The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals take their four-game winning streak into “The State of Hockey” on Thursday night when they face the Minnesota Wild in the middle game of the Caps’ three-game Central Division road trip.
The Capitals come into this game seeking to post their fifth winning streak of the season of five or more games. Meanwhile, the Wild are in a wild slump. In the 2016 portion of the season they are 3-10-4 and have yet to win consecutive games. They are on a six-game losing streak (0-4-2) in which they have been outscored, 22-13. They have been outscored at 5-on-5, 13-8, and while their power play has been very good over those six games (5-for-22/22.7 percent), they have given it all back, and more, with poor penalty killing over those same six games (13-for-19/68.4 percent).
Minnesota scoring has been like one of the state’s fabled 10,000 lakes – a mile wide and a foot deep. The Wild have points from 18 different skaters on their six-game losing streak, but only four players have four or more points. Ten different players have goals, but only two have more than one tally.
Charlie Coyle is one of those players with more than one goal in the six-game losing streak, leading the way with three scores. The three goals raise Coyle’s total to 14 goals this season, a career-best for the fourth-year center, surpassing the 12 he had in 2013-2014. The three goals were part of a four-game goal scoring streak Coyle had before he was silenced by the New York Rangers a week ago. That four-game goal streak included four goals scored on 13 shots, but the last three opponents – the Rangers, St. Louis Blues, and Dallas Stars – found a way to keep him from getting his shots, holding him to a combined three shots on goal over his last three games. Coyle is 1-1-2, minus-3, in four career games against the Capitals.
Matt Dumba is the only other Wild skater with more than one goal in Minnesota’s six-game losing streak. Those two goals allowed him to inch within a goal (seven for this season) of his career-best set last year. His 16 points on the season ties his best total over his three-season career. The defenseman comes into this game on a four-game points streak, his five points (2-3-5) leading all Wild skaters over the last half-dozen contests. In two career games against Washington, the former seventh-round draft pick did not record a point and is a plus-1.
Nino Niederreiter was taken with the fifth overall pick by the New York Islanders in 2010. He had a bit of a slow start to career, given his lofty draft status, with 16 goals in 145 games over his first three seasons. However, he gave indications last year, his second in Minnesota, that he could reach a level of production more in alignment with his draft position. In 80 games he finished with 24 goals and 37 points, eight of those goals coming on power plays. This season he has taken a step backwards with nine goals in 53 games, 1 14-goal pace that would equal his production in his first year in Minnesota in 2013-2014. He does have four points in his last six games, although he is without one in his last three contests. Niederreiter is 2-1-3, plus-3, in six career games against the Caps.
Here is how the teams compare overall:
1. Minnesota struggles mightily in extra time. They are 1-10 in games decided after regulation, 1-8 in the 3-on-3 overtime.
2. More on extra time… The Wild are 0-2 in the Gimmick and have yet to record a goal, going 0-for-9 in the trick shot competition, the only team in the league without a goal in the après-hockey portion of the contest.
3. The Wild are last in the league in power play chances on home ice (72), which largely negates their fourth-best home power play (23.6 percent).
4. On the other hand, the Wild have had by far the fewest number of shorthanded situations faced at home this season. With just 49 shorthanded situations, the Wild have had 12 fewer than the Buffalo Sabres (61).
5. Over their six-game losing streak, the Wild have a Corsi-for at 5-on-5 overall of just 45.7 percent. It is not a lot different from their Corsi-for in the 2016 portion of the season (46.4 percent over 17 games; numbers from war-on-ice.com)
1. The six power play chances the Caps allowed the Nashville Predators was the most they faced since they faced six against the Florida Panthers on December 10th in a 4-1 loss. The other time the Caps faced six power plays this season was against the Edmonton Oilers in a 7-4 win on October 23rd.
2. The Caps are still looking to break a long streak of emptiness on the power play with a goalie in net. The Caps scored a power play goal into an empty net in the last minute of their 5-3 win over Nashville on Tuesday, but they have yet to score a power play goal against a goaltender since January 19th, when they went 2-for-2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 6-3 win.
3. If things should come down to that trick shot thing, the Caps have the third-best shooting percentage in the league (50 percent on 6-for-12 shooting).
4. The Caps have the best record in one-goal games in the league (.727/16-2-4), the second-best record in two-goal decisions (.800/8-2), and the second-best record in games decided by three or more goals (.750/15-5).
5. The Caps continue to right themselves when it comes to possession numbers. Overall, they have not been under 50 percent in consecutive games in Corsi-for at 5-on-5 since Christmas. They are a combined 52.0 percent in 19 games since then (war-on-ice.com).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Minnesota: Devan Dubnyk
The strain of poor play by the Wild in general is showing in the production of goaltender Devan Dubnyk. After going 16-10-2, 2.32, .920, with four shutouts in the 2015 portion of the season, he is 2-8-3, 2.50, .913 in the 2016 portion of the season. He has not won a game since January 9th, going 0-7-1, 2.73, .898 in his last eight appearances, and he allowed 12 goals on 83 shots (.855 save percentage) in his last three contests. In his own way – and the Wild’s – he is similar to New Jersey’s Cory Schneider. There seems to be a threshold he must adhere to for the Wild to win. In his case it is two goals allowed. Dubnyk is 13-5-2 when allowing two or fewer goals, 5-13-3 when allowing three or more. He is 2-2-0, 3.27, .887 in four career appearances against the Capitals.
Washington: Evgeny Kuznetsov
Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded his 100th NHL career point in Tuesday’s win over the Nashville Predators. In his third year, Kuznetsov is third on the club in points per game over those three years with 0.67 points per game, trailing only Nicklas Backstrom (0.97) and Alex Ovechkin (0.98) among Caps appearing in at least 100 games over that span. He is one of six players in the league to average more than a point per game so far this season, the other five being on short lists for a variety of post-season awards: Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn, Erik Karlsson, Tyler Seguin, and Sidney Crosby (minimum: 25 games). He comes into this game 4-17-21, plus-7, in 15 games in the 2016 portion of the season, although he does not have a goal in his last nine contests. Kuznetsov is 1-1-2, plus-1, in two career games against the Wild.
In the end…
The Wild are a team the Caps need to jump on hard and fast from the start to stifle their fans and eat away at their confidence. A team on las prolonged a slump as the Wild needs no help from the Caps in giving them a boost to suggest the end of the misery is at hand. The Wild have not played quite as bad as their record would indicate, eight of their 14 losses in 2016 coming by one goal, four of those in extra time. Minnesota has not won a home game in 2016 to date (0-3-3, all six losses coming by one goal); the Caps are 6-1-1 in the road portion of 2016, three of the wins coming by multi-goal margins. That’s a bad formula for the home team, a good one for the Caps to extend their winning streak.
Capitals 4 – Wild 2