The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
Well, we are at the end of it. The journey that started last October ends where it began, on the ice at Verizon Center where the Washington Capitals will host the Anaheim Ducks in a game that was postponed from January when the region was buried in snow from Winter Storm Jonas.
Washington comes into this game with few things left on the checklist to check off. They can set a franchise record of 122 standings points with a win, and if that win is recorded by goalie Braden Holtby, he will hold the record for most wins in a season by a goaltender. The Ducks, meanwhile, have a bit more to reach for – the top seed in the Pacific Division. If the Ducks capture two points, they will pass the Los Angeles Kings in the division and face the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs instead of the San Jose Sharks.
The Ducks are stumbling a bit coming into this game with a 2-2-1 record over their last five games. Scoring has been an issue with only 12 goals in those five games, five of them coming in a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche in the Ducks’ last game, played on Saturday night in Denver.
What the Ducks have been lacking is a certain star power in their offensive game. Ryan Getzlaf has a goal and an assist over the last five games, and until Corey Perry recorded three assists against Colorado on Saturday night, he has not had a multi-point game since March 3rd (5-7-12 in his last 18 games). The Ducks are led in goals over the last five games by Ryan Kesler (three), giving him his third straight 20-goal season and eight of his career. Kesler has been quite the road warrior lately, going 3-11-14 in his last 13 road games. In 11 career games against the Caps, Kesler is 3-6-9, plus-2.
Jakov Silfverberg is tied with Kesler for the team lead in points over the last five games (2-3-5). With two goals against Colorado on Saturday, he hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in his four-year career and tied his career-best in points (39) set last season. What he does not yet have that he had in each of his first three seasons is at least one shorthanded goal (we’ll be pulling for him to miss a fourth season), but he does have something he did not have in any of his first three season, an overtime goal, scored in a 3-2 win over Winnipeg on March 20th. Silfverberg is 1-2-3, even, in eight career games against the Caps.
With John Gibson having appeared in the last seven games for the Ducks, it could be Frederik Andersen getting the nod in goal for the Ducks in the back half of their weekend road back-to-back. Andersen last appeared in a game on March 30th, when he logged 11 minutes and change in the second period of an 8-3 win over the Calgary Flames. It was an odd circumstance, Andersen coming into the game after Gibson was shaken up in a collision with teammate defenseman Hampus Lindholm. Andersen probably wanted a do-over after allowing three goals on five shots and yielding to Gibson in the third period. In his last three appearances dating back to March 24th he has allowed 12 goals on 64 shots (.813 save percentage). He has never faced the Capitals.
Here is how the teams compare overall:
1. Anaheim leads the NHL in both power play (23.4 percent) and penalty kill (87.1 percent), the power play even better on the road – 24.8 percent.
2. You would not expect a 100-point team to have a poor record when scoring first, but the Ducks can be caught when they get the first goal. They rank just 18th in winning percentage (.660/33-7-10), and their ten overtime losses when scoring is most in the league. Their 50 instances of scoring first is second most in the league, behind Chicago (53, with a record of 41-6-6).
3. Despite scoring first 50 times this season, the Ducks do not often lead at the first intermission, and when they do they are not especially successful, at least in the context of league rankings. Anaheim has taken a lead into the first intermission 33 times and has a record of 23-4-6, a winning percentage of .697 that ranks tied for 22nd in the leagtue.
4. Anaheim does not work or play well with others. Their 328 minor penalties is third most in the league. If they take three against the Caps, they will jump into second place over the Winnipeg Jets.
5. Anaheim is the fifth-best possession team in the league, as measured in Corsi-for percent at 5-on-5 (52.4). They are also fifth in that measure in road games (51.1 percent; numbers from war-on-ice.com).
1. Let’s look at a few milestones that can be reached for the Caps in Game 82. With three points, Evgeny Kuznetsov would finish the season with 80 points. He would become the fourth Capital to hit that mark since the 2004-2005 lockout, joining Alex Ovechkin (seven times), Nicklas Backstrom (twice), and Alexander Semin for the club.
2. John Carlson and Andre Burakovsky are within striking distance of 40-point seasons, Carlson needing one point and Burakovsky needing two. If both make it, the Caps would finish the season with nine players with 40 or more points. Compare that to last season when the Caps had six such players.
3. Kuznetsov is currently at plus-25. No Capital has finished a season at plus-25 or better since the 2010 season when six players topped that mark.
4. Alex Ovechkin stands at 19 power play goals. If he gets one more he will have his fifth 20-power play goal season, tying Brett Hull for most over the last 40 years.
5. The Caps have an odd relationship of Corsi-for to scoring on home ice. Their Corsi-for at 5-on-5 ranks just 15th in the league (51.7 percent), but their goal differential of plus-22 at fives on home ice ranks fourth in the league (numbers from war-on-ice.com).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Anaheim: Bruce Boudreau
OK, he is not a player, but Bruce Boudreau is about to wrap up a remarkable regular season. After the Ducks stumbled out of the gate with an awful October (1-7-2), the “Bruce Watch” began anticipating his firing as head coach. The end of October would be the low-water mark for the club. They slowly and methodically resurrected their season, going 44-18-9 since then as they come to Washington. Boudreau will finish the season with a points percentage over .600 for the eighth time in nine NHL seasons, the only season he missed it being the one in which he was fired by the Caps and hired by the Ducks (39-32-9 overall, a .544 points percentage). Boudreau is 3-1-1 in games coached against Washington.
Washington: Justin Williams
When Justin Williams takes the ice on Sunday night, he will do so for the 1,000th time in the regular season for his career. Williams has been everything anyone could have expected in his first season in Washington. He will have appeared in all 82 games for the season, the fifth time he will have appeared in all 82 games. He ranks third on the club with 22 goals, topping the 20-goal mark for the first time since the 2011-2012 season with Los Angeles. He has 30 assists, fourth on the team and the first time he reached that level since 2011-2012. His 52 points is fourth on the club and, again, his best since 2011-2012. His plus-15 is a career best, tying a mark he recorded in 2012-2013. He has not been especially hot lately (1-2-3 in his last ten games), but he has had success against the Ducks, going 11-14-25, plus-4, in 36 career games.
In the end…
At the moment, it appears that Philipp Grubauer will “probably” get the call in goal for the Capitals on Sunday, meaning there would be no last attempt to secure the all-time goalie wins record for Braden Holtby. That would make give the Caps few incentives in this contest, other than to remind their former coach that they are still a formidable team. But this team has, for the most part this season, done a good job of taking care of business. This is a chance to punch the time clock and carry the lunch pail one last time before the fun starts in the postseason.
Capitals 3 – Ducks 2