The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals take the ice on Monday night in the middle game of their five-game home stand when they host the Edmonton Oilers at Verizon Center. The Caps are looking to sweep the season series against the Oilers, having defeated Edmonton by a 7-4 margin one month ago in Alberta.
In an odd way, that game might be the high point of the season to date for the Caps. It was the fifth win in what would be a five-game winning streak, giving the Caps a 6-1-0 record at the time. It also gave the Caps an almost unheard-of three game sweep on their Calgary-Vancouver-Edmonton road trip. It was the first time in six tries since the 2004-2005 lockout that the Caps pulled off the three-game sweep. Since then, the Caps are 7-4-1. That is hardly a poor record (it is a 103-standings point pace over a full season), but it does represent a bit of a regression for the Caps after their hot start.
The Oilers have fallen on harder times since that loss to the Caps last month. They are 4-7-1 since that loss, and they lost uber-rookie Connor McDavid to a broken clavicle in a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on November 3rd. McDavid was living up to the pre-season hype when he sustained the injury, going 5-7-12 in his first 12 NHL games before sustaining his injury in Game 13. Since losing McDavid, the Oilers are 2-4-1 and have been outscored by a 22-19 margin in the process.
Nineteen goals in seven games is a respectable total (2.71 per game), especially when losing a leading scorer to injury. But Edmonton’s 19 goals over their last seven games have come from a rather narrow band of players. Four players share 13 of the 19 goals. There are the expected, the unsurprising, and the head-scratching among them. Those would be Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Oscar Klefbom, respectively, each of whom has three goals in the 2-4-1 stretch.
Hall might finally be taking the last step to place him among the elite offensive players in the NHL. With nine goals in 20 games he is on a pace to finish with 37 goals, a total that would far eclipse his career high of 27 goals (set twice). He comes into this contest with points in his last five games (3-4-7, plus-6). He is 1-1-2, minus-1 in five career games against Washington, including an assist in the Oilers’ 7-4 loss to the Caps last month.
Jordan Eberle did not dress for the Oilers in their loss to the Caps last month and in fact did not dress for his first game this season until November 6th, Edmonton’s first full game without McDavid after his injury. He was returning from a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Oilers’ first 13 games of the season. He does have those three goals in seven games, though, and he is 1-2-3, minus-4 in six career games against the Capitals.
Defenseman Oscar Klefbom is a bit of a head-scratcher in his three-goal contribution over the Oilers’ last seven games. He has four goals for the season, more than his combined total in 77 career NHL games coming into this season (3). Part of it is just shooting the puck. In scoring those three goals in his last seven games, he did it with 16 shots on goal. He had only 12 shots on goal in his first 13 games. Klefbom has an assist in two career games against Washington and is a minus-4.
Here is how the teams compare overall:
1. What a difference a year makes. Last season, goalie Cam Talbot allowed four or more goals seven times in 36 games as a backup goaltender for the New York Rangers. This season he has five such games in 12 appearances to date, including his last three games overall. He has largely ceded the Oiler net to Anders Nilsson, who has taken the start in five of the Oilers’ last seven games. Nilsson is 2-2-1 in those five games, with a 2.79 goals against average and a .899 save percentage. And at the moment, he seems like the better option in goal.
2. Only one team in the league has fewer wins when scoring first than the Oilers, who have five such wins. The Toronto Maple Leafs have four such wins. Only the Colorado Avalanche have a lower winning percentage in such games (.455) than Edmonton (.500).
3. One area in which the Oilers have not beaten themselves, at least on the road, is penalty killing. The have a fairly good road penalty kill (83.3 percent/10th), but the key has been minimizing chances. They have been shorthanded only 30 times on the road. Six teams have faced fewer shorthanded situations on the road.
4. Edmonton has only one power play goal from a defenseman this season, that from Brandon Davidson in a 5-4 loss to the Calgary Flames on October 31st.
5. Edmonton is not a bad possession team overall (49.1 percent Corsi-for at 5-on-5), ranking 17th in the league. They do struggle in tight situations, though. Their score-adjusted Corsi-for (48.0) ranks 23rd; their close score situation Corsi-for (45.6) ranks 28th (numbers from war-on-ice.com)
1. When Matt Niskanen and Jason Chimera finished play on Friday night with points, the Caps increased the number of players with 10 or more points to eight. Only three teams have more: Montreal (10), Boston (9), and the New York Rangers (9).
2. The Caps posted seven goals against Colorado on Friday. That was the second time they scored seven goals in a game this season (the other instance coming against Edmonton). Nashville is the only other team with two seven-goal games this season.
3. On Friday, Evgeny Kuznetsov had his third game this season with three or more points. Only the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello and Edmonton’s Taylor Hall have more (four apiece).
4. Kuznetsov is one of three players with two overtime game-winning goals this season. The others are Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews.
5. Alex Ovechkin leads the league in power play shots on goal (33). He has, however, just one goal (3.0 percent shooting). He also leads the league in missed shots on the power play (18).
5. Only twice in 11 home games this season have the Caps finished a game under 50 percent Corsi-for in close score situations. They beat Boston, 4-1, with a 39.2 percent Corsi-for in those situations, and they lost to San Jose, 5-0, with a 27.7 Corsi-for percentage (numbers from war-on-ice.com).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Edmonton: Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl is the fourth Oiler with three or more goals over their last seven games. In fact, the second-year forward has four goals in his last five games and points in eight of the ten games in which he has appeared this season. In ten games to date he is 7-10-17, plus-10, and has stepped up admirably in the absence of Connor McDavid. He has already surpassed his goal total of his rookie season (2) and point total (9) in 37 games. His plus-10 is a 27-point improvement over the minus-17 he posted last season. He has an assist in his only career appearance against the Caps.
Washington: Karl Alzner
Karl Alzner is slowly and quietly becoming more of an offensive contributor from the blue line. His two goals this season might sound like a modest number, but it ties the second-highest total in any of his eight seasons to date. He has seven points, which is well on the way to becoming a career best. He is on a pace to finish with 30 points, which would far surpass his 21 points that set a career hight last season. In fact, over the last four full seasons entering this one, his point totals have been 12, 17, 18, and 21. He is 1-1-2, plus-2 in nine career games against the Oilers.
In the end…
The Oilers pose a similar profile to the Caps that the Colorado Avalanche presented on Friday. They are similar teams in terms of offensive production – 2.75 goals per game for Edmonton, 2.80 for Colorado. They are similar defensively – 3.15 goals allowed per game for the Oilers, 3.05 for the Avalanche. Their respective special teams percentages are similar as well, both on the power play (Edmonton: 19.7; Colorado: 19.7) and on the penalty kill (Edmonton: 77.8; Colorado: 76.8). That really does not bode well for the Oilers.
Capitals 5 – Oilers 2