Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 44: Capitals at Penguins, January 16th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins meet on Monday evening in the last of their four regular season meetings this season.

There has not been a lot going on since the Caps and Pens met last Wednesday in a 5-2 Capitals win.  That’s not to say that nothing has gone on.  For instance…

-- Washington extended their winning streak to nine games with a 5-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday…

-- Pittsburgh is now on a three-game losing streak, starting with that loss the Caps.  They dropped a 4-1 decision to the Ottawa Senators and a 6-3 decision to the Detroit Red Wings, both on the road.

-- Washington lost John Carlson to a “lower-body injury” in the game against the Flyers.

-- Pittsburgh lost top defenseman Kris Letang to an apparent knee injury early in the first period of their Saturday night 6-3 loss to the Red Wings (he did return for a short shift ten minutes after suffering the injury but could not continue). 

-- The Caps scored 11 goals against Chicago and Philadelphia.

-- The Penguins scored four goals against Ottawa and Detroit.

-- The Capitals allowed no goals to the Blackhawks or Flyers.

-- The Penguins allowed ten goals against the Senators and Red Wings.

-- The Caps were 1-for-2 (50.0 percent) on the power play in their two games since beating Pittsburgh.

-- The Pens were 1-for-7 (14.3 percent) on the power play in their two games since losing to Washington.

-- The Caps killed seven shorthanded situations (100.0 percent) against Chicago and Philadelphia.

-- The Pens killed six of nine shorthanded situations (66.7 percent) against Ottawa and Detroit.

-- Washington outscored Chicago and Philadelphia, 10-0, at 5-on-5.

-- Pittsburgh was outscored by Ottawa and Detroit, 7-3, at 5-on-5.

-- The Capitals out-attempted the Blackhawks and Senators by a 95-89 margin at 5-on-5.

-- The Penguins were held to a 83-83 split of shot attempts by the Senators and Red Wings.

-- The Caps out-shot their two opponents by a 48-36 margin at 5-on-5 in their two games.

-- The Pens were out-shot by their two opponents by a 54-47 margin at 5-on-5 in their two games.

-- Alex Ovechkin is 3-4-7, plus-7, in his last five games.

-- Sidney Crosby is 0-4-4, minus-1, in his last five games.

-- Nicklas Backstrom is 4-7-11, plus-7, in his last five games.

-- Evgeni Malkin is 3-2-5, minus-4, in his last five games.

-- Washington has an 11-4-4 record in away games this season, sixth-best in the league.

-- Pittsburgh has an 18-2-2 record at home, best in the league.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Pittsburgh:  Olli Maatta

With Kris Letang perhaps missing some substantial time with a lower body injury, some of his offensive responsibility from the blue line seems likely to fall upon the shoulders of Olli Maatta.  The fourth-year player has battled injury and illness over the past two-plus seasons, and whether that is a reason or not, he still has had disappointing numbers this season (0-4-4 in 40 games).  In fact, it has been a struggle to measure up to the numbers he posted in his rookie season (9-20-29 in 78 games), one in which he finished fifth in the Calder Trophy voting for rookie-of-the-year.  In 127 games over his last three seasons he is just 7-25-32).  His streak without a goal has reached 61 games, since he scored last February 8th against Anaheim.   Maatta is 1-5-6, plus-5, in 11 career games against the Caps.

Washington:  Nicklas Backstrom

No player in the NHL this season has more points against the Pittsburgh Penguins than Nicklas Backstrom (3-8-11 in three games).  With two more points he would tie the highest point total scored against the Penguins in a single season in the post-2004-2005 lockout period (Simon Gagne was 7-6-13 against the Penguins for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2005-2006).  The 11 points scored by Backstrom against Pittsburgh is the most by a Capital against the Pens in this era.  In fact, in Capitals history you would have to go back to the 1988-1989 season to find a Capital who scored more points than Backstrom against the Pens in a single season (Mike Ridley, 7-5-12). Lately, it hasn’t mattered who it is that Backstrom lines up against.  He has points in his last six games (3-7-10).  He is 6-38-44, plus-7, in 37 career games against Pittsburgh.

In the end…

Streaks are odd things.  Whether a winning streak or a losing streak, you can get a sense when one is coming to an end.  Teams on losing streaks might play well without reward until they finally break through with a win.  Teams on winning streaks will start to show cracks and maybe escape with a win or two before their roll comes to an end.  The Capitals’ winning streak has reached nine games, and they have won their last three contests by a combined score of 20-3.  The Penguins certainly are capable of ending this streak for the Caps, especially since they have the league’s best home record.  But based on their recent play, it is really hard to pick against the men in red.

Capitals 4 – Penguins 2

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