Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 57: Capitals at Ducks, February 15th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up their California tour on Sunday evening when they visit the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center.

The Caps will be jumping back on the ice after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, while the Ducks will be taking the ice for the first time since breaking a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.

This will be another of those games for the Caps against a team they recently faced.  In this case, the Caps topped the Ducks in a Gimmick, 3-2, nine days ago.  Neither team has been particularly successful since that meeting.  The Caps are 1-2-0, dropping a pair of 3-1 decisions, one to Philadelphia and the other to Los Angeles, while grabbing a 5-4 overtime win over San Jose.  As for Anaheim, the Ducks are also 1-2-0 since meeting the Caps, losing both ends of their trip to Florida – 5-3 to Tampa Bay and 6-2 to Florida – before beating Carolina last Thursday.

For the Caps, the problem since the win over Anaheim has been two-fold.  First, there is just the general inability to generate consistent offense.  A single goal scored in two of the three games is the first time they were held to one goal or fewer in two of three games since mid-November when the Caps lost consecutive decisions to New Jersey (1-0) and St. Louis (4-1) scoring one or fewer goals.

Then there are the late game antics.  The Caps held opponents scoreless in the first period of all three games, but they allowed a total of five goals in each of the second and third periods of those games.  The odd thing about that, however, is that three of the second period goals were scored by San Jose, the opponent the Capitals defeated.

For the Ducks, the problems have been keeping the puck out of their own net and keeping goaltenders healthy.  Against the Tampa Bay Lighting, Frederik Andersen left the game in the third period when the net was upended and landed on his neck.  He left that contest and is out for this game on injured reserve.  Ilya Bryzgalov came in and shut the door for the last eight minutes (more accurately, the defense did the shutting down, allowing only one shot on goal) in the 5-3 loss.  Bryzgalov started the next game for the Ducks and “duck” might better have been used as a verb.  Bryzgalov allowed three goals on eight shots in 26 minutes before giving way to John Gibson, called up in Andersen’s absence.  Gibson allowed three goals on 18 shots in mop-up duty in the 6-2 loss.  He was much better in the 2-1 win over Carolina, allowing only one goal on 36 shots.  On the other hand, the Hurricanes have the second-worst scoring offense in the league (2.15 goals/game), so it is hard to say just how much Gibson represents as a solution in the near term for the Ducks.

Here is how the teams compare overall:

Since there isn’t a lot of movement in the teams’ relative statistics since the last time they met, we will go right to…

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Anaheim: Ryan Getzlaf

Ryan Getzlaf missed the meeting of these teams on February 6th with a lower body injury. Nevertheless, since the all-star game break he has had an interesting time of it.  He is 2-2-4 in seven games, but the points were recorded in consecutive one goal-one assist games.  He also happens to be minus-5 in those games, on ice for 12 of the 25 goals allowed by the Ducks over those seven games (he missed games against Nashville and the Caps in that time).  He is still tied for ninth in overall scoring and is still plus-7 for the season.  Despite playing in his tenth season, this will be only Getzlaf’s tenth appearance against the Caps.  In nine appearances thus far he is 3-7-10, minus-1.

Washington: Justin Peters

Braden Holtby is in, for him, a slump, having lost two of three games, with a 3.02 goals against average and a save percentage of .893.  It might be time to get Justin Peters a start.  With two appearances since November and having been passed over for a start against Anaheim in favor of Philipp Grubauer, Peters has almost as much rust on him as the Titanic.  Nevertheless, Holtby probably can’t play all the back-to-backs (this will complete the Caps’ sixth back-to-back set of games in their last 19 contests).  In his last contest, a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues, Peters tied the most shots faced by a Caps goaltender this season (40), so it wasn’t as if the defense gave him much of a break.  Still, these are the situations for which Peters was signed, and he is going to have to step up against a tough opponent with the Caps looking to avoid back-to-back losses and keep in contact with the three teams ahead of them in the Metropolitan Division. He is 1-0-1, 1.85, .940 in two career appearances against the Ducks.

In the end…

The Caps are seven points behind the New York Islanders for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division and three behind the New York Rangers for third.  The three teams ahead of the Caps have done well recently, all of them on winning streaks.  The Caps are in no imminent danger of being challenged for a playoff spot (they are nine points ahead of Florida, but the Panthers do hold two games in hand), but they do not want to give teams behind them hope, either.  Honda Center is one venue in California where the Caps have had some consistent success.  They take a four-game winning streak on Anaheim ice into this game.  Making it five in a row would keep them in sight of the group ahead of them in the standings.

Capitals 3 – Ducks 2

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