Sunday, March 16, 2014

Washington Capitals: A TWO-point Night -- Game 69: Capitals 4 - Maple Leafs 2

Two points.

The Washington Capitals earned them this afternoon by jumping on the Toronto Maple Leafs early, withstanding a Maple Leaf assault of shots in the second period, then playing a smart tactical game in the third period punctuated by a Troy Brouwer empty net goal with 3.9 seconds left to give the Caps a 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs at Verizon Center.

The Caps threatened to run the Maple Leafs out of the building in the first period, posting three goals over a span of 5:10 to take a 3-0 lead.  The Caps lit the lamp after Mike Green rang the iron to the right of goalie James Reimer on a power play.  The Caps recoverd the puck and worked it back around the formation – Alex Ovechkin to Mike Green at the top of the offensive zone, over to Nicklas Backstrom at the right wing wall, down to Marcus Johansson at the goal line extended to Reimer’s left, back out to Troy Brouwer in the slot.  A one timer later and it was Caps 1 – Maple Leafs 0.

Just over two minutes later it was the Caps’ third line grinding out a goal.  All three players on that line – Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, and Eric Fehr – worked the wall from the goal line in, Ward moving the puck out of the left wing corner behind the net and up the wall to Fehr.  Carl Gunnarson shouldered Fehr to the ice, but not before Fehr slid the puck back down the wall where Chimera could find it. Chimera kicked it out to Karl Alzner at the top of the offensive zone.  Alzner fired, but Reimer did not play the puck cleanly, the puck squirting out to his right.  It was just enough room for Ward to outduel Dion Phaneuf for the puck, Ward chipping it to the goal mouth and off the skate of Jason Chimera past Reimer as he was tumbling to the ice.

Less than two minutes later and the Caps on another power play, Evgeny Kuznetsov started the play from the right wing wall, sending the puck to Joel Ward in the slot.  Ward sent it right back, allowing Kuznetsov to restart the play.  As Kuznetsov was receiving the puck from Ward, Dustin Penner was setting up at the edge of the crease to Reimer’s left.  There were two pieces to the plot unfolding at this point, Kuznetsov looking for a passing lane and Penner peeking into the slot to see if a teammate was there.  When Kuznetsov sent the puck to Penner, the peeking paid off.  Penner backhanded a pass through the crease right on the stick of Joel Ward.  Ward got the goal that he might have thought he had less than three minutes earlier, slamming the puck past Reimer into the back of the Toronto net to make it 3-0.

If the two-goal lead is the most dangerous in hockey, the three-goal lead might be the most exasperating.  Toronto got one back late in the third period when a bouncing puck in the Caps’ end eluded Nicklas Backstrom in the high slot.  Troy Bodie jumped on it and flipped a shot over Jaroslav Halak’s blocker and under the cross bar to make it 3-1 at the first intermission.

The Maple Leafs closed to within a goal eight minutes into the second period when Dion Phaneuf slid off to the left point and wristed a floater that somehow did not hit any of the five players who looked to be in the path of the shot.  Halak never saw the puck flying past him, and it was 3-2, Caps, with the Leafs grabbing the momentum.

That would be as close as Toronto would get, though.  Halak shut the door over the rest of the second period, especially when Toronto would end up with three power plays.  In the third the Caps played more intelligently and stifled the Leaf’s attempts at regaining the momentum they had in the second period. Toronto managed only seven shots on goal in the third period, none in the last 4:57 of the game.  When Troy Brouwer banked one off the boards in front of the players’ bench from about 140 feet, and Nicklas Backstrom safeguarded the shot into the Maple Leafs’ net for the empty netter, it was a 4-2 win for the Caps.

Other stuff…

-- Nice symmetry for Joel Ward today.  His assist on the Chimera goal was his 20th of the season, the second time he hit the 20-assist mark in his career and first since he had 21 in 2009-2010 with Nashville.  His goal was his 20th of the season, the first time he reached that mark in his seven-year career.

-- OK, let’s get this out of the way quick.  Alex Ovechkin was minus-2 and is now minus-31.  Only Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov among 848 skaters this season has a bigger minus (minus-33).  Here’s the thing, though.  This is supposed to be because Ovechkin doesn’t play defense.  He has been on ice for as many goals against as James van Riemsdyk, and fewer than six other forwards.  He’s not inspiring as a defensive player, but it could be worse.

