Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 21: Jets at Capitals, November 25th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals end the pre-Thanksgiving portion of their season on Wednesday night when they host the Winnipeg Jets at Verizon Center in the first meeting of the teams this season. 

The Capitals come into this game having posted the second-best 20-game record in team history.  Their 14-5-1 record is surpassed only by their 15-5-0 record to open the 1991-1992 season.  There are two important difference between that 1991-1992 club and this one.  The more recent version of the Caps reached the 20-game mark without having lost consecutive games. 

Not so, the 1991-1992 club, which lost consecutive games in Vancouver to the Canucks and in Winnipeg to the original incarnation of the Jets after an 8-1-0 start.  That leads into the second difference between the clubs, the Caps having swept their western Canada trip this season, defeating Vancouver, the Calgary Flames, and the Edmonton Oilers, while the 1991-1992 club lost two of three on their western Canada swing, beating only the Edmonton Oilers in the first game of that trip.

The current incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets arrives in Washington giving thanks that November is almost at an end.  The Jets are 3-7-1 in 11 games this month, and while they seemed to be climbing out of their downward spiral with a pair of wins last week in consecutive games against Vancouver and Arizona, they dropped a 4-1 decision in Colorado against the Avalanche, a team the Caps defeated by a 7-3 margin last Saturday.

Winnipeg’s problem this month has been that they do not travel well.  The Jets are 1-5-1 in seven road contests and have lost five in a row (0-4-1).  Those games have not been close for the most part.  In being outscored, 33-15, over those seven road contests this month.  Four of the losses have been by multi-goal margins, three of them by three or more goals.  And, their special teams have been borderline awful.  The power play is 1-for-22 in seven road games this month (4.5 (percent), while the penalty kill is 24-for-31 (77.4 percent).

If not for Bryan Little playing on the road portion of the Jets’ schedule this month, they would be a quite a bind.  Little has four of the Jet’s 15 goals in road games this month and seven points overall, both numbers leading the team.  The November spurt in away games this month has left Little something of a road warrior.  He is 7-4-11 in 12 road games this season, 2-5-7 in 10 games at home.  He is 11-6-17, even, in 38 career regular season games against the Capitals.

Dustin Byfuglien is next on the team in road goal scoring this month.  The 11-year veteran has a pair of road goals this month and six goals overall this season.  If there is an odd aspect to his offensive profile this season it is the absence of multi-point games.  Last season, Byfuglien had nine multi-point games in his last 44 contests of the season.  This season he has points in 11 of his 22 games (of his eight of his 12 road games), but all of them were single-point games.  Byfuglien is 5-7-12, minus-7, in 23 career regular season games against Washington.

Blake Wheeler does not get a lot of attention when it comes to listing the top right wingers in the NHL, but if you look at the list of right wingers who, since the 2010-2011 season, have averaged at least 0.75 points per game (minimum: 200 games), there is Wheeler, one among ten such right wingers. He is actually even more productive since being sent to the Winnipeg Jets (then the Atlanta Thrashers) with defenseman Mark Stuart by the Boston Bruins for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik in February 2011.  In 334 games since arriving with the franchise he is averaging 0.82 points per game.  This year he has 22 points in 22 games, one of three right wingers averaging at least one point per game (Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko are the others).  Wheeler is 5-8-13, plus-2, in 27 career games against the Caps.

Here is how the teams compare overall:

1.  Dustin Byfuglien has more goals (six in 22 games) than the rest of the defensive corps combined (four in 110 combined man-games).

2.  Only New Jersey has scored the first goal of a game fewer times (six) than the Jets (seven).

3.  Only Montreal has more shorthanded goals scored this season (five) than Winnipeg (four).  It’s a good thing, since the Jets are tied for the most power play goals allowed this season (19, with Boston).

4.  The Jets can make a team pay at 5-on-5.  Only two teams in the west have more goals scored at 5-on-5 than Winnipeg (39) – St. Louis (41) and Dallas (45).

5.  Winnipeg is a rather good possession team on the road, at least better than their record suggests.  They have a Corsi-for in all situations of 50.7 percent, seventh in the league.  They rank 10th in score-adjusted Corsi-for (51.2) and 12th in close score situations (50.0; numbers from war-on-ice.com).

1.  The Caps have had an odd pattern of late.  Over their last eight games they have alternated games with a power play goal and games without one.  If the pattern holds, they will have at least one in this game.

2.  The Caps have had six power play chances in two of their last eight games.  They had five such games all of last season.

3.  Washington has the largest positive shots on goal differential in the league -- plus-5.1 per game.

4.  The Caps are one of six teams that are perfect for the season when leading at the intermissions.  They are 5-0-0 when leading at the first intermission, 8-0-0 when leading after two periods.

5.  One home possession number than could use some shoring up... Corsi-for in close score situations.  The Caps' 50.5 percent ranks just 16th in the league (numbers from war-on-ice.com).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Winnipeg:  Michael Hutchinson

Last season, the Winnipeg Jets could not settle on just who was their number one goaltender.  Ondrej Pavelec got 50 appearances, but when the backup – Michael Hutchinson – gets 38 games without significant injury losses for the other goalie (Pavelec lost six games in March to a lower body injury), there are some unresolved issues at the position.  Well, things have taken a turn.  Pavelec is out until January with a “significant" knee sprain (undoubtedly another specie of “lower body injury”),” and Hutchinson will be the number one netminder for the foreseeable future.  He has not responded particularly well.  His record in November is 1-4-1, 3.62, .873.  The problem is that Hutchinson’s backup is Connor Hellebuyck, who has yet to appear in an NHL game and has only 68 games of pro experience, all in the AHL. Hutchinson, if called upon, would be making his first NHL appearance against the Caps.

Washington: Jay Beagle

Jay Beagle is something of a good luck charm for the Capitals this season.  He has points in six games (3-4-7), and the Caps are 5-0-1 in those games.  And it is not as if it is a new experience.  The Caps were 15-0-1 in the 16 games in which he registered a point last season.  Washington was 6-0-2 when Beagle recorded a point in 2013-2014.  The last time the Caps lost a game in regulation when Beagle recorded a point was back on January 27, 2013, a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers when Beagle had an assist on the only goal.  Since then, Washington is 30-0-4 when Beagle puts a crooked number on the score sheet.  He is 1-1-2, plus-1, in 12 career games against the Jets.

In the end…

The turkey will undoubtedly taste better on Thursday with a win on Wednesday.  And for the Caps, getting served a team that has had as much difficulty on the road as the Jets, not to mention the inexperience in goal they will present, makes this a game that the Caps should win.  It offers a particular opportunity for Washington to find some success on its power play against a team that has allowed at least one power play goal in six straight games overall (19-for-28 on the penalty kill – 67.9 percent) and in five of their last seven road games.  A win would give the Caps their longest winning streak since a five-game streak in mid-October.  We’re thinking it’s going to happen.

Capitals 4 – Jets 2

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