Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 43: Flyers at Capitals, January 15th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

It is a marquee matinee matchup as the Washington Capitals host the Philadelphia Flyers in a 12:30 puck drop at Verizon Center on Sunday afternoon (note: game time has been changed to 1:00).  The Caps will be looking to extend their season-long winning streak to nine games.

This is the second of four meetings in the regular season between the teams, the Flyers having won the first meeting, 3-2, in a Gimmick back on December 21st.  Life has not been kind to the Flyers since then, the orange and black going 2-6-2, since then, including a 6-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon.

In their last ten games since defeating the Caps, the Flyers have done one thing well.  Their power play is 8-for-29 (27.6 percent).  That power play will come into the game with the Caps with goals in each of its last three games (5-for-10/50 percent).

Not much else has gone right, though.   Philadelphia has been out-scored , 38-21, in those ten games, despite outshooting opponents, 313-289.  Their penalty killing has come up short stopping opponents, going just 27-for-36 (75.0 percent).

For Jakub Voracek, the team’s leading scorer, it has not been so much a lack of production as it has been being victimized by opponents when he is on the ice.  Voracek is 2-4-6 in the Flyers’ last ten games, but he was a minus player in eight of those games, going minus-7 overall.  What has been missing from Voracek’s game, though, has been goal-scoring.  The two goals he had against the New York Rangers in a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on January 4th are his only goals in his last 15 games.  Voracek is 11-8-19, plus-6, in 26 career against the Caps.

Another Flyer whose goal scoring has dried up is their leading goal scorer, Wayne Simmonds.  In his first 28 games this season, Simmonds potted 15 goals, a healthy 44-goal pace.  However, he has just three goals in his last 17 games. It hasn’t been for lack of shooting.  Those three goals have come on 50 shots (6.0 percent).  One thing on his record he might not want to which he might not want too much attention paid is the fact that he is one of just two players this season with two games of 15 or more penalty minutes (Dallas’ Antoine Roussel is the other). He had 15 minutes in a 4-2 win over Dallas on December 10th (much of it part of a slashing duel with Roussel in the last moments of that contest) and 16 minutes in a 4-0 loss to New Jersey on December 22nd.  Simmonds is 5-8-13, minus-2, in 25 career games against Washington.

With Michal Neuvirth getting the call against the Bruins on Saturday, it would seem Steve Mason will be the netminder of choice on Sunday against the Caps.  At the moment, Mason has some things to sort out.  In his last eight appearances he had save percentages under .900 six times and posted a record of 0-5-2 (one no-decision), 3.78, .860. Mason is currently tied with Roman Cechmanek and Bob Froese for fourth place in all-time wins for the franchise (92).  A win against the Caps would lift him into a tie for third with Wayne Stephenson, trailing only Bernie Parent (232) and Ron Hextall (240).  Mason is 9-5-2, 2.65, .911 with two shutouts in 17 career appearances against the Caps.

1.  The Flyers have their troubles early and late in games.  Only three teams have fewer first period goals than Philadelphia (26), and they have a minus-10 first period goal differential.  Their third periods are the same in a different way.  Only Vancouver has allowed more third period goals (52) than Philadelphia (50), and the Flyers have another minus-10 goal differential in the final 20 minutes of games.

2.  No club has allowed more goals this season at 5-on-2 than Philadelphia.  Their 94 goals allowed is tied with the Colorado Avalanche for most in the league.

3.  That goals against problem extends, oddly enough, to the Flyer power play.  No team has allowed more shorthanded goals this season that Philadelphia (eight).

4.  On the offensive end, scoring first comes infrequently to the Flyers.  Only 16 times in 45 games have they scored a game’s first goal (9-4-3).  Only Vancouver (15) and Colorado (13) have scored first fewer times than the Flyers this season.

5.  It is not as if the Flyers are a poor possession team.  They do rank 11th in Corsi-for at 5-on-5 overall this season (51.14 percent), and they are eighth overall on the road (51.65 percent; numbers from

1.  Where the Flyers are weak early and late, the Caps are strong.  Washington is first in the league in first period goal differential (+24) and fourth in third period goal differential (+14).

2.  There are only two teams in the league this season who have not had games with two or fewer penalty minutes charged to them – the Anaheim Ducks and the Caps.

3.  Only the New York Rangers (96) have scored more 5-on-5 goals than the Caps (90; tied with Pittsburgh going into Saturday’s games) this season.