-- Speaking of Ovechkin, he had just one shot on goal, that coming at the 9:15 mark of the third period.

-- Chimera’s goal broke a 12-game streak without one.  It had been his longest streak without a goal since he had a 16-game drought in November.

-- Karl Alzner’s two assists represent his first multi-point game of the season and first since he had three assists in a 7-6 win over Anaheim on February 16, 2011.  It was his first multi-point game at home in his career.

-- The Caps had 33 shots on goal, 18 of them from four players: Mike Green (5), Troy Brouwer (5), Jason Chimera (4), and Joel Ward (4).

-- The Caps allowed the Maple Leafs – the number three power play going into the game – only power play three opportunities.  That made it seven straight games in which the Caps faced three or fewer shorthanded situations.  In those games the Caps are 13-for-16 killing penalties (81.3 percent).

-- On the other side, the Caps were 2-for-4 on the power play, making them 12-for-32 over their last ten games (37.5 percent).

-- Admit it…when Jason Chimera was whacked on a breakaway by Jake Gardiner with just 3:02 left, you were screaming, “penalty shot!”  You want Chimera taking that shot?  He does not have a shootout goal since the 2006-2007 season with Columbus.  Take the penalty.

-- We are sure he did not know it at the time, but if Nicklas Backstrom had nudged that last shot by Troy Brouwer the last 18 inches into the net, the goal would have lifted him into a tie for eighth in points in the league.  As it is, his 66 points (he did have an assist for the game) is tied for tenth with three other players: Evgeni Malkin, John Tavares, and Joe Pavelski.

-- When Brouwer scored that goal it cemented the win for the Caps and dropped the Maple Leafs to 2-15-5 when allowing four or more goals, their only two wins coming in extra time.

-- The Caps took 28 draws in the offensive end (winning 13 – 46.4 percent), only 20 in the defensive end (winning 14 – 70.0 percent).

-- Note that while the NHL’s play-by-play shot distances have a bit of quirkiness in them, the official record had the Caps scoring their first three goals from a combined distance of 32 feet.  It is not often you see the Caps getting that kind of – or volume of – net pressure.

In the end…

It was a good weekend – four out of four points and just the thing the Caps need to send them west for what promises to be a challenging trip to California.  Let us not kid ourselves, though.  The Caps are moving up in weight class in a big way with these opponents coming up, but the Caps got good scoring balance this weekend, disciplined play for the most part (only six shorthanded situations faced, all of them killed off) and timely goaltending.  It is not a bad recipe for success.

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was -- Week 22

Week 22 was a week that might have been supremely satisfying, but when it was over was something of a disappointment, what with two losses to a hated rival and a win that was all too close for comfort.  And some of the same things that went wrong in Week 21 went wrong in Week 22.

Record: 1-2-0

Week 22 was the second straight below-.500 week for the Caps and the fourth in the last seven weeks.  The two losses came to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a home-and-home back-to-back set that opened the week.  The losses made the Caps 0-7-0 against the Penguins under head coach Adam Oates and 0-8-0 overall since January 2012.  The eight consecutive regular season wins is a record for the Penguins in the history of this series.  Once upon a time, the Caps won nine in a row in this series, but Alex Ovechkin was two months old when the Caps won the last of those nine games in November 1985.

Washington salvaged a measure of the week with a 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Friday.  It was the first time the Caps beat the Canucks since winning a 5-2 decision at Verizon Center on October 13, 2008.  The Caps had dropped four straight decisions to Vancouver.  All in all, the Caps started the week in 5th place in the Metropolitan Division and 10th place in the Eastern Conference.  They ended the week in those same positions, three points behind Philadelphia for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Offense: 2.00/game (season: 2.78 / rank: 14th)

It was an uneven week for the Caps in the offensive end of the ice, and what offense they could muster was generally weak.  The Caps managed only two goals on 65 shots in two games against the Penguins, potting both against Pittsburgh backup Jeff Zatkoff in the game at Verizon Center to open the week, then getting shutout by Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh in the second of the back-to-back games.

One thing the Penguins were able to do that most teams could not was hold down Alex Ovechkin’s shot totals.  Ovechkin went into the week averaging 5.35 shots per game, his 332 shots being tops in the league by 86 shots over Toronto’s Phil Kessel.  Ovechkin was held to a total of five shots over the two games against the Penguins.  Goals from Eric Fehr and Nicklas Backstrom in the first of the games and none in the second was not enough to make up the difference.

