Monday, November 12, 2018

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 17: Capitals at Wild, November 13th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals take to the road after dropping a 4-1 decision on home ice to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday afternoon.  Their first destination on their four-city trip is St. Paul, Minnesota, where they will take on the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.

The Caps will face a Central Division team for only the second time this season, their only other Central Division opponent so far being the Dallas Stars, who beat the Caps, 4-3, in overtime on November 3rd.  The Caps will be hoping to wake from under an offensive slumber in which they scored a total of four goals over their last three games, their least productive three-game stretch so far this season.

Breaking through on offense could be difficult against this opponent.  The Wild are coming off a three-game winning streak, all of the wins coming on the road, allowing only a total of four goals.  Goalie Devan Dubnyk picked up two of those wins, stopping 56 of 59 shots (.949 save percentage) in wins over the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues.  Dubnyk is already building a case for Vezina Trophy consideration.  In 13 appearances so far this season he allowed more than two goals only four times.  His goals against average (2.14) ranks eighth among 45 goalies with at least 300 minutes played, while his save percentage (.933) ranks seventh and is, to this point of the season, the best of his career.  Dubnyk is one of only three goaltenders in Wild history to appear in at least 200 games, and his save percentage (.923) and goals against average (2.26) are best among the nine goalies to appear in at least 25 games in team history.  Dubnyk is 2-5-1, 3.67, .876 in eight career appearances against the Caps.

Minnesota will not overwhelm with offense, their scoring offense ranked 15th in the league (3.18 goals per game), but they are balanced.  Seventeen skaters have recorded at least one goal, led by Mikael Granlund with ten.  The ninth overall pick in the 2010 entry draft, the 26-year old is in his seventh season with the Wild.  He made steady progress to become a 20-plus goal scorer in each of his two previous seasons and topped 65 points in both years.  His ten goals in nine games is a good indicator of Wild success.  Minnesota is 8-0-1 in those nine games in which Granlund has a goal, 3-4-1 in the eight games in which he did not find the back of the net.  What might be of greatest concern to the Caps is that Granlund has goals in each of his last five home games this season.  He is 2-6-8, even, in 10 career games against Washington.

Matt Dumba has made steady progress in becoming an upper echelon offensive defenseman.  Taken seventh overall in the 2012 entry draft, his five seasons with the Wild preceding this one have been seasons of uninterrupted improvement.  He progressed from one goal in 13 games in 2013-2014 to eight goals, ten, 11, and 14 last season.  His points progressed in similar fashion, starting with two points in 2013-2014 to 16, 26, 34, and his first 50-point season last year (14-36-50).  He is slightly off that pace so far this season (5-3-8 in 17 games, but his five goals lead all defensemen on the club.  Over his last nine games he sandwiched a pair of three-game streaks without a point around a three-game points streak.  Dumba is also a minutes-eater, averaging 24:28 per game in ice time (second on the club to Ryan Suter with 26:05) and has not yet skated less than 22 minutes in a game this season.  Against the Caps, he is 1-1-2, plus-1, in eight career games.

1.  Minnesota is the last team left in the league without a regulation loss on home ice (5-0-2).

2.  While Minnesota has been a reasonably potent power play club on the road (21.2 percent, tied for 12th in the league), they have struggled at home with the 25th ranked power play (13.6 percent).

3.  Those struggles have not extended to the other side of special teams.  Minnesota has killed penalties at an 88.6 percent rate, fifth-best in the league.

4.  The Wild have taken a lead to the first intermission only four times in 17 games (3-0-1), and they have led at the second intermission only five times (4-0-1).

5.  Minnesota leads the league in one-goal wins (six), and don’t count on blowing them out.  They have only two losses of three or more goals.  Only two teams have fewer (Nashville and Florida with one apiece).

1.  The magic number for the Caps this season is four.  If an opponent gets to four goals, they win.  Washington is 0-5-3 when allowing four or more goals, 7-1-0 when allowing three or fewer.

2.  Washington has more wins when out-shot by opponents (four) than they have when out-shooting them (three).

3.  The problem on defense isn’t at even strength; the Caps have allowed the 13th fewest 5-on-5 goals (32, tied with several other teams).  However, the 15 4-on-5 goals allowed is third most in the league.

4.  The Caps finish games poorly.  With only 11 third period goals this season, they are tied for last in the league (with Los Angeles).

5.  Washington has only 19 goals in its last eight games after scoring 34 goals in its first eight games.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Minnesota: Zach Parise

Once upon a time, it was difficult to get Zach Parise out of the lineup. In his first five seasons in the NHL, with the New Jersey Devils, he missed only three games.  However, after appearing in all 48 games of the abbreviated 2012-2013 season, his first with the Wild, Parise has had a hard time staying in the lineup.  In the five seasons following that one, Parise missed 88 games to a variety of injuries and illnesses (foot, concussion, lower body, upper body, back, and mumps).  Last season he missed the last two playoff games to a fractured sternum.  At age 34 coming into this season, he had a lot of hard miles put on a not so large body (5’11”/193 pounds).  He has had a rebirth of sorts to start this season, appearing in all 17 games to date and posting 16 points (7-9-16).  He has already had five multi-point games after posting only two in 42 games last season.  At 0.94 points per game, he has a chance to post his first point or better per game season since 2009-2010, when he recorded 82 points in 81 games for the Devils.  In 32 career games against Washington, Parise is 8-16-24, minus-3.