4.  No one has more wins than the Caps when out-shooting opponents.  The Caps are 19-5-3 in those games.

5.  Teams have scored on just 2.72 percent of their shot attempts at 5-on-5 against the Caps at Verizon Center this season.  That’s the third-best record in the league (numbers from

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Philadelphia:  Ivan Provorov

Last season, it was Shayne Gostisbehere as the “it” guy as a rookie on the Flyer blueline.  This season, it’s Ivan Provorov, especially with Gostisbehere suffering through something of a sophomore slump.  Provorov is second among rookie defensemen in total scoring this season (3-17-20), trailing only Columbus’ Zach Werenski (6-20-26).  He is third in that rookie class in average ice time (21:23), trailing only Boston’s Brandon Carlo (21:31) and Toronto’s Nikita Zaitsev (22:24).  More ice time is not necessarily a good thing, though.  The Flyers are just 9-8-4 when Provorov skates more than his game average, 13-9-2 when he logs less than his average.  He did not record a point and was plus-1 in his only career appearance against the Caps.

Washington:  Daniel Winnik

There are 13 players in the league this season who have appeared in 30 or more games, average less than 15 minutes per game, and have a plus-minus of plus-10 or better.  The Caps have two of those players – Jay Beagle (13:13 per game/plus-13) and Daniel Winnik (12:21 per game/plus-11).  Winnik has quietly put together a pretty good season for a player getting fourth line minutes.  His goal scoring pace (0.19 per game) is the best of his career, and he has a pair of game-winners among the six goals he has this season.  He has been extraordinarily efficient shooting the puck, his 15.8 percent shooting on 38 shots being the first and only time in his career he has been over ten percent shooting the puck.  And back to that plus-minus, Winnk has been a minus player only once (minus-1 against Toronto on January 3rd) in 32 games this season.  The Caps have yet to lose a game in regulation when he records a point (9-0-1).  He is 1-1-2, plus-3, in 15 career games against Philadelphia.

In the end…

A team giving up almost four goals per game over their last ten contests like the Flyers is going to get a handful in the Caps, who have outscored opponents by a 43-17 margin in 11 games since they lost in a Gimmick to the Flyers, 3-2, back on December 21st.  The Caps, who seem impervious to getting too high for games these days, do have the added incentive being able to jump over Columbus for the top spot in the league standings with a win (the Blue Jackets lost to Florida, 4-3, on Saturday night).  It does not mean all that much in January, but it is a useful marker on just how well the Caps have been playing of late as they look to extend the league’s longest active winning streak by one more game.

Capitals 5 – Flyers 2

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 42: Washington Capitals 6 - Chicago Blackhawks 0

If seven was heaven, then eight is great.  The Washington Capitals made it eight wins in a row on Friday night with a surprisingly easy 6-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at Verizon Center.  The loss ended a four-game winning streak on the part of the Blackhawks, while the Capitals extended the league’s longest active winning streak, five more than the three-game streak held by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Washington scored the game’s first two goals in bang-bang fashion in the seventh minute.  It started with a car wreck just inside the Chicago blue line that had several Caps and Blackhawks tumbling over one another.  Out of the commotion, Daniel Winnik picked up a loose puck at the far edge of the left wing faceoff circle and fed Jay Beagle filling in behind him.  From the top of the circle, Beagle let loose with a shot that squirted between goalie Corey Crawford’s pads at the 6:04 mark. 

Fans didn’t have time to settle back into their seats before the red light came on again.  Matt Niskanen started the rush with a cross-ice pass from his own blue line to Alex Ovechkin heading up the left side.  Ovechkin beat Jonathan Toews along the wall into the Chicago end and spied T.J. Oshie charging down the middle.  Ovechkin hit Oshie in stride, and Oshie relayed the puck across to Nicklas Backstrom on his right.  Backstrom found himself with all but an empty net at which to shoot, finding the back of the net at the 6:17 mark to make it 2-0.

Brett Connolly got his sixth of the season late in the first period.  Some hard work by Andre Burakovsky got the play started.  Carrying the puck to the Blackhawk blue line, he got position on Richard Panik to give him an opportunity to send it in deep.  With the puck eluding anyone’s control behind the net, Burakovsky followed up and hounded Tanner Kero into giving it up along the end wall.  It came out to Lars Eller who could not get a good whack at the bouncing puck.  He got enough of it to move it across to Connolly circling out from behind the net to Crawford’s right. Before any Blackhawk could get over to defend him, Connolly swept the puck behind Crawford, and it was 3-0, 17:49 into the period.

