. If it’s a blowout it is likely, as it was in the first meeting between these teams, to be in Washington’s favor. The Caps are 3-3-3 in one-goal games, 2-2 in two-goal decisions. They are 2-0 in games decided by three of more goals.
2. The Caps have gone ten games without having to resort to the Gimmick to settle things. It took the Caps until Game 66 last year before they went longer without going to the shootout.
3. Not team in the league has spent less ice time on the power play than the Caps (69:44). It is a little deceiving; the Caps are 11th in home power play time (52:28).
4. Washington has not scored fewer than three goals in a game in the month of November. They are also just 3-2-1 in doing so.
5. The Caps are 3-4-4 in their last 11 games against the Devils dating back to November 2011. They are winless in their last 14 games to the Devils in which they went to extra time dating back to April 13, 2002 (0-13-1). The last time they beat the Devils in an extra time game was on January 14, 2000, when they beat Devils, 3-2, in New Jersey. The last time the Caps won an extra time game at home against New Jersey was March 7, 1992, beating them by the same 3-2 score.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
New Jersey: Cory Schneider
Cory Schneider is expected to make it 17-for-17 in appearances in goal for the Devils on Friday night. Glenn Hall’s record of 502 consecutive appearances in goal is not in immediate jeopardy, but the heavy workload for Schneider does seem to be exacting a toll. He allowed four goals in consecutive games before stopping 23 of 24 shots in the 3-1 win over Minnesota last Tuesday, the first time he allowed for or more goals in consecutive games since last March, and those games were a week apart. He already has more than a third of the total appearances he has all of last season (45), which was a career high. It is not as if he is getting any special breaks in shot volumes, averaging 30.0 shot on goal faced per 60 minutes so far this season. In four career appearances against the Caps he is 2-2-0, 2.16, .925.
Washington: Eric Fehr
Eric Fehr got off to a slow start, scoring-wise. In his first eight games he had only two assists despite averaging more than 17 minutes of ice time per game. In his last four games he has a pair of goals, even as his ice time was pared back to a little over 14 minutes a game. The ice time situation seems to be resolving itself, his having increased in that area in each of the last two games after skating a season low 8:18 in the Caps’ 6-5 loss to Arizona on November 2nd and being scratched for the next two games. Fehr has had intermittent visits to the dog house under a number of coaches, so the idea here is whether he can play at a high level of effort on a consistent basis, to the satisfaction of Barry Trotz. His on-ice possession stats have been good (55.2 Corsi-for percentage at 5-on-5; numbers from stats.hockeyanalysis.com), and his PDO (1049) is third among forwards appearing in at least ten games. Still, there is something that coaches see in him that they find disturbing from time to time. It would appear that it is on Fehr to change that judgment. In 21 career games against the Devils he is 3-2-5, minus-1.
In the end…
The Devils are down, their win over Minnesota on Tuesday notwithstanding. This game sets up like the Games against Carolina and Columbus, both Caps wins, but both of them games where they let an inferior opponent hang around much too long after dominating early. New Jersey is a veteran group. Let these guys hang around too long, and the Caps will pay a price. It always seems that going for the jugular is always an issue for the Caps, and it might be the biggest issue they face in this game.
Capitals 3 – Devils 2