The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals have had a good run of late, winning seven of their last eight games. They get a chance to make it eight wins in nine contests on Saturday evening when they host the New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center.
The Capitals have not been what one would consider dominant over those eight games, what with five of them settled by a single goal, two of them in overtime (“3-2” seems to be the preferred score these days, the final score in four of the wins).
On the other hand, the Devils come into this game having gone 3-2-0 since they dropped a 3-2 Gimmick decision to the Caps at Verizon Center on February 6th. Four of those games were settled by a single goal, the Devils winning three of them (one in overtime), before dropping a 6-3 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.
Scoring has been, and continues to be an issue for New Jersey, which recorded a total of just nine goals in those five games. Even more ominous for the Devils, they recorded only two even strength goals in those five games, both of them in their 6-3 loss to the Flyers.
Among the individual scorers since last facing the Caps, Adam Henrique is tied for the lead in goals (two, with Joseph Blandisi), and he leads the team in total points (four). On a team starved for offense (last in the league in scoring offense), he has been one of the few reliable contributors. Since the beginning of the new calendar year, Henrique is 6-6-12 in 20 games. He among the more accurate shooters in the league, scoring 19 goals on 18.1 percent accuracy. That ranks tenth among players averaging at least 10 minutes per game and appearing in at least 30 games. Henrique is 4-4-8, minus-9, in 16 career games against the Caps.
Kyle Palmieri leads the Devils in goal scoring (21), but until he scored against the Flyers last Tuesday he had gone nine games without a marker. It was a case of things just drying up. Palmieri was 0-for-26 over those nine-plus games before he struck late in the third period against Philadelphia. However, he has already established a career best in goals, surpassing the 14 goals he recorded in each of the past two seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. He also has a career high in total points (37), six better than the 31 he had in the 2013-2014 season with Anaheim. In five career games against the Caps, Palmieri is 0-1-1, minus-1.
Cory Schneider has been a workhorse in goal for the Devils with great individual numbers, but with very little success in terms of wins and losses. He is second in the league in total appearances (48, to Corey Crawford’s 49) and first in total minutes played (2,876). Among 38 goalies with at least 1,200 minutes played, he is second in goals against average (2.04, to Brian Elliott’s 1.99) and fifth in save percentage (.928). With all of that, he has just 25 wins in those 48 appearances. In four appearances since facing the Caps on February 6th, Schneider is 2-2-0, 2.23, .921. Against the Caps he is 3-4-2, 2.17, .920, with one shutout in his career.
Here is how the teams compare overall:
1. From the time Adam Henrique scored at the 7:47 mark of the third period against the Caps on February 6th until Jordin Tootoo scored at the 9:24 mark of the third period in the Devils’ 6-3 loss to the Flyers last Tuesday, the Devils went 304:33 without an even strength goal. They had six power play goals and one shorthanded goal. This is a team with offensive issues.
2. The Devils do not have a goal from a defenseman in their last seven games. Not since David Schlemko scored a power play goal (the game-winner) in the third period in a 3-2 win over the Rangers on February 2nd.
3. The Devils have 12 players with at least ten points this season, but five of them are defensemen. The Caps also have five defensemen with at least ten points, but they also have 15 players overall topping that number.
4. The Devils are fine at both ends of the game in terms of goal differential, a plus-3 in the first period and a plus-1 in the third. But those second periods. Their minus-12 goal differential is tied for fifth-worst in the league with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
5. To say the Devils are an awful possession team would be unfair. Colorado is awful, residing in 30th place in Corsi-for at 5-on-5 (43.1 percent). New Jersey is next to awful, ranked 29th (46.4 percent). It is no better in score-adjusted Corsi, either. They still rank 29th (46.3 percent). Over the five games since playing the Caps they are 46.5 percent overall (numbers from war-on-ice.com).
1. In six games since facing the Islanders, the Caps have outscored opponents, 21-15. They are 4-for-23 on the power play (17.4 percent) and 22-for-25 killing penalties (88.0 percent).
2. Alex Ovechkin leads the Caps in goals and points since the team faced the Islanders last (8-0-8). He has 16 goals in his last 16 games. Nicklas Backstrom leads in assists with six. He has 15 assists in 19 games in the 2016 portion of the season.
3. Despite the heavy goal totals from Ovechkin, the Caps do have goals from nine different players in their last six games. They also have points from 15 different skaters, five of them five or more points.
4. The Caps are the only team in the league with a winning percentage over .500 when allowing the game’s first goal (.519/14-9-4).
5. Washington is not exactly lighting the world on fire with their possession numbers, either. Since facing the Devils back on February 6th, their Corsi-for at 5-on-5 overall is 48.5 percent (numbers from war-on-ice.com)
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
New Jersey: Keith Kincaid
The flip side of having a goaltender get as many minutes as Cory Schneider does for the Devils means that the backup spend a lot of time on the bench modeling headwear. There have been 84 goalies to dress in the NHL this season. Of that number, New Jersey backup goaltender Keith Kincaid ranks 62nd in total minutes played, and the 22 goalies behind him include a lot of netminders who might have been called up from the minors for a game or two. The lack of playing time hardly makes Kinkaid a bad goaltender. Quite the contrary. In 31 career games he has a respectable .916 save percentage. This year he is 4-5-1, 2.28, .918 in 11 appearances, including a 28-save, 1-0 shutout of the Los Angeles Kings in his last appearance on Valentine’s Day. With the Devils playing back-to-back games this weekend, starting with the New York Islanders on Friday night (Schneider is expected to get the call against the Islanders), the Caps might get a look at Kinkaid. He is 0-0-2, 2.24, .921 in three career appearances against the Capitals.
Washington: Marcus Johansson
Last year, Marcus Johansson set career bests in goals (20) and points (47). With 25 games to go in this season he is on a pace to do even better in goals (21) and points (52). His plus-14 has already demolished he previous career best (plus-6 last season), he has more game winning goals this season (7) than his last three seasons combined (6), his shooting percentage is his best ever (16.1), and while he is still a work in progress as a faceoff man, his 48.4 percent is, yes, another career high. Since missing four games earlier this month to injury, Johansson is 1-3-4, plus-2, in five games. If there is one thing missing from his offensive game it is reflected in a return to old habits – a reluctance to shoot. He has just 10 shots on goal in his last ten games. Johansson is 3-3-6, minus-1, in 19 career games against New Jersey.
In the end…
The Devils have a good record in the second half of back-to-back sets of games, 4-1-2 so far this season. That one loss in regulation came to the Caps on October 10th, a 5-3 loss in the Devils’ second game of the season. On the other hand, the Caps are in a good schedule rhythm at the moment, not having had back-to-back games on their record since January 16-17. This is the first game of a four-game home stand for the Caps and an opportunity to take advantage of teams that have had their issues at one time or another this season – New Jersey, Arizona, Montreal, and Minnesota. But you can only play the team that is next on the schedule, and the Devils will be their usual annoyingly devoted to their system selves. It might make for an ugly game, but then again, all wins are beautiful in their own way.
Capitals 3 – Devils 1