The Caps got well, to a point, against Vancouver.  Washington scored three goals in less than 33 minutes with eight different Caps sharing in the points.  Evgeny Kunzetsov, playing in his third NHL game had assists on the last two of those three goals.  The Caps would need a third assist from Kuznetsov after the Canucks tied the game in the third period.  They got it when he and Nicklas Backstrom set up Mike Green for the game-winner to close the week.

Defense: 2.67/game (season: 2.91 / rank: 23rd)

It was a strange week in the defensive end of the ice.  The Caps out-shot the Penguins badly (33-20) in the first game of the week and lost, 3-2.  They held their own in shots in the second game of the Penguins, Pittsburgh holding a two-shot margin (34-32) at the end and beating the Caps, 2-0.  Then, in the last game of the week, Vancouver rang up 41 shots to 21 for the Caps, yet the Caps won, 4-3. 

It was an equal opportunity week for being present for goals against, too.  Sixteen different skaters were on ice for opponents’ goals.  Dmitry Orlov was on ice for five goals against for the week, most of any Capital.  Orlov’s difficulties might have contributed to his being moved to the third defensive pair with Connor Carrick off the second pair with Mike Green.  Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were on ice for four apiece to lead, so to speak, the forwards.  Only Dustin Penner and Tom Wilson escaped having a goal-against on ice marked in their ledger.

It was an odd possession week for the Caps.  Both their Corsi-for and Fenwick-for percentages were on the good side of 50 percent in 5-on-5 close score situations for the week (52.3 percent and 54.7 percent, respectively), and yet their record was 1-2-0.  The Caps dominated Pittsburgh in the first game of the week (58.6 percent and 64.3 percent) in close score situations and lost.  That was the game that ran against expectations, given the underlying possession numbers.  In the rematch against the Pens the Caps lost the possession battle (43.3 percent/42.6 percent) and lost the game.  In the last game of the week the Caps won the close score possession matchup (55.6 percent and 59.0 percent) and won.  

Goaltending: 2.71 / .916 (season: 2.80 / .915 / 3 SO)

Week 22 belonged to the new guy, Jaroslav Halak, who got all the minutes.  While he played well in spots, he did not move the needle this week in terms of the goaltending numbers overall, his goals against average and save percentage for the week being almost identical to the season numbers so far.  What he lacked was consistency by period.  Halak allowed at least one first period goal in each game, stopping 29 of 33 shots overall (.879 save percentage).  He allowed goals in the third period twice for the week, once in the second game against Pittsburgh, twice against Vancouver to finish the week with 29 third period saves on 32 shots (.906).  It was in the second period in which Halak shined, stopping 29 of 30 shots (.967 save percentage).

Power Play: 2-for-8 / 25.0 percent (season: 23.3 percent / rank: 2nd)

This week, the power play was the product of persistence.  It was the fourth week in the last five in which the Caps finished with a power play conversion rate of 25 percent or better, but it did not come easy.  Washington had two power play goals on 21 shots (9.5 percent shooting) over 12:56 of total power play time.  For shots on goal the Caps did not lack.

Nine different Caps had power play shots on goal, four of them – Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Jason Chimera, and Troy Brouwer – getting three apiece.  Ovechkin and Backstrom were the only ones to convert during the week.  It was perhaps the frustration the power play had against the Penguins, the number-one penalty killing team in the league when they faced the Caps, that tipped the week into the red.  The Caps were 1-for-6 against the Penguins, registering their only goal on a total of 16 shots on goal (6.25 percent shooting).

Penalty Killing: 7-for-8 / 87.5 percent (season: 80.6 percent / rank: T-24th)

We have said it before, but with this team the key is more controlling opportunities for the opposition on the power play more than stopping them once they have to kill a penalty.  A suspect penalty killing squad limits its exposure and marshals its effort when the chances are few.  Such was the case this week, with opponents getting only eight power play opportunities.  Three games with three or fewer made it six straight contests in which the Caps held opponents to that threshold.  Going 7-for-8 on the penalty kill made it 10-for-13 over that same span.  A 76.9 percent penalty kill over the last six games is hardly the picture of efficiency, hence the need to keep chances down.

