The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals play the second of their first set of back-to-back games this season when they head to Calgary to take on the Flames on Sunday night. The Caps, fresh off a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, will look to win consecutive games for the first time since winning three in a row in Games 2-4.
In the Flames, the Caps will be taking on a hot team on rest. Calgary beat Ottawa on Friday night at home, 5-2, extending their winning streak to three games and giving them a 4-2-0 record since starting the season with three straight losses (0-2-1).
Calgary comes into this game with balanced scoring, eight players having recorded at least five points through nine games. Johnny Gaudreau leads that group with seven points and has two straight two-point games coming into the contest with Washington. He is establishing himself as one of the best of a new generation of goal scorers. Only three players – teammate Sean Monahan (62), Nikita Kucherov (60), and Filip Forsberg (59) – have more goals among players 23 or younger over the last three seasons than Gaudreau (56), who is in his third NHL season. What he has not done is score a goal against the Caps. In four career games against Washington, he has two assists and is minus-1.
Monahan is another of those players with at least five points and is tied for the team lead in goals with four. The sixth-overall draft pick in 2013, Monahan has three straight 20-plus goal seasons on his resume coming into 2015-2016. Four goals in nine games suggest he is on his way to a fourth straight such season and perhaps his second 30-plus goal campaign (he had 31 in his sophomore season, in 2014-2015). The odd part of his season so far is that he does not yet have an assist to go with his four goals. If he isn’t doing the scoring, bad things seem to happen when he is on the ice. In four games scoring goals, the Flames are 3-1-0, and he is a combined plus-3. In games in which he does not have a goal, the Flames are 1-3-1, and he is a combined minus-7. Monahan is 4-2-6, plus-2 in six career games against the Caps.
The other four-goal scorer for the Flames is Michael Frolik. Now in his ninth NHL season, Frolik is skating with his fourth club. A player of considerable promise (10th overall draft pick to the Florida Panthers in 2006), he has never quite measured up to that lofty selection status. He has not had a 20-goal season since his sophomore year with Florida in 2009-2010 (21 goals). Last season, his first in Calgary, he had 15 goals in 64 games. After getting three goals in his first four games, he has just one in his last five contests, but that came in the Flames’ 5-2 win over Ottawa on Friday. In 23 career games against the Caps, Frolik is 7-7-14, minus-4.
1. Calgary has the third worst special teams index in the league (84.6, combined power play and penalty killing efficiencies), ahead of only Arizona (83.1) and Chicago (72.6).
2. The Flames have yet to record a power play goal at home, the last team in the league without a home power play goal. They are 0-for-22
3. No team has allowed more power play goals at home than the Flames (9, tied with Chicago). Just as bad, no team has been shorthanded more times so far at home than Calgary (25, tied with Pittsburgh). The Flames are shorthanded an average of 5.0 times per game on home ice. The Flames have a healthy lead on the rest of the league in minor penalties taken (49, five more than second-most Anaheim).
4. First periods have been good to Calgary – they are tied for third in first period goals scored (9). Third periods have been less kind – the Flames are tied for second in most third period goals allowed (12).
5. Only two teams have been charged with more giveaways than the Flames (95) – San Jose (110) and Montreal (105).
1. The Caps have yet to be out-shot by an opponent this season. Seven games, seven times outshooting their opponents. Three times they out-shot their opponent by at least ten shots.
2. The Caps have allowed the first goal in a game just once, the fewest times allowing the game’s first goal in the league. That came in the Caps’ 4-1 loss to Edmonton last Wednesday.
3. The Caps have only three players with five or more points, compared to the eight that the Flames have, but 17 of the 19 skaters to dress so far this season have at least one point. Brett Connolly and Zach Sanford are looking for their first marks on the score sheet.
4. The Caps have just four players in “minus” territory, but some of them are names you don’t expect (or like to see) there – Nicklas Backstrom (minus-1), Dmitry Orlov (minus-1), and Andre Burakovsky (minus-2). Sanford is the other (minus-1).
5. The Caps are second in the league in 5-on-5 possession (54.65 percent), trailing only the Los Angeles Kings ((57.02 percent Corsi-for; numbers from Corsica.hockey). They are fourth in league in road Corsi-for (55.21 percent).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Calgary: Brian Elliott/Chad Johnson
Goaltending has been consistent for the Flames so far, but not in quite the way they would like. Brian Elliott, the number one netminder, and Chad Johnson have similar numbers. Elliott has a goals against average of 3.15, Johnson is at 2.89. Elliott has a save percentage of .893, Johnson is at .901. Their even-strength save percentages are decent (Elliott: .924, Johnson: .915), but their save percentage when a man short are not (Elliott: .778, Johnson: .824). It is not surprising that the Flames have the 25th-ranked team shooting percentage against in the league (11.4 percent) and the 24th ranked scoring defense (3.44 goals against per game). Elliott is 6-3-0, 3.36, .883 in 11 career games against the Caps, while Johnson is 2-2-1, 2.58, .920 in five career appearances against the Caps.
Washington: Braden Holtby
Braden Holtby appears likely to get the call in goal for the Caps against Calgary after giving way to Philipp Grubauer in Vancouver on Saturday night. Holtby will have three full days of rest since his last appearance, the 4-1 loss to Edmonton last Wednesday. Last year was one of consistency for Holtby in terms of his performance on a days-rested basis. He was 3-0-0, 2.28, .934 when playing the second night in a row; 28-4-4, 2.30, .921 with two shutouts when playing with one day’s rest; 8-3-1, 1.89, .923, with one shutout on two days’ rest; and he was 8-2-2, 2.14, .923 when playing, as he would tonight, with three or more days’ rest. What he has not been, though, is successful against the Flames. He is 2-1-1, 3.66, .852 in five career games against the Flames. At least he finished his last three games against Calgary; he was relieved in the first period of each of his first two career appearances against the Flames. In his last three appearances against Calgary he has been more the beneficiary of shot suppression. The Caps held the Flames to 20 or fewer shots in each of those games. Holtby’s save percentage in those games is just .889, although he has two wins and an overtime loss in them.
In the end…
The Caps played well last night against Vancouver. They were even dominating at times, especially in pinning the Canucks in their end of the ice. The chore now is to put two such games together. It has not been a problem of defense, nor has it even been one of the way the offense has played, necessarily. It has been a matter of results, converting opportunities at even strength and the power play. That is what the Caps got last night in a balanced scoring effort. So…two in a row? Two in a row.
Capitals 5 – Flames 2