Washington: Devante Smith-Pelly

That Devante Smith-Pelly is not off to a hot start is not unusual.  He has two goals through 16 games, the same number he had through the same number of games to open last season.  He had two goals through 16 games to open tin 2016-2017 season with the New Jersey Devils.  The odd thing apart his start, though, is not so much the goal scoring, but the ice time.  He has been all over the place, ranging from 7:01 on the low side to 13:40 in his longest stint, averaging 10:46 so far.  He opened this season skating fewer than ten minutes four times in his first six games before getting some work on scoring lines that boosted his ice time to an average of 12:23 over a five-game stretch.  However, he is back to the more limited role, averaging only 10:05 over his last five games.  That ice time is something of an indicator, suggesting the rotation of lines when the team is playing from ahead.  The Caps are 4-1-0 when Smith-Pelly skated more than 12 minutes, 3-5-3 when he skated less than 12 minutes.  Smith-Pelly is 2-3-5, even, in 11 career games against Minnesota.

In the end…

The loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday was the Caps’ second straight loss in regulation, the first time that happened since Games 4 and 5 earlier this season, at New Jersey and against Toronto.  Washington has not yet lost three in a row this season, and they picked a tough team with which to keep that record intact.  Minnesota is stingy on defense on home ice (three times allowing only one goal), and it has translated into success, despite their having played only seven games at Xcel Energy Center.

The Caps have suffered from inadequate and inconsistent secondary scoring lately.  Nine Caps have recorded goals over the last two weeks, but none of them have come from Andre Burakovsky, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, or John Carlson (although Carlson does have four assists).  Only Alex Ovechkin has more than two goals in that span (four).  This will be a challenging week for the Caps, who face three teams from the Central Division with a combined 29 wins and only 15 losses in regulation.  It would help immensely to start with a stronger effort than they have been able to muster on a consistent basis lately.

Capitals 3 – Wild 2

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 6

Home is where the heart is.  Home is where you hang your hat.  And in the NHL, home is where you need to pack away the points.  The Washington Capitals took home ice three times in Week 6 and had a chance to sweep the week, but the last goal scored at Capital One Arena for the week kept the brooms in the closet.

Record: 2-1-0

The highlight of the week, record-wise, was the Caps recording consecutive wins for the first time this season, and they did it by defeating their arch rival – the Pittsburgh Penguins – to get that second straight win.  They have been stuck in low gear for much of the early going, but in spite of their failure to get any consistent traction, they are still earning points, getting at least one point in ten of 15 games so far.  It has enabled them to hang around only three points out of first place in the Metropolitan Division with two games in hand over first place Columbus.  But it was the loss to the Blue Jackets to end the week that kept the Caps from finishing the week on top of the division.  It is a good thing that no club in the Metro has been able to pull away.  It is worth noting that the second wild card team – the Buffalo Sabres – finished the week with a record identical to that of the first place Blue Jackets (9-6-2). 

Offense: 2.33/game (season: 3.47/game, rank: 5th)

What was the top scoring offense in the league stumbled in Week 6.  They had what was, for them so far, an average night against the Edmonton Oilers to start the week, posting four goals in the 4-2 win.  They managed only three goals over the next two games, splitting the decisions against Pittsburgh and Columbus.

T.J. Oshie had two goals, tied with Alex Ovechkin for the team lead for the week, both of them game-winners.  The second of them was especially satisfying, coming against Pittsburgh after he was high-sticked by defenseman Olli Maatta, requiring stiches near his left eye (no penalty called), and then elbowed in open ice by Evgeni Malkin, resulting in a major penalty and game misconduct for Malkin.

John Carlson led the team in points for the week (four assists) despite missing the last game of the week with a lower body injury.  It gave Carlson 13 assists in 14 games, fifth among defensemen in the league despite playing three fewer games than each of the four defensemen ahead of him.

What was concerning was the number of players without a point.  Lars Eller, Brett Connolly, Dmitry Orlov, and Andre Burakovsky are important elements in the secondary scoring scheme.  None of them recorded a point in Week 6.

Defense: 1.67/game (season: 3.40/game, rank: 25th)

Allowing 111 shots on goal for the week is a number distorted somewhat by the 42 shots on goal Pittsburgh recorded in the Caps’ 2-1 win on Wednesday.  That was a truly amazing outlier in the realm of fancystats.  Washington allowed the Pens 70 shot attempts at 5-on-5 to only 29 of their own.  It was, by far, the biggest negative shot attempt differential at fives this season for the Caps.  How big?  The minus-41 was twice as large as the next biggest negative instance (minus-20 against the Vegas Golden Knights on October 10th).  A still stranger point about that game.  It was the first time in 40 years that the Caps allowed 42 or more shots to the Pens while recording 22 or fewer of their own.  The only other time it happened in the history of the rivalry was January 21, 1978, when the Pens out-shot the Caps, 43-22, but fell to the Caps, 5-2.

The Caps were better than that in their win against Edmonton to open the week (minus-17).  Oddly enough, the Caps were even in 5-on-5 shot attempt differential against Columbus in what was the Caps’ only loss of the week.  Tight 5-on-5 defense sacrificed to poor penalty killing.  As it was, only four teams allowed more shot attempts at 5-on-5 in Week 6, but all four played four games to the Caps’ three.

Goaltending: 1.68 / .955 (season: 3.23 / .902 / 1 SO)

The Capitals finally got a solid week of netminding with both goaltenders contributing.  Pheonix Copley got the call to start the week, and he responded with a solid 31-save performance in the 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers.  It was his second straight win, and he stopped 58 of 63 shots (.921 save percentage) in those two wins.

It was Braden Holtby who put up top notch numbers for the week in what was arguably his best week of the young season.  He was not rewarded with a second win in two appearances, but he stole the win against Pittsburgh with 41 saves on 42 shots, and he gave the Caps every chance to win in stopping 34 of 36 shots against Columbus.  Holtby was one of six goaltenders in Week 6 to face at least 20 even strength shots and stop all of them, and he did it facing more even strength shots (68) than any on that list.  He had the misfortune to face one of the other five in the last game of the week, Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped all 51 even strength shots he faced, including all 27 in the Blue Jackets’ 2-1 win over Washington.

