The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The NHL is settling into its schedule rhythm after the All-Star game break, and that means the Washington Capitals get an opportunity to wash the taste of their 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night when the New York Islanders visit Verizon Center on Thursday night.
The Capitals will be looking to avoid consecutive regulation losses for the first time this season and a third straight loss for the first time this season, while the Islanders look to build on their 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.
For the Islanders, that win over the Wild extended a pattern of alternating wins and losses over their last five games (3-1-1). In outscoring opponents 16-11 in those five games, it was plainly a case of scoring to win. In the three games the Islanders recorded three or more goals, they won. In those in which they did not, they lost.
John Tavares leads the overall scoring over the last five games for the Islanders (2-4-6). In what has been an off year for him, compared to last season, Tavares has been streaky of late. In five games from December 21st through January 2nd, he was 2-4-6, plus-1. He followed that up with a three games stretch without a point, going minus-4 in the process. In his last six games he is 2-5-7, plus-3. An odd Tavares fact…four of his first 11 goals this season were game-winners, recorded in 21 games. He does not have a game-winning goal among the six he has in his last 24 games. Tavares is 10-10-20, plus-2, in 22 career games against the Capitals.
Brock Nelson leads the goal scorers over the Isles’ last five games with three. Those three tallies got him to the 20-goal mark, tying a career-best set last season in 82 games. He has done it by ramping up his shooting percentage. Among 391 players recording at least 50 shots on goal so far, his 17.8 percent shooting ranks eighth in the league. He has seven goals (including a hat trick against the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 12th) over his last eight games on 24 shots (29.2 percent). Nelson is 1-2-3, even, in eight career games against Washingon.
Is there a goaltender controversy brewing in Brooklyn? For the Islanders’ last contest against the Minnesota Wild, head coach Jack Capuano reached past Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss to pluck Jean-Francois Berube out of Bridgeport in the AHL and send him between the pipes. There was some speculation that this was prelude to a trade, but Berube acquitted himself well in stopping 40 of 43 shots in the Islanders’ 5-3 win. He was the fourth goaltender to appear in a game for the Islanders this season (Christopher Gibson appearing in one game on January 2nd, a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins).
It would seem, though, that one of the two principals will get the call in this game. If it is Greiss, the Caps will be facing a goalie they have no book against, a goalie with one career appearance against Washington (a 39-save effort in a 5-3 win in February 2012 when he was tending goal for the San Jose Sharks). However, he is the sort of player who Caps fans might familiar in his off-ice experience.
If it is Halak, the Caps will be facing a goalie who has been steady, if not spectacular, since the calendar turned over. In his last four appearances he is 2-1-1, 1.72, .940. It might seem a bit surprising to Caps fans that he has only 11 regular season career appearances against the Caps in which he is 6-5-0, 2.70, .899.
Here is how the teams compare overall:
1. Look out for those last 20 minutes. Of the 16 goals scored by the Islanders over their last five games, 10 came in the final 20 minutes.
2. Power plays are an unfamiliar concept to the Islanders on the road. Only the Anaheim Ducks have had fewer power play opportunities on the road (54) than the Islanders (57) this season.
3. Still on special teams facts, only four teams have allowed more shorthanded goals overall than the Islanders (5): Colorado (6), Dallas (7), New Jersey (7), and Arizona (9).
4. Those ten third period goals in their last five games is no fluke. Only three teams have scored more in the third period this season than the Islanders (54 goals): the New York Rangers (56), the Caps (60), and the Dallas Stars (68).
5. New York is not a particularly adept team on the road in terms of possession. They rank 19th in Corsi-for at 5-on-5 overall (47.5 percent), 16th in score-adjusted Corsi (49.5), and 22nd in close score situations (46.6; numbers from war-on-ice.com).
1. The Caps went 0-for-8 on the power play against the Florida Panthers in their 5-2 loss on Tuesday. What a difference just one power play goal might have made. The Caps are 22-0-2 in the 24 games in which they recorded at least one power play goal.
2. More on the power play… the Caps have more games played this season with two or more power play goals scored than any other team. Their 11-0-1 record in those 12 games is better than the 8-2-0 record the second-ranked San Jose Sharks have, the only other team with ten or more games of multi-power play goals scored.
3. The Caps and the Minnesota Wild are the only teams in the NHL to have allowed fewer than 40 total goals in each of the three regulation periods this season.
4. Washington has the best record in the league in one-goal games this season (13-2-4/.684). They have the second-best record in games decided by three or more goals (15-5/.750). They can win close or win big.
5. The Caps finished their 5-2 loss on Tuesday with a Corsi-for of 67.2 percent, their highest such mark of the season. Seven times they have hit or passed the 60-percent mark, and their record in those games is 4-2-1. They accomplished the feat five times at home, going 3-1-1 in those games. Oddly enough, the only team against which they did it twice was the Florida Panthers, and the Caps recorded an overtime win and a regulation loss in those games (numbers from war-on-ice.com).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
New York: Mikhail Grabovski
When the Capitals signed Mikhail Grabovski as a free agent before the 2013-2014 season, it was to give the center a bigger role than the bottom-six role he was chained to with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Oddly enough, his average ice time with the Caps was barely distinguishable in his only season in Washington (15:45) than what he averaged in his last season in Toronto (15:34). Now, having moved on to the Islanders, his ice time is shrinking once more – 14:16 in average ice time last season and 13:54 in 48 games so far this season. If he continues on that pace it will be his lowest average ice time for a full season in his career (he averaged 13:18 in three games in his first season in 2006-2007 and 11:14 in 24 games the following season). Despite the comparatively limited exposure, Grabovski is fifth on the team in total points (23) and sixth in goals (8). He and Kyle Okposo are the only Islanders to record an overtime goal this season. Grabovski is 3-10-13, plus-7, in 21 career games against Washington.
Washington: Braden Holtby
Except for a brief stint in the first round All-Star game against the Atlantic Division, Braden Holtby will have had an eight-day break since his last serious action (a 28 save effort in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on January 27th), and that game will have been his only game in 16 days. He has a career 25-13-4 record on three or more days rest, a somewhat lower winning percentage (.595) than his record in other games (106-43-17/.639). The Caps will be looking for him to play the role of stopper in this game to prevent the team from losing its third consecutive game for the first time this season. In 11 career appearances against the Islanders, Holtby is 8-1-2, 2.11, .936.
In the end…
The Caps are entering a part of their schedule that features more intra-divisional matchups. Starting with this game, the Caps play three straight against Metropolitan Division opponents. Beating the Islanders would be a good start on driving a stake through any hopes any Metro team has of overtaking the Caps this season.
Capitals 4 – Islanders 2