Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 26: Capitals at Sabres, December 9th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

On Friday night, for the third time in a space of seven games and 15 days, the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres will face one another.  The difference in this third meeting is that it will take place in Buffalo at MarineMidlandHSBCFirstNiagaraKeyBank Center.  The Capitals won the first two meetings at Verizon Center, 3-1 on November 25th and 4-2 in overtime last Monday.

There is little to report since the last time these teams were about to face one another.  Both clubs played one game since that meeting, and both teams eked out 4-3 overtime victories at home.  Washington beat the Boston Bruins on a Nicklas Backstrom strike in the extra period,  and the Sabres knocked off the Edmonton Oilers on Rasmus Ristolainen’s first goal of the season. 

While there hasn’t been much movement in the standings by either of these teams over the past four days, there are a few random facts we can offer up.

-- Buffalo lacks for scoring (30th in the league in scoring offense), but they have more goal scorers this season (15) than the Caps (14).

-- Rasmus Ristolainen finally got his first goal after going 25 games without one, and with 16 points on the season he has almost as many points as the rest of the Sabres’ defensemen combined (17, spread among four defensemen).

-- Capital defensemen have not scored many goals, but Sabre defensemen have fewer goals on their record this season.  Ristolainen’s goal was only the second goal by a Buffalo defenseman this season.  Cody Franson has the other one.

-- The Sabres allowed the Oilers a pair of power play goals in their 4-3 overtime win.  That makes five games in six that the Sabres have allowed at least one power play goal, and they are just 11-for-19 killing penalties over that span (57.9 percent).

-- Buffalo does not do a very good job in the trade off of taking and drawing minor penalties.  Their differential of minor penalties taken and drawn per 60 minutes ranks 25th in the league (minus-0.15)

-- When the Caps beat Boston on Wednesday night, it was their 15th win in their 25th game this season.  It is just the fifth time in team history that the Caps reached the 15 win mark in 25 or fewer games.  The seasons at the 25-game mark:
  • 2016-2017: 15-7-3
  • 2015-2016: 18-5-2
  • 2010-2011: 17-6-2
  • 1991-1992: 18-7-0
  • 1985-1986: 15-7-3
While four of this year's wins (and three of last year's at the 25-game mark) came in extra time, with different rules than the pre-2004-2005 lockout era, it is still an accomplishment worth noting.

-- The four goals the Caps scored against Boston was as many as they had in their previous three games combined, and it was the first time in six games that they scored more than three goals, dating back to their 4-3 win over St. Louis on November 23rd.

-- After 25 games last season the Caps allowed 55 goals. This year, through 25 games, that number is 56 goals. The bigger difference in is goals scored, where the Caps have scored just 65 goals through 25 games to date compared to 78 through 25 games last season, a drop of more than half a goal per game.

-- Only six teams have failed to win in the trick shot phase of the game, the Caps being one of them having lost both of their appearances so far.  Then again, only the New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche have appeared in fewer freestyle competitions (one apiece).

-- There are 169 forward combos that have skated at least 50 minutes together at 5-on-5.  Of that group, the Capitals combo with the most minutes together is the Daniel Wionnik/Jay Beagle/Tom Wilson trio that has 69.5 5-o-5 minutes together, ranking 103rd.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Buffalo: Evander Kane

Evander Kane has had an odd last four seasons.  And that is not “odd” in a good or charming way.  In 2012-2013 with the Winnipeg Jets he appeared in every game (the only time he has appeared in every game in his eight-year career), and went 17-16-33, a respectable 29-27-56 pace per 82 games.  Since then, however, his durability and production have been in decline: 19-22-41 in 69 games in 2013-2014, 10-12-22 in 37 games in 2014-2015, and 20-15-35 in 65 games last season, his first with the Sabres.  This season, Kane is just 3-4-7 in 15 games, having missed 11 games to a cracked rib.  His injury issues over the years make it a bit less remarkable that the former fourth-overall draft pick (2009) has only one 30-goal season on his resume (with Winnipeg in 2011-2012).  He might be getting on a run, though.  Kane has points in four of his last five games (3-2-5) and is seven straight games an even or plus player.  In 26 career games against the Caps, Kane is 11-6-17, minus-3.

Washington: John Carlson

John Carlson’s goal scoring over the course of his seven seasons preceding this one have not quite been a straight line of improvement, but it has been close.  His goals per game over those years look like this:
  • 2009-10: 0.05
  • 2010-11: 0.09
  • 2011-12: 0.11
  • 2012-13: 0.13
  • 2013-14: 0.12
  • 2014-15: 0.15
  • 2015-16: 0.14
So far this season he has a nice round number: 0.00.  He has not lacked for shooting the puck, though.  He is on a pace to finish the season with 200 shots on goal, which would be his second highest career season total (208 in 82 games in 2013-2014).  It is part of a long dry spell for Carlson, who has just two goals on 107 shots (1.9 shooting percentage) over his last 51 games.  He does have ten assists, which ranks in the top-20 among defensemen going into Thursday’s games, and his four power play assists ranks in the top-25.  There is just that odd hole in his record so far this season with respect to goals scored.  Carlson is 0-4-4, minus-3 in 20 career games against the Sabres.

In the end…

All of a sudden, the Caps are in position to record their first three-game winning streak since they cobbled together a five-game streak in Games 7-11 back in late October and early November.  And, although they are fourth in the Metropolitan Division, they are just two points out of first place with a game in hand on the Pittsburgh Penguins and two games in hand on the New York Rangers, both with 35 points.  They are right in the middle of the mix of a division that is the only one in the NHL to date with six teams having earned 30 or more standings points.  And, with Buffalo, Vancouver, the New York Islanders, and Carolina coming up on the schedule, it is a chance to stash away some more standings points as the 2016 portion of the season winds down.  As streaky as the Caps have been, though, it will be interesting to see just how the Caps make use of the schedule they have coming up.

Capitals 4 – Sabres 2

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