Power Play:  3-for-13/23.1 percent (season: 32.7 percent, rank: 2nd)

Week 6 was the worst week for the power play this season at 23.1 percent, but that number is still better than what 20 teams have achieved so far this season overall.  Week 6 also happened to be a week in which the Caps enjoy the greatest number of chances for a week this season, the 13 chances they had representing 25 percent of the total number of man advantages they had for the season at week’s end.  Still, they rank just 24th in power play opportunities.  That they are tied for the league lead in power play goals (with Boston, which also suffers from a lack of chances with just 53) is a reflection of how efficient is has been this season.

Alex Ovechkin had power play goals in each of the first two games of the week, bringing his total to six and the number of games in which he recorded at least one to five, all of them Capitals wins.  Those two power play goals tied and passed Marcel Dionne for eighth place on the all-time power play goal list.  Matt Niskanen had the other power play goal for the week, breaking a personal streak of 133 games without one, the last one he scored coming in a 4-2 win over the New York Islanders at Barclays Center on December 13, 2016.

Penalty Killing: 6-for-10 / 60.0 percent (season: 72.2 percent, rank: 28th)

In a season characterized by poor penalty killing, the Caps had their worst week of killing penalties this season in Week 6, made especially disappointing after being a perfect four-for-four in Week 5.  And it was not as if teams pelted the Caps’ net with shots.  It might have been better if they did.  The Caps opened the week killing three of four shorthanded situations against the Edmonton Oilers, allowing one goal on six shots in 6:23 of shorthanded ice time, their best performance of the week.  Pittsburgh scored a power play goal on the only power play shot they recorded in 3:26 of ice time.  Columbus scored two goals on four shots in 4:53 of ice time.  On a shots per minute basis (0.75 shots per minute), it was a pretty good week.  The results say otherwise.  And while the Caps were dealing with injuries on the defense as the week ended (John Carlson and Brooks Orpik both absent against Columbus), the penalty kill has graduated from concern to problem that needs to be addressed.

Faceoffs: 86-for-182 / 47.3% percent (season: 48.4 percent, rank: 25th)

It was something of an average week in the circle for the Caps.  That would not be a compliment.  It was not that they were bad as much as they were not good.  Overall, the Caps were under 50 percent in the ends and only reached 50 percent in the neutral zone.  The good part was that the offensive centers did quite well in the offensive zone.  Nicklas Backstrom was 11-for-19 (57.9 percent), and Evgeny Kuznetsov was 13-for-22 (59.1 percent).  On the other hand, none of the three centers taking at least 10 defensive zone draws reached 50 percent.  Backstrom (34.8 percent), Kuznetsov (46.2 percent), and Lars Eller (45.5 percent) combined for a weak week.  Travis Boyd, who saw his first action of the season, was the only Cap taking at least ten draws overall who was over 50 percent in the ends, although it was with low volumes (2-for-3 in the offensive end, 3-for-5 in the defensive end).

Goals by Period:

The Caps were among the most productive teams in second period scoring to open the week, and they only kept right on rolling in the middle 20 minutes, scoring four of their seven goals for the week in the middle frames of the three games.  By week’s end, only the Caps, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Colorado Avalanche had a goal differential in the second period of plus-10.  The Caps suffered by comparison with the second and third periods the three goals they allowed in the first periods of games (one in each of the three games), but what was worse about that was twice allowing the first goal of the game on home ice, against Pittsburgh and against Columbus.  Playing at home brings with it the hope and expectation of putting teams down early and clamping down on them, but that didn’t happen in the latter half of the week.

Year over Year:

For all the fits and starts over six week, the Caps find themselves almost right where they were through the first 15 games as they were last season – 17 points.  How they got there, that is a bit of a different matter.  Through 15 games the Caps are scoring more than last year, but giving up more as well, and they continue to find themselves in a hole in shot differential, although it is not as deep as last year’s.

The power play continues to be well ahead of last year’s early pace, but while the penalty kill is not significantly different from last year’s edition, that is not a good thing, and there is evidence that this year’s group is slipping a bit. 

In the end…

The Caps have enjoyed the good fortune so far of playing in the “Mediocripolitan” Division.  Division-leading Columbus has the tenth-best record in the league, which is enabling a lot of teams, including the Caps, to hang around despite mediocre records of their own.  The Caps were just one period away from a sweep of the week, another example of the small margins that exist between success and something less in the NHL.  Only three points separate first and seventh place in the division through six weeks, giving almost every team a chance to be leader for a week.  The Caps could have been that, had they won the third period in the third game of the week.  They did not, and that means having yet again trying to gather some momentum as the schedule plods through November.

Three Stars:
  • First Star: Braden Holtby (1-1-0, 1.52, .962)
  • Second Star: T.J. Oshie (2-0-2, plus-2, 2 GWG, nine hits)
  • Third Star: John Carlson (four assists in two games, plus-3, seven blocked shots, five takeaways (led team))

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 16: Coyotes at Capitals, November 11th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

Michael Corleone spoke this line in “The Godfather, Part III,” but in an odd way it applies to the Washington Capitals early in this NHL season.  Just when you think the Caps are coming out of their early season fog, they get pulled right back into the inconsistency that has plagued their start.  The latest instance of this came on Friday night when the Caps dropped a 2-1 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets, ending a two-game winning streak (their only one of the season) and wasting an opportunity to climb into the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

The Caps get a chance to get back on the winning track with a late afternoon contest against the Arizona Coyotes on Veterans Day.  For a while there, the Coyotes were just about the hottest team in the league.  They peeled of a five-game winning streak to close October and open November.  The streak came to an end by dropping both ends of a home-and-home set of games against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday and Thursday.  They will take the ice for the second game of their current road trip against Pittsburgh on Saturday before arriving in Washington for the back half of a back-to-back set of games.