It seemed to be more a case of the goaltender being the best penalty killer in Week 22.  Jaroslav Halak stopped 17 of 18 power play shots in 13:19 of ice time, a .944 save percentage that is far better than his .883 save percentage in shorthanded situations overall.  There is a lingering problem with the Caps and penalty killing.  Their shutdown guys are not doing much shutting down.. John Carlson (32) and Karl Alzner (28) rank first and fourth on the list of defensemen having power play goals scored against on-ice this season.

Even Strength Goals Scored For/Against: 4-7 (season 5-on-5 GF/GA ratio: 0.90 / rank: 21st)

The Caps seem stuck at that 0.90 ratio of 5-on-5 goals scored to goals against ratio.  The Caps have traded in a very narrow band, between 0.90 and 0.93 for the last three months.  They have not been as high as 0.94 since Week 9.

This week the Caps had a disturbing deficit in third period even strength goals scored.  They managed one for the week – the game winner against Vancouver to end the week – but allowed three.  One of them was the insurance goal in the Penguins’ 2-0 win over the Caps on Tuesday, and two of them allowed Vancouver to tie their game against the Caps on Friday.

The Caps were out-shot for the week at evens, 77-65.  That was largely a product of being lapped by the Canucks in Friday’s game.  Vancouver out-shot the Caps by a 34-16 margin at even strength.  Couple that with the shooting efficiency – the Caps shot to a 6.2 percent mark, while opponents finished at 11.1 percent – and it made for a difficult week for the Caps.

Faceoffs: 72-157 / 45.9 percent (season: 49.1 percent / rank: 21st)

Week 22 was more two different weeks for the Caps in the faceoff circle, the one they played against the Penguins and the one they played against the Canucks.  The Caps were abused by the Penguins on faceoffs over their back-to-back set, winning only 37 of 99 draws (37.4 percent).  It was probably not quite as bad as it seems, though.  A lot of that was piled up in the neutral zone where the Caps were just 4-for-30 over the two games (13.3 percent).  In the offensive end they were 18-for-40 (45.0 percent) and 15-for-29 in the defensive zone (51.7 percent). 

Against Vancouver it was a different story, mostly – but not entirely – good.  The Caps were 35-for-58 against the Canucks overall (60.3 percent), but they took 24 of 58 total draws in their own end (18 in the offensive end).  Winning 18 of them (75.0 percent) lessened the pain of taking so many defensive zone draws, but that was more time spent starting plays in the Caps’ end of the ice than one might like to see.

Goals for/Against by Period:

The Caps started and ended games poorly, if the goal differential by period means much.  Outscored 4-2 in the opening period of games and by a 3-1 margin in the third, it was a recipe for a 1-2-0 week. If not for a Mike Green laser in the third period – the Caps' only third period goal of the week – the Caps might have lost the lead entirely against Vancouver after building a two-goal lead and making it an 0-3-0 or 0-2-1 wek, the last think this club needs at this time of year.

In the End…

It could have been better.  The optimist might say that the Caps outplayed the Penguins in the first game of the week and shot in bad luck.  That makes for interesting bar discussion or blog narrative, but the fact is that the Caps earned no points while looking better is no consolation.  Week 22 ended up being the fifth losing week in the last nine for the Capitals, and if you are keeping score on their tough 14-game stretch to open March, the Caps are 3-4-1 in their first eight games with a west coast trip yet to come. 

The Caps have four games coming up in Week 23, including that trip to California to face Anaheim, San Jose, and Los Angeles after their contest against Toronto on Sunday afternoon.  Splitting these four games is about the least the club can afford at this stage.  Anything less, and the Caps are going to find themselves fading out of the playoff conversation.

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 69: Maple Leafs at Capitals, March 16th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up their brief two-game home stand on Sunday afternoon, hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center.  The Caps will be trying to shave some of the deficit they have between themselves and a playoff spot, while the Maple Leafs try to cement their oddly assumed spot in the post-season.

