Sunday, March 05, 2017

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 65: Dallas Stars at Washington Capitals, March 6th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up their three-game home stand on Monday night when they host the Dallas Stars.  The Caps carry a three-game winning streak into this contest and wins in their last 15 games on home ice.  Dallas has been struggling of late, going 5-9-0 in their last 14 games.

When February dawned, the Stars were fighting for a playoff spot one point ahead of Nashville for fourth place in the Central Division and one point behind the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card spot in the postseason.  Since then, however, the Stars have been unable to keep opponents’ pucks out of their net, allowing an average of 3.50 goals per game in the 14 games they have played since February 1st.

Offense has not been much of a problem for the Stars in that span, averaging 2.92 goals per game since the start of February.  Jamie Benn has almost a quarter (10) of the goals scored by the team in that span (41).  The recent rush pushed Benn past the 20-goal mark for the season (24), the seventh time in seven full NHL seasons (not counting the abbreviated 2012-2013 season) he reached the 20-goal mark.  He is, however, off his pace of last season when he set a career high in goals (41).  Part of the slump is that his shooting frequency is off, averaging 2.72 shots per game this season compared to his 2.86 shots per game coming into this season and his 3.01 shots per game last season.  Benn has been an extremely reliable scorer for the last two months.  He has not gone consecutive games without a point since games 29 and 30 in mid-December.  In 31 games since then he is 16-22-38, even.  Benn is 4-6-10, plus-8, in ten career games against the Capitals.

Dallas lost a critical element in their 5-4 loss to the New York Islanders last Thursday when Antoine Roussel sustained a hand injury that will put him out for the remainder of the season.  It would be easy to think of Roussel as merely an agitator, a player inclined to test the boundaries of the rule book (he is second in the NHL in penalty minutes with 115).  However, he was second on the club in goals scored since February 1st (five), and he was second among Stars’ forwards in average ice time on the penalty kill this season.  He was also third on the club in total goals scored this season (12) when he left the lineup.  The Stars have been struggling on the penalty kill all season, but his absence seems likely to make it even worse.

Roussel’s absence will either put added pressure on a player like Cody Eakin or provide such a player with an opportunity, depending on your point of view.  The former Capital, who has missed 22 games this season to a knee injury and a four-game suspension, recorded 35 or more points in each of the last three seasons entering this one.  The time missed has taken its toll, though, with Eakin sporting a meager 3-7-10, minus-8 scoring line in 43 games this season.  He had a brief scoring spurt recently, going 2-4-6 over a nine-game span in February, but he is without a point in his last four games.  Eakin is 1-2-3, even, in seven career games against the Caps.

1.  Dallas is a poor finisher.  No team has allowed more third period goals this season than the Stars (76) and only Detroit (11) and New Jersey (10) have allowed more overtime goals than Dallas (nine).

2.  Only Colorado has allowed more five-on-five goals (201) than Dallas (208). No team has allowed more goals at 4-on-5 (46).  They have allowed the most 3-on-5 goals this season (six).  Only St. Louis (13) has allowed more goals at 6-on-5 than the Stars (11).  The Stars are more or less a charitable foundation.

3.  Score on Dallas first, chance are you win.  Only Toronto (.185) and Colorado (.140) have worse winning percentages when allowing the first goal than Dallas (.222 on a 8-21-7 record).

4.  Dallas is one of those odd teams that has done better when being outshot by opponents (15-11-4) than they have when outshooting them (10-18-6).

5.  Dallas is one of four teams that allow more than 60 shot attempts per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time (60.18).  Arizona (63.43), the New York Islanders (61.61), and Toronto (60.27) are the others (numbers from

1.  The Caps have eight players at plus-20 or better so far this season, two of them better than plus-30 (Brooks Orpik at plus-32, Dmitry Orlov at plus-31).  Last season, they had two players over plus-20 (Evgeny Kuznetsov was plus-27; Alex Ovechkin was plus-21).

2.  When Nicklas Backstrom scored in overtime to beat the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, it was his fourth game-winning goal of the season.  The Caps have 16 different players with game-winning goals.  They still have a little way to go to match last season’s 18 players with game-winners.

3.  Tom Wilson might lead the Caps in penalty minutes overall (78), but he is just fourth in minor penalties taken (19).  Last season he took 44 minor penalties.

4.  Who had Dmitry Orlov as the Capital on ice for the most 5-on-5 shot attempts so far this season (1,077)?  In terms of shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, among Caps appearing in at least 50 games, that would be Andre Burakovsky (64.30; numbers from

5.  Only two teams have spent more time killing penalties this season than the Caps (377:57) – Anaheim (387:16) and Calgary (392:19).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Dallas: Tyler Seguin

For Tyler Seguin, the 2016-2017 season resembles to a degree the season Alex Ovechkin had in 2013-2014.  You remember that one, the one in which Ovechkin had 51 goals and was a minus-35?  This season, Tyler Seguin is the only player in the league with at least 60 points (22-43-65) and a plus-minus of minus-15 or worse (minus-15).  That is due in no small part to the fact that Seguin is second in the league in power play points (26; Phil Kessel has 27), where Seguin could not earn a “plus.”  If he finishes the season with at least 80 points and a minus-20 or worse, he would be just the second player since the 2004-2005 lockout to pull off that double (Martin St. Louis had 83 points and was minus-25 in 2007-2008 for Tampa Bay).  Seguin is 2-12-14 in his last nine games, six of which were multi-point games.  He is 8-4-12, plus-3, in 18 career games against Washington.

Washington: Matt Niskanen

Matt Niskanen is the only defenseman in the Eastern Conference to average more than 22 minutes a game (22:23), record at least 30 points (4-31-35), and post a plus-minus of plus-20 or better (plus-23).  He has already posted his high point total for a season as a Capital, surpassing the 32 points he recorded last season.  At his current scoring pace he could challenge his career best of 46 points recorded in 2013-2014 with Pittsburgh.  His production has been more impressive of late.  In his last 20 games he is 2-15-17, plus-11, and the Caps are 15-3-2 in those contests.  The former first-round draft pick of the Stars (28th overall in 2005, taken right after the Caps took Joe Finley with the 27th pick) is 0-5-5, even, in nine career games against his former club.

In the end…

The Caps will be facing a team that has had its problems on the road lately.  Dallas’ 2-1 win in Florida against the Panthers last Saturday broke a six-game losing streak on the road, and the Stars are just 5-14-2 in their last 21 road contests.  What has sunk the Stars in those 21 road games is a poor penalty kill, one that was just 56-for-78 over that span (71.8 percent).  Not that the Stars have had much success killing penalties anywhere all season, theirs being the worst penalty kill in the league overall.  That’s a bad place to be for a club facing the league’s best power play since January 1st (29.5 percent).

Capitals 4 – Stars 2

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