Arizona is a team that struggles in the offensive end.  The 2.86 goals per game scoring offense ranks 24th in the league, and only two teams have scored fewer 5-on-5 goals than the Coyotes (22) – Detroit (21) and Los Angeles (20).  Centers Brad Richardson and Clayton Keller lead the club with five goals apiece.  Richardson is an experienced (in his 14th season), well-traveled player (Arizona being his fourth team).  He has been, for the most part, a forward with a bottom-six profile, averaging 13-plus minutes per game over his career and a per-82 game scoring line of 10-15-25, minus-4.  He has established himself as a dangerous penalty killer this season, his three shorthanded goals tied for the league lead and more shorthanded goals by himself than 25 teams had through Friday’s games. He has four goals in his last six games (4-2-6), two of those goals coming shorthanded.  In 11 career games against Washington, Richardson is 1-1-2, minus-1.

Clayton Keller is on the other end of the experience spectrum from Richardson.  The seventh-overall pick of the 2016 draft, the 20-year old is in his third season with the Coyotes.  Last year, in what was his first full season, he made a strong case for being named rookie of the year, posting 23 goals (fifth among rookies), 42 assists (second), 65 points (second), six power play goals (tied for fourth), 20 power play points (fourth), two overtime goals (tied for second), and 18:05 in average ice time (first among rookie forwards).  He finished third in the Calder voting behind Brock Boeser and the winner, Mathew Barzal.  Keller has been productive at even strength and with the man advantage, but in different ways.  All five of his goals have come at even strength, while four of his six assists have come on power plays.  He comes into this game as perhaps the hottest player for the Coyotes on the offensive side of the ice.  After starting the season with only an assist in his first five games, he is 5-5-10, plus-3, in his last nine contests.  Keller is 2-1-3, plus-2, in two career games against Washington.

Goalie Antti Raanta is apparently both on injured reserve and “day-to-day.”  Such is the state of injury reporting in the NHL.  Be that as it may, it means that the goaltending duties fall to Darcy Kuemper for the time being.  Kuemper is in his second season with his third team in the NHL (Minnesota and Los Angeles being the others), managing to appear in 136 career games primarily as a backup netminder (31 games played in 2014-2015 with Minnesota is his career high).  Last season, after coming over from the Los Angeles Kings in February, Kuemper had his worst career numbers.  In ten games, he was 2-6-2, 3.22, .899, that goals against average being his first season over 3.00, and his save percentage being his first season under .900.  Even though he has appeared in only five games so far this season, it looks like two different seasons.  He opened the year going 2-1-0, 1.34, .957 in his first three games, but he took the loss in both games in the home-and-home with the Flyers, stopping only 55 of 64 shots (.859 save percentage).  Kuemper has on career appearance against the Caps.  On February 26, 2016, with the Minnesota Wild, he stopped 24 of 27 shots in dropping a 3-2 decision in Washington.

1.  The five-game winning streak the Coyotes had earlier this season was their longest since posting a five-game win streak in Games 12-16 in the 2013-2014 season.  The odd thing about that streak was that the last three wins all came by way of the Gimmick.

2.  The name change the Coyotes made, from the “Phoenix” Coyotes to the “Arizona” Coyotes in 2014-2015, did nothing to change their fortunes in terms of wins and losses.  Their 125 wins over those four-plus seasons are fewest of the 30 teams that played over that span (Vegas, in their second season, has 58 wins).

3.  Arizona struggles on offense, but they don’t struggle on offense while on defense.  The Coyotes have only 40 goals scored this season.  Only three teams have scored fewer, but of those 40 goals, nine...NINE...are shorthanded. They have three games with two shorthanded goals. Only 13 teams in the history of the league have had more multi-shorthanded goal games in a single season (Edmonton has the record of six in 1985-1986). There are 17 teams with one or no shorthanded goals for the season.

4.  The Coyotes are one of two teams without a major penalty this season, fighting or otherwise.  The other team is…wait for it…wait for it… the Philadelphia Flyers.

5.  The Caps had better get a lead early.  Through Fridays’ games, only Toronto had more wins when leading at the end of the first period (six) than Arizona (five, tied with six teams).

1.  The one goal scored against Columbus on Friday night was a season low on home ice for the Caps.

2.  Washington has won five of their last six games against the Coyotes on home ice, outscoring them, 26-18.

3.  The Caps make teams pay in the middle periods of games.  The 25 goals they scored in the second periods of games so far this season is tops in the league. The Caps and the Colorado Avalanche are the only teams plus-10 in the second periods of games this season.

4.  Washington could do a better job at the start of games.  They have scored the game’s first goal only six times in 15 games.  They have a 5-1-0 record when doing so.

5.  The Caps are one of seven teams that are under 50 percent in shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 in all situations: ahead (45.83), behind (48.42), tied (48.85), close (47.16), and overall (47.58).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Arizona: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Oliver Ekman-Larsson is in his ninth NHL season, all of them with the Coyotes organization.  He has quietly built an impressive resume of the sort that makes him one of the more underrated players in the league.  His 590 games played is third highest among defensemen in team history, trailing only Zbynek Michalek (612) and Teppo Numminen (1,098).  He trails only Numminen in goals scored in team history (104 to 108), and he is one of only six defensemen in team history having recorded 300 points.  He has been a remarkably durable player, missing a total of 12 games over the last seven-plus seasons, and starting with his sophomore season he has not averaged less than 22 minutes of ice time a game.  He has been consistent, too.  Only once in the last six-plus seasons (including this one) has he averaged less than half a point per game, and that was 0.49 points per game in 2014-2015.  Ekman-Larsson comes into this game on a four-game points streak (2-3-5) and is 2-8-10 in his last nine games after opening the season without a point in his first five games.  He has faced the Caps 11 times in his career and is 2-4-6, even.