Odd, you say, Peerless?  Well, yeah.  Despite the fact that Toronto comes into this game with a 36-24-8 record, good for second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference, consider that the Maple Leafs…
  • Have been outscored 203-192 this season
  • Have been out-shot by 7.7 shots per game (27.7 for, 36.4 percent against, the latter being worst in the league)
  • Have a penalty kill that ranks 28th in the league…yes, even worse than Washington’s
  • Has allowed more 5-on-5 goals than all but seven teams in the league
  • Has allowed more shorthanded goals than all but two teams in the league
  • Has just two wins this season when trailing after two periods; only Detroit has fewer wins (1).
  • Has more penalty minutes per game than all but two teams
  • Has allowed more third period goals than every team except the New York Islanders

You have to wonder just how it is that the Maple Leafs have sustained such a lofty perch in the standings.  While you are wondering, consider as well that Toronto comes into this game having won four of their last five games after stumbling out of the Olympic break with three straight losses.  It has not been a dominant run for the Leafs over these five games.  Two of the four wins came in extra time, and another was a one-goal decision. 

However, four wins in five games is, if not impressive in this case, then effective in moving the Leafs closer to clinching a playoff spot.  In those five games, Tyler Bozak leads the team in goals and points (3-2-5), including the overtime game-winner in the Leafs’ 3-2 win over the New York Rangers on March 5th to open this stretch.  He is, however, without a point in his last two games, the first time he has gone without a point in consecutive games since January 23/25.  In the 14 games since then, Bozak is 6-9-15.  He is 2-4-6 in 13 career games against the Caps.

Jake Gardiner is the other Maple Leaf with three goals over this five-game stretch.  Those three goals made the defenseman the eighth Toronto player to hit the 20-point plateau this season and set a career high in goals (eight), surpassing the seven goals he recorded in his rookie season in 2011-2012.  He is 0-1-1 in seven career games against Washington.

With Gardiner reaching the 20-point mark with those three goals, the Maple Leafs are now one of four teams with four 20-point producers on defense (Calgary, Chicago, and Columbus being the others).  One of them is Morgan Rielly, whose 22 points ranks him seventh among rookie defensemen in the league.  His 20 assists is second among rookie defensemen to Boston’s Torey Krug.

On a team that faces as many shots as do the Leafs, goaltenders are tested.  Take Jonathan Bernier, for instance.  Bernier has received most of the work in goal this season (50 appearances in 68 games), and his 2.61 goals-against average ranks only 26th in the league.  However, he also faces 35.0 shots per 60 minutes.  It is his sixth-ranked .925 save percentage that keeps him on the first page of the goals-against rankings among NHL goalies.  Bernier is 2-1-0, 2.01, .925 in three career appearances against the Caps.  Similarly for James Reimer, who appears likely to get the start in this game (Bernier is injured), his 3.23 goals against average ranks 41st among 43 qualifying goalies in the league, but his save percentage of .914 ties him for 22nd in the league, the disparity in rankings being a product of his facing 37.4 shots per 60 minutes. 

Here is how the two teams break down overall in their respective numbers:

1.  When Toronto scores, they win.  The Maple Leafs have not lost in regulation time when scoring four or more goals in the hockey portion of contests (that is, not including shootout wins that resulted in four-goals-for results).  They are 21-0-4 in 25 such contests.

2.  Toronto does not lose one-goal games, not in regulation that is.  The four one-goal losses in regulation time is the second fewest such losses in the league so far.  Only Anaheim (2) has fewer).

3.  Toronto’s power play has been in an extended dry spell.  Over their last 11 games the Maple Leafs are 2-for-25 (8.0 percent).  Those two power play goals have come in their last three games, though, both of them wins.

4.  Those last three games happened to be a west coast road trip for Toronto that saw them win twice in three contests (3-1 over Anaheim and 3-2 over Los Angeles sandwiched around a 6-1 loss to San Jose).  The Leafs went 2-1-0 on the trip despite being out-shot 133-73.  Toronto was lit up in their possession statistics over those three games, posting a cumulative Corsi-for percentage in 5-on-5 close score situations of 30.1 and a cumulative Fenwick-for percentage of 31.9.  Despite those woeful numbers, the Maple Leafs had a cumulative PDO of 1.031 (shooting percentage plus save percentage) in those situations.

5.  There is no delicate way to say this.  When it comes to possession overall, Toronto stinks.  The Maple Leafs are dead last in both Corsi-for and Fenwick-for percentages in all situations.  They are dead last in both at 5-on-5.  Only Buffalo is worse in 5-on-5 close score situations.  Toronto is hell bent on demonstrating that there is a winning exception to the rule that in possession lays the key to success.