The score remained that way for most of the second period, but Tom Wilson added to the lead late in the frame.  Eller started the play by picking up a loose puck in the Washington end and skating it out and down the right side.  He fed it ahead to Nate Schmidt closing on the Chicago blue line.  Schmidt darted down the wall, slammed on the brakes, and even as he blew a tire and started to tumble to the ice, he snapped a pass to the front of the net where Wilson was arriving.  The puck was slowed ever so slightly by defenseman Brian Campbell, but not enough to keep it from getting to the blade of Wilson’s stick, and it’s next stop was the back of the net to make it 4-0, 17:01 into the second period.

Mid-way through the third, the Caps scored off a rush yet one more time.  It was Schmidt starting things by skating the puck out of the Washington end up the left wing.  Just before hitting the Chicago line, he fed Nicklas Backstrom in the middle.  Backstrom slid the puck across to T.J. Oshie on his right.  What Oshie intended from there wasn’t entirely clear.  He chipped at the puck in what looked like a half-pass, half-shot, but it deflected off defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and past Crawford’s glove to make it 5-0 at the 8:11 mark. 

Jay Beagle, who started the scoring, ended it for the Caps in the last 90 seconds when he puit back a John Carlson drive past Scott Darling, who had come in to relieve Corey Crawford after the Oshie goal.  It sne fans off into the night in a happy frame of mind on a 6-0 win.

Other stuff…

-- The six goals scored by the Caps was the most allowed to an opponent by the Blackhawks this season.  It was the fourth time this season that the Caps scored six or more goals, the first time against a Western Conference team (the others were against Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Toronto).  He has both of his two-goal  games this season and half of his goal total against Chicago.  And here is the oddest Beagle fact of all… In the three games in which he has points against Chicago, his scoring line is identical among them: 2-0-2, plus-2.

-- It was Jay Beagle’s fourth career multi-goal game.  The Caps moved to 29-1-5 in games in which he scored a goal in his career, 58-6-7 in games in which he recorded a point.

-- Beagle led the Caps with eight shots on goal, a career high.  He became the 15th Capitals to record eight or more shots on goal in a game since the 2004-2005 lockout (Alex Ovechkin has done it 122 times). 

-- Eleven different Caps recorded points, and with that, every Blackhawk finished in minus territory for the night.

-- Karl Alzner played in his 500th straight game and played a thoroughly Alzner type game.  He had one shot on goal, no points, one blocked shot, and finished a plus-4, tops on the team.

-- Nicklas Backstrom finished with a goal and an assist for his tenth multi-point game of the season and his third in a row.  He now has a five-game points streak in which he is 3-7-10, plus-7.

-- T.J. Oshie had his eighth multi-point game of the season (1-1-2) and extended his points streak to three games.  He is 4-6-10, plus-9, over his last seven games.

-- The Caps scored their first goal on their 13th shot attempt in barely six minutes of play (on their sixth shot on goal to go with six blocked shot attempts and one missed shot).  When Jay Beagle scored that first goal, the Caps out-attempted the Blackhawks, 13-3.

-- The Caps allowed the Blackhawks just two power play opportunities, the fewest allowed in a game since the Caps allowed the Philadelphia Flyers a pair of chances on December 21st.  It broke a string of ten straight games allowing opponents three or more power play chances.

-- The shutout continues quite a run for goalie Braden Holtby.  Over his last 13 appearances, he is 9-2-2 (one no-decision), 1.34, .950, with five shutouts.  In five games since he was pulled after 20 minutes against Toronto, he is 5-0-0, 0.60, .978, with three shutouts.

In the end…

The Capitals dominated early, late, and in-between.  How bad did they make it for the visitors?  It was the most lopsided loss suffered by the Blackhawks in more than five years  This was as complete a game the Capitals played this season. They won the shots on goal (34-24), the shot attempts (60-55), possession (52.38 percent at 5-on-5, according to, and of course, on the scoreboard.  The one thing they didn’t do was draw a penalty to get a power play chance, but the flip response to that was that the Blackhawks never really got close enough to a Capital with the puck often enough to commit an infraction.

That the Caps are putting this streak together against the quality of competition they have faced suggests it is the best hockey the club has played since perhaps the 2009-2010 season, if not longer.  These things don’t last forever, so enjoy it while it’s taking place.  And hope they can call on some of this in a few months.