Washington: T.J. Oshie

When T.J. Oshie puts up crooked numbers on the score sheet, good things happen.  The Caps are 6-0-1 when he scored at least one goal in a game this season, 7-0-2 when he recorded a point.  It is not as if this is an aberration.  The Caps were 11-1-2 when he scored a goal last season, 22-9-4 when he recorded a point last season.  He appears to be well on his way to posting his third 20-plus goal season in four with the Caps after hitting that mark only once in seven seasons with the St. Louis Blues (21 goals in 2013-2014).  His goal scoring success this season is a product of efficiency, producing those eight goals on only 33 shots (24.2 percent).  That is not likely a sustainable number, but two seasons ago, when he scored a career high 33 goals, he did so on only 143 shots, a 23.1 percent shooting efficiency that led the league among players with more than 20 shots on goal.  The odd thing about Oshie’s season so far is that the Caps are only 1-2-2 in the five games in which he skated more than 20 minutes. He is 6-12-18, plus-5, kin 25 career games against the Coyotes.

In the end…

The Caps are trying to fight off having a disappointing five-game home stand.  A 3-1-1 finish would look a lot better than 2-2-1 before heading off on a four-game road trip.  Washington gets a bit of a break, facing a team that struggles on offense while the Caps are missing Brooks Orpik and perhaps John Carlson on the blue line.  However, Arizona is a good defensive team insofar as scoring defense is concerned (2.43 goalls against per game, second-best in the league), and their penalty killing is best in the league at 91.1 percent, not to mention those nine shorthanded goals scored.  But the Coyotes will be coming off a game in Pittsburgh on Saturday and have some issues in goal that the Caps need to exploit to make this a successful home stand.

Capitals 5 – Coyotes 2

Thursday, November 08, 2018

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 15: Blue Jackets at Capitals, November 9th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals wrap up this week’s worth of games with a matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the teams’ first meeting since the Caps ended the Blue Jackets’ season in Game 6 of last spring’s opening round of the playoffs.  The Caps are fresh off a 2-1 win over the archrival Pittsburgh Penguins, enabling them to break their standings points tie with the Pens and vault into second place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the New York Islanders.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets, who are in third place in the division by virtue of the Capitals having played one fewer game (both teams have 17 points), have had about as inconsistent a season as the Caps so far, coming into this game with an 8-6-1 record.  It is a record resulting from Columbus’ inability to get any traction and an avoidance of long losing streaks.  They have had neither a winning streak of more than two games, nor a losing streak longer than that.

Columbus has a productive offense (3.33 goals per game), and it is balanced.  Six players have five or more goals this season, led by right winger Josh Anderson (seven).  The former fourth-round draft pick from the London Knights in Canadian junior hockey (95th overall in 2012) is in his fifth NHL season, and his has been a history of consistent goal scoring improvement.  After spotty appearances in his first two seasons (no goals in six games in 2014-2015 and one goal in 2015-2016), he recorded 17 goals in 78 games in his first full NHL season in 2016-2017 and 19 goals in 63 games last season.  It is part of his development as Columbus’ answer to who will play the role of “power forward.”  He was fifth among the teams’ forwards in hit per game last season (1.7), and he leads the club in that stat this season (2.2, a lot of that fueled by being credited with eight hits in a 4-1 win at San Jose over the Sharks on November 1st), regardless of position.  Anderson comes into this game without a point in his last two games, tying his longest stretch without a point through 15 games this season.  Anderson does not have a point in 11 career games against the Caps and is minus-4.

Seth Jones set a franchise record last season for shots on goal by a defenseman (249), 42 more than teammate Zach Werenski, who established himself in second place on that list last season (207 shots).  Jones' total was fourth among all NHL defensemen last season.  He is in his sixth NHL season after being taken fourth overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2013 entry draft and has appeared in 401 regular season games, 50 more than any defenseman in his draft class (Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen has 361 games played).  It makes it hard to believe Jones just turned 24 years of age last month.  Despite the fact that he has played in only 202 games for the Blue Jackets, Jones ranks fifth on the franchise list of goal scorers among defensemen (32), tied for fifth in assists (92), fifth in points (124), and he is the all time franchise leader in game-winning goals among defensemen (eight).  Jones is 3-7-10, plus-2 in 12 career games against Washington.

Center Riley Nash had something of a breakthrough season last year with the Boston Bruins.  After six NHL seasons (five with Carolina and one with Boston), he put up modest numbers (38 goals and 98 points in 323 games).  Last season, in a contract walk year, he was 15-26-41 (all three numbers being career highs) and a career best plus-16.  It was good enough for Columbus to extend to Nash a three-year/$8.25 million contract, not an expensive deal in today’s NHL, but it did more than triple the AAV in his previous contract ($875,000; source:  So far, his work for the Blue Jackets has been unproductive.  He has only two assists in 15 games, and his ice time has dwindled from an average of 15:38 per game in his first five games to an average of 11:18 in his last five contests.  In 21 career games against the Caps, Nash is 4-4-8, plus-2.

1.  The Blue Jackets have been a consistently unsuccessful club.  Of the 28 teams that have played since Columbus’ inaugural 2000-2001 season, the Jackets have the third fewest wins (588), more than only Edmonton (579) and Florida (558), and no team has more losses in regulation (625, 16 more than Edmonton).

2.  As a franchise, the Blue Jackets have had a uniquely unproductive offense – 27th of 28 teams in scoring offense since 2001-2002 (2.55 goals per game) and last among that group on power plays (15.8 percent).

3.  Columbus has had a devil of a time on their power play this season.  Only one Blue Jacket has more than one power play goal (Anthony Duclair has three).

4.  If things go to overtime, Artemi Panarin is the Blue Jacket to watch.  He has the only two overtime goals scored by Columbus this season.

5.  Pierre-Luc Dubois carries a strange number into this game: seven.  That is the number of games in which he has been hit with at least one penalty.  Only one player in the league – Milan Lucic – has more (eight).

1.  The Caps have a 12-2-2 record (with one tie) in 17 home games against Columbus since the Blue Jackets entered the league in 2000-2001.

2.  With an assist against Pittsburgh, Evgeny Kuznetsov extended his home points streak this season to all eight games the Caps played at Capital One Arena.  His overall home points streak stands at ten games, extending back to last season, and he has points in 22 of his last 26 regular season games on home ice (15-25-40).

3.  Alex Ovechkin recorded his 12th goal of the season on Wednesday night against Pittsburgh in his 14th game of the season.  He is now ahead of last season’s scoring pace in which he had 11 goals through 14 games on his way to a 49-goal season.  The last time he scored more goals through 14 games was in 2013-2014 (13), a season in which he finished with 51 goals.

4.  T.J. Oshie’s game-winning goal against the Pens was his third game-winner so far this season, as many as the rest of the team combined (Matt Niskanen, Nicklas Backstrom, and Ovechkin with one apiece).

5.  Wednesday night was only the second time in team history that the Caps allowed an opponent at least 42 shots on home ice, recorded only 22 or fewer shots of their own, and won the hockey game.  The other time was in a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on November 17, 2013 in which the Caps had 20 shots on goal to the Blues’ 47.  Braden Holtby got the win in goal that night, just as he did on Wednesday.  The Caps are 2-9-2, with four ties, in those situations at home.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky

Two seasons ago, Sergei Bobrovsky won his second Vezina Trophy (he also won in 2013).  Last season, he finished eighth in the voting.  This season, it might be fair to ask, what has happened?  Bobrosvky, who has never lost more than 22 games in regulation in a season (which he did last year) already has six losses in 10 appearances (4-6-0), and a disappointing goals against average and save percentage to go with it.  Of 44 goalies with at least 250 minutes played after Wednesday’s games, his GAA of 3.09 ranks 31st in the league, and his save percentage of .902 ranks 27th.  He was wildly inconsistent early on, allowing a single goal three times (once in a 45 minute stint) and four or more goals three times in his ten appearances. 

The eight goals he allowed on 31 shots in an 8-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 13th is only the tenth instance since 2005-2006 of a goalie allowing eight or more goals on 32 or fewer shots.  Oddly enough, it is also the only road game Bobrovsky has played so far in the Eastern time zone (the other two were in San Jose and Los Angeles).  He has been much better lately, though, stopping 119 of 126 shots in his last four appearances (.944 save percentage) in building a 2-2-0 record.  But still, with that .876 road save percentage so far, seeing Joonas Korpisalo get the start would not be a total surprise, despite inferior numbers overall (3.80 GAA, .884 SV).  Bobrovsky is 7-10-4, 3.02, .900 in 22 career appearances against the Caps.

Washington: Dmitrij Jaskin

When the St. Louis Blues took Dmitrij Jaskin with the 41st overall pick (second round) in the 2011 entry draft, they passed on the likes of Brandon Saad (taken 43rd by Chicago), William Karlsson (taken 53rd by Anaheim), and Nikita Kucherov (taken 58th by Tampa Bay).  He was the fifth-ranked international skater in the Central Scouting rankings that year, the third-ranked forward.   In 2012-2013, in his only season of Canadian junior, he scored 46 goals in 51 games for the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL.  However, while he did record 19 goals in 60 games over two seasons with the Chicago Wolves in the AHL, his progress was slowing.  He never really got a foothold in St. Louis, playing all or parts of six seasons with the Blues, posting a career high of 13 goals in 54 games in 2014-2015, his first full season with the Blues.  After that, he managed only 11 goals in 192 games over the next three seasons while averaging 12 minutes of ice time per game.

Jaskin was waived by the Blues in October and claimed by the Caps.  Washington was one of those opportunities for a player to get a new start or reinvent himself.  He started as a bottom six forward, but the new wrinkle in his game was as an effective defensive presence.  In 11 games with the Caps so far, Jaskin has been on the ice for a total of only five goals against.  Part of that reflects ice time (10:26 per game), and part of it reflects quality of competition, but result do matter, and teams have not scored with Jaskin on the ice.  And, his personal shot attempts-for on ice at 5-on-5 (58.59 percent) is best on the team.  He has gotten a promotion of sorts recently, becoming part of the carousel of forwards getting time as the top line right wing as Tom Wilson completes his suspension.  While that has not yet opened up his own offensive game, his presence has not been a liability on that line.  Jaskin is 0-3-3, plus-1, in seven career games against Columbus.

In the end…

The Capitals win on Wednesday night was the first time this season they won consecutive games.  Columbus hasn’t won consecutive games in regulation in almost a month (since beating Colorado and Florida in Games 3 and 4 on their schedule).  Each team is in search of gaining some traction to raise themselves in the standings.  The Caps have the slightly better recent record (3-1-1 in their last five to 2-2-1 for Columbus), but the Blue Jackets had their California tour (San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim) embedded in that five game stretch (they went 1-1-1).  Both teams are coming off impressive wins, the Caps beating their most bitter rival in the Penguins on Wednesday night and the Blue Jackets beating Dallas, 4-1, on Tuesday.  The Caps are a good home team (5-1-2), but Columbus has a good road record (4-2-1).  Both teams are adept at scoring (Washington at 3.64 goals per game/1st in the league; Columbus at 3.33/tied for tenth).  Both teams have issues on defense (the Caps at 3.50 goals allowed per game/25th; the Blue Jackets at 3.47 goals allowed per game/24th).  On paper, an evenly-matched pair of teams. 