1.  The Caps have dressed 11 rookies this season.  Compare that to last season when they dressed three.  The 11 rookies are the most dressed by the Caps in a season since they dressed 11 in the 2005-2006 season.  At the moment, only Tom Wilson, Connor Carrick, and Evgeny Kuznetsov are rookies skating with the club.

2.  Only Nicklas Backstrom among the Capitals ranks among the top-50 in faceoff winning percentage.  He is 50th with a 49.8 percent.

3.  Capitals rank 1-2 in power play scoring.  Nicklas Backstrom is first (4-32-36), and Alex Ovechkin is second (19-14-33).

4.  No rookie forward has played in so many games and averaged so little ice time as Tom Wilson.  He averages 7:23 in ice time in 68 games, yet he is still tied for 35th of 112 rookie forwards in goals scored (3) and 36th in points (9).

5.  The Caps have not been able to escape the bottom ten in possession statistics.  They rank 23rd in Corsi-for in 5-on-5 close score situations (48.8 percent) and 22nd in Fenwick-for (48.5 percent).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Toronto: James van Riemsdyk

Streaks have been the hallmark of James van Riemsdyk’s game lately.  From January 25th through February first he had points in four consecutive games (2-4-6).  After being held off the score sheet against Florida on February 4th, he ran off another four-game points treak (4-3-7).  A three-game streak without a point followed, but van Riemsdyk comes into this game with points in each of his last three games (0-3-3).  He has been especially effective on the road this season, tied with teammate Phil Kessel for sixth place in goals scored away from Air Canada Centre (16).  He is 3-6-9 in his last seven road games and is 1-1-2 in two games overall against Washington this season.

Washington:  Alex Ovechkin

Of the top-140 point producers at even strength, only one player has fewer than ten assists: Alex Ovechkin.  Ovechkin is tied for second in the league in goals at even-strength with 26, but he has only nine assists at evens.  Consider that he has more than 100 shots on goal at even-strength (206-105) more than Nicklas Backstrom and almost 150 more than frequent linemate Marcus Johansson (206-66), and it is not hard to figure out why it might be that Ovechkin has so few even-strength assists.  Backstrom and Johansson have a combined ten goals at even-strength.  Ovechkin is obviously the go-to guy on the top line and on the team at-large, but one wonders if it is not too much of a good thing, or at least not enough of something else.  One would expect Ovechkin to add to his total in this game; he is 2-1-3 in two games this season against Toronto and 27-22-49 in 32 career games against the Maple Leafs. 


1.  Score Four.  Toronto has not won a game this season in regulation when allowing four or more goals.  The Maple Leafs are 2-14-5 when allowing four or more, both wins coming in extra time.  The Caps being 22-3-2 in games in which they score four or more goals, that four goal threshold seems pretty safe as a predictor of a win.

2.  Second Line Surge.  Troy Brouwer has one even strength goal in his last nine games (he does have three power play goals).  Dustin Penner does not have a goal for the Caps since his trade from Anaheim and does not have one in his last dozen games overall.  Brooks Laich is on-again off-again in the lineup.  Mikhail Grabovski has not been in the lineup since skating just 2:20 on February 27th.  Evgeny Kuznetsov might get time there after spending much of his introduction to the NHL skating on the fourth line.  Between juggling the lineup, injuries, and uneven production, the second line has been quiet.  Given that Toronto is so generous in terms of shot attempts allowed, the second line – whatever that might be – should get their chances.

3.  Don’t get boxed in.  Toronto has had more than three power play opportunities in only two of their last 14 games.  Only four teams have had fewer man advantages than the Maple Leafs this season overall, but Toronto does rank 12th in opportunities on the road.  The Caps are 5-13-4 in their last 22 games when allowing teams four or more power plays.  Stay out of the box.

In the end…

The Caps have not won consecutive games since their four-game winning streak ended on March 1st.  They need to get a streak put together, win games in bunches.  Trouble is, a team cannot play games in bunches, just one at a time.  And with the trip to the west coast to face Anaheim, San Jose, and Los Angeles looming, it would be easy to look past this game.  Sure, you would not think so, given the Caps’ situation, but this team has an odd tendency not to show up in games in which they need to do just that.  That said, Toronto is a very accommodating team when it comes to other teams’ offense, relying a lot on the performance of their goalies.  There will not be a “hot goalie” on Sunday.

Capitals 5 – Maple Leafs 3