Sunday, November 02, 2014

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 11: Coyotes at Capitals, November 2nd

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals get right back on the horse, so to speak, after their 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night when they return to Verizon Center to host the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday night.

The Capitals are reeling after losing their third straight game last night, their fourth loss in their last five contests.  The skid wipes out their 3-0-2 start, leaving them with a .500 record entering this contest (4-4-2).  The Caps have struggled scoring goals of late, and this has been a problem in two unexpected places.  Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have one goal between them over their last six games.  Then there is the defense.  Mike Green has three goals and is among the league leaders in scoring among defensemen.  The rest of the defense has a total of one goal (John Carlson).

If the Caps are to snap out of their scoring funk, the Coyotes would be the team against which they could do it.  Now representing the entire state of Arizona instead of just the city of Phoenix, the Coyotes have struggled at both ends of the ice.  They have not scored more than three goals in a game in their last seven contests, since beating Edmonton, 7-4, in Game 3 of the season back on October 15th.  Their scoring defense has been wildly inconsistent, allowing two or fewer goals four times but allowing six of more goals three times in ten games.

Arizona is a team that has struggled to put together any consistent offense.  The exception is Mikkel Boedker, who has five of the Coyotes’ 22 total goals.  But even here, there are problems.  Boedker recorded goals in each of his first three games this season, topping off his hot start with a hat trick in the 7-4 win over Edmonton on October 15th.  He does not have a point since then.  He has only four shots on goal in his last three contests.  In five career games against Washington, Boedker is 1-0-1, minus-1.

On defense, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is in something of a slump, at least insofar as it applies to defensemen.  He has been on ice for 21 of the 36 goals allowed by the Coyotes so far this season.  Only Columbus’ Jack Johnson has been on ice for more goals among defensemen (24 in 11 games).  His minus-11 is worst among 661 skaters in the league.  In only three games this season has OEL not been on ice for a goal scored against the Coyotes.  Twice he has been on ice for at least four goals against, including being torched for six goals against in the Coyotes’ 7-3 loss to Tampa Bay last Tuesday.

Then there is the goaltending.  Arizona isn’t getting it, at least enough to make the Coyotes competitive.  Both Mike Smith (.873) and Devan Dubnyk (.889) are under .900 for a save percentage.  Smith has been nothing short of ghastly at even strength.  In eight games his even strength save percentage is .877.  That ranks 40th of 41 goaltenders having appeared in four or more games.  Smith took the loss in the Coyotes’ 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night (the Hurricanes’ first win of the season), so it would seem likely that the Caps will see Dubnyk in goal.  He has one career appearance against the Caps, a loss in which he allowed four goals on 22 shots in a 4-1 decision on October 24, 2013 when he was tending goal for the Edmonton Oilers.

Here is how the numbers compare for the two clubs through last night’s games:

1.  Arizona has scored only 12 5-on-5 goals so far this season, 28th in the league.  They have gone six straight periods without an even strength goal.

2.  The Coyotes started the season very well on the penalty kill, going a perfect 10-for-10 in their first three games.  However, starting with an 0-for-4 performance on the penalty kill in their 6-1 loss to St. Louis on October 18th, Arizona is 15-for-22 (68.2 percent).  If there is a silver lining, it is that the Coyotes have faced the third fewest number of shorthanded situations this season (32).

3.  If Arizona is going to win, it would seem likely that power play scoring will be involved.  The Coyotes are 5-for-16 with the man advantage in their three wins (31.3 percent) with at least one power play goal in each win, 4-for-21 otherwise (19.0 percent).  

4.  We made a point that Oliver Ekman-Larsson was having his struggles with plus-minus.  Well, there is also Connor Murphy.  He is only 21 and in his first full season with the club, but the 2011 20th overall draft pick is minus-8 in roughly half the ice time OEL has had (13:38 a game versus 25:32 for Ekman-Larsson).

5.  Like the Caps, the Coyotes are playing better than their record.  Not a lot, but some.  Arizona ranks 19th in Corsi-for percentage at 5-on-5 (49.47 percent) and 15th in Fenwick-for percentage (50.45 percent).  

1.  Last season the Caps were kings of the long change, finishing fourth in goals scored in the second period of games.  They are picking up where they left off, tied for fifth in second period scores so far.

2.  The Caps are one of eight teams that have not yet allowed ten goals (cumulative) in any period – eight in the first, nine in the second, and eight in the third periods of games.

3.  The Caps are one of six teams that have yet to sustain a loss by three or more goals.  They have won two games by those margins.

4.  The Caps had better score first.  They are one of only three teams that are winless when allowing the first goal (0-3-1).  Carolina and Buffalo are the others.

5.  The Caps have been over 50 percent in Corsi-for percentage at 5-on-5 in seven of the ten games they have played thus far.  Five times they have been over 55 percent and twice over 60 percent.  They also happen to be 2-1-0 in the three games they were below 50 percent and had a cumulative 9-4 margin in goals at 5-on-5.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Arizona: Martin Erat

You remember Marty, right?  He of the two goals in 66 regular season and playoff games with the Caps.  He has five in 26 games with the Coyotes since being traded west last March.  He is second on the club in goals (3), but after a 2-2-4 start in his first four games, he is 1-0-1 in his last five.  He is one of five Coyotes forwards who have been on ice for at least ten goals against, in his case all of them at even strength, most among Coyote forwards.  In 11 career games against the Caps he is 1-7-8, even.

Washington: John Carlson

After setting a career high with 10 goals last season and taking over some of the duties held by Mike Green, John Carlson seemed poised to take the next step up this season.  He has one goal in his first ten games.  He has not lacked for shooting, four times recording at least four shots in a game (he leads Caps defensemen with 26 shots on goal).  His shooting percentage (3.8) is about a third lower than his career shooting average going into this season (5.3).  It suggests that a correction might be in order, especially since his is one of the lower lights in this statistic on a club that ranks sixth overall in shooting percentage (9.76).  Carlson is 2-1-3, plus-3 in four career games against the Coyotes.

In the end…

OK, enough of the playing well and losing nonsense.  The Coyotes are a team the Caps should beat soundly.  They stink at 5-on-5, they are struggling on the penalty kill of late, they can’t seem to score against air.  These are things that should play right into the Caps’ hands, especially since the Coyotes are coming into DC late after a loss in Carolina on Saturday night.  The Caps have fallen victim to the scoring in bunches problem lately – three goals in 12:28 in the loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday, three goals in 15 minutes of the third period against Detroit on Wednesday, three goals in 1:47 against Vancouver last Sunday.  Avoid that, and this one should not be close.

Capitals 5 – Coyotes 2

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