Can’t skate on paper.

Capitals 4 – Blue Jackets 2

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 14: Penguins at Capitals, November 7th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Wednesday night used to be “Rivalry Night” in the NHL, at least in the world of NBC Sports, but is now just “Wednesday Night Hockey.” For this Wednesday, though, don’t believe it.  It’s Rivalry Night, alright.  The Washington Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins in a contest pitting teams with identical records against one another in what will be the 54th regular season meeting in the Alex Ovechkin/Sidney Crosby era.

The Caps will be looking to win consecutive games for the first time this season and boost their regular season record against the Pens in the Ovechkin/Crosby era to 24-21-9.  It has been a bit of a struggle on home ice for the Caps who, after defeating the Edmonton Oilers by a 4-2 margin on Monday night, are 4-1-2 at Capital One Arena.  They face a bold challenge from the Penguins, who are one of only three teams remaining that have not lost a game in regulation time on the road (4-0-2, trailing Nashville and Toronto, both at 6-0-0 after Monday’s games).

For more than a decade, the Penguins have been a forward-dominated, center-centric team featuring the offensive contributions of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and those two have been the top goal scorers and point producers over the last three-plus seasons.  But over that same time, Phil Kessel has held his own as a primary contributor on the offensive side of the ledger.  In his three-plus seasons as a Penguin, Kessel is third in goals (90), trailing only Crosby (115) and Malkin (109), and third in points (237), trailing Crosby (277) and Malkin (248).  Over that period, no other Penguin is within 50 goals or 70 points of Kessel.  Pittsburgh’s “Big Two” is as much a “Top Three.”   Kessel has not let up this season, getting off to a hot start.  His 7-9-16, plus-2 start through 13 games, a shade ahead of last year’s start (4-9-13, minus-1).  Kessel is also among the most durable players in the league.  Coming into this season he appeared in every scheduled regular season game for eight straight seasons and has not missed a regular season game since October 31, 2009, when he was skating in his second season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Kessel is 11-21-32, minus-7, in 44 career games against the Capitals.

No one should be surprised that Kris Letang leads the defensemen in scoring for the Pens (4-8-12, plus-6, in 12 games).  Since his 2007-2008 rookie season he is tied for seventh place in points per game by defensemen (0.65).  The surprise so far is that Jamie Oleksiak is tied with Letang for the team lead in goals by defensemen (four) and is second in points (eight).  Part of the surprise is that he is more reminiscent of those massive defensemen who thrived in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, at 255 pounds being heavier than every defenseman in the league except Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien.  The other is that he has not been a regular fixture in any lineup since he made his debut with the Dallas Stars in 2012-2013.  Last season, one he split between Dallas and Pittsburgh (the Stars traded him in December 2017 for a fourth-round draft pick), was the first in which he dressed for more than half a season’s worth of regular season games (68).  In doing so he set a tied a career high in goals (five) and set a personal best in points (17), both numbers he is within range of surpassing.  Oleksiak is 1-0-1, plus-1, in six career games against Washington.

When Marc-Andre Fleury took his leave of Pittsburgh before last season to tend goal for the Vegas Golden Knights, the plan was a seamless transition to Matt Murray, who in his first two seasons was 41-12-5, 2.32, .925, with five shutouts in the regular season and two Stanley Cups on his resume.  Well, you know what the poet Robert Burns said about plans.  Having been given the top goaltending responsibilities, Murray has been an injury-plagued (lower body, concussion), disappointing performer in a season and change (31-20-4, 3.07, .903, with two shutouts).  He also had to deal with the passing of his father, no doubt an influence on his performance.  It has not been an easy time for Murray, who is only in his fourth NHL season and is not yet 25 years old.  He started this season giving mixed signals that his troubles were behind him.  He opened the season with a 4-1-0 record in his first five appearances, but his goals against average (3.37) and save percentage (.910) were not as impressive.  It has only gotten worse.  Murray is 0-3-1 in his last four decisions, while his goals against average ballooned to 4.65, and his save percentage dropped to .839 in those games.  His 3.87 goals against average overall ranks 38th of 42 goalies with at least 250 minutes of ice time, while his save percentage of .886 ranks 35th in that group.  Murray is 5-4-0, 3.93, .875 in nine career appearances against the Caps.

1.  Letang and Oleksiak have those four goals apiece.  The other six defensemen for the Pens have one goal among them (Jack Johnson).

2.  Despite the Penguins’ success on the road (4-0-2), they have struggled with possession numbers.  Only once in six games was their shot attempts-for at 5-on-5 over 50 percent (50.96 percent, a 53-51 edge, in a 6-5 overtime win over the Edmonton Oilers on October 23rd).

3.  Pittsburgh allows more shots on goal than one would expect a successful team to allow.  Their 34.1 shots allowed per game is fifth-most in the league, an average topped only by Detroit (34.6), the New York Rangers (34.9), Anaheim Ducks (37.0), and Ottawa Senators (39.1).  Early in the season as it is, none of those teams are among the current playoff eligibles.

4.  Only one team in the league plays within the rules more effectively than the Penguins.  Their 6:50 in penalty minutes per game is lower than every team in the league except the Toronto Maple Leafs (6:30).  The Pens are tied with the Leafs for the fewest penalties taken (43) and fewest minor penalties taken (39).

5.  Scoring first matters to this team, at least so far.  Pittsburgh is 5-0-3 when scoring first, 1-4-0 when they do not.

1.  How close have the Caps played the Penguins in the Ovechkin/Crosby era?  There is the 23-21-9 record.  There is also the 166-164 margin in goals scored and goals allowed, the 1624-1636 difference in shots on goal, the 742-737 difference in penalty minutes, the 1390-1372 margin in credited hits, the 445-443 difference in charged giveaways, the 318-308 margin in credited takeaways, the 10.2 to 10.0 shooting percentage, the 115-110 difference in even strength goals scored.  Yeah, these teams are closely matched.

2.  Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, and John Carlson have 36 assists among them.  Of that total, 19 have come on power plays.

3.  The Caps have had pretty good starts this season.  The good news is that they have only trailed four times in 13 games at the first intermission.  The bad news… they are 0-2-2 in those games.

4.  Ditto on the whole scoring first thing.  The Caps have one loss when scoring first (5-1-0), one win when allowing the first goal (1-3-3).

5.  Evgeny Kuznetsov has six power play goals.  His next one ties a career high, set last season in 79 games.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Pittsburgh: Dominik Simon

For more than three decades, the Penguins have been a team defined by its stars – Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin.  Their success, however, has been more the product of the down-roster players making contributions, players like Bob Errey, Troy Loney, and Phil Bourque in the Lemieux Stanley Cup years, and players like Chris Kunitz, Matt Cullen, and Nick Bonino in the Crosby Cup-winning years.  Which brings us to Dominik Simon.  The 2015 fifth round draft pick from the Czech Republic has had perhaps a more rapid rise to the parent club than most fifth-round picks.  Simon spent two years with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL (and five games with the big club) before he got a longer look last year in Pittsburgh (33 games).  This year, he has been an important contributor in the early going, a scoring line of 3-5-8 (fifth among Penguin forwards in points), plus-5, in 13 games.  He had a five-game points streak stopped in a 5-0 shutout at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and comes into this game without a point in two straight contests.  He has not gone three straight games without a point so far this season.  Simon has one assist and is minus-2 in two career games against the Caps.

Washington: Brett Connolly

If Nicklas Backstrom is the Washington Capital who has flown under the NHL radar for most of his career, Brett Connolly might be the Cap skater who does so among his own fan base.  Since arriving in Washington in the 2016-2017 season, his 32 goals are sixth-highest on the team, as are his 27 even strength goals.  His 0.21 goals per game is fifth-highest among current Capitals over that two-plus season span.  If he records a point against the Pens, he will become the sixth Capital to reach double digits (unless Lars Eller has two before Connolly gets that point).  He started this season without a goal in his first six games, but he has two in his last seven.  That he has two goals in 13 games is not necessarily cause for alarm.  Connolly had two goals through the Caps’ first 13 games last season (actually, two through his first 17 contests) and two through his first 13 games the previous season (a streak that became two in 15).  He had 15 goals in each of his two seasons with the Caps coming into this year, so he would seem a decent bet to approach that number this time around.  Connolly is 3-2-5, minus-1, in 18 career games against Pittsburgh.

In the end…

If there is a new wrinkle in this series, it is in how different the games in Pittsburgh and Washington have played out recently.  In the last four games in Pittsburgh, the teams combined for 43 goals, the Pens holding a 23-20 edge.  In Washington, the last four games were played to a total of 27 goals, the Caps having an 18-7 edge.  It argues for a more close-to-the-vest sort of game on Wednesday, although in this context, that is a relative thing.  The fault line on this game might rest on the Capitals having a top notch scoring offense and power play, while the Pens have allowed five or more goals in three of their last four contests.

Capitals 5 – Penguins 3

Sunday, November 04, 2018

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 13: Oilers at Capitals, November 5th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

November got off to a rough start for the Washington Capitals with an overtime loss to the Dallas Stars to start a four-game home stand after coming back from down a goal in the third period.  The Caps get to turn things around on Monday night, though, when they host the Edmonton Oilers in a rematch of teams who last faced one another on October 25th, a 4-1 Oiler win in Edmonton.

The Caps are 1-1-1 since that meeting, a record entirely in line with their meandering journey among wins and losses to start the season.  On the other hand, the Oilers go into this contest 4-1-0 since that meeting, three of those wins coming on the road in three tries.

As you might expect, Connor McDavid has figured prominently in the Oiler scoring since these teams last met.  He has points in all five games since Edmonton defeated Washington (3-4-7, plus-5), and he has points in 12 of the 13 games in which he played so far this season.  Only Nashville held him off the score sheet in a 3-0 win over the Oilers on October 20th.  McDavid plays for a club renowned over its history for its offensive firepower, but already he is closing in on, if not in the top-20 in franchise history in a number of offensive categories, despite this being only his fourth season in the NHL:
  • Goals: 96/22nd
  • Assists: 181/18th
  • Points: 277/21st
  • Even-strength goals: 79/21st
  • Power play assists: 54/T-20th
  • Power play points: 69/22nd
  • Game-winning goals: 20/14th
  • Overtime goals: 5/T-2nd
  • Points per game: 1.25/4th
Keep in mind, McDavid is not yet 22 years old, and his 222 games played ranks 68th in club history. 

Drake Caggiula was undrafted, played junior hockey with the Stouffville Spirit of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, and then spent four years with the University of North Dakota in the NCAA.  After his four-year tour with UND in which he scored 62 goals in 162 games, Caggiula signed a two-year entry level contract with the Oilers in May 2016.  After two seasons in which he posted 20 goals and 38 points in 127 games, he was signed to a two-year extension by the Oilers last June.  He responded with five goals in nine games so far this season, all of them coming in his last five contests, including a pair of two-goal efforts, one in a 5-3 win over Nashville on October 27th, the other in a 4-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks last Thursday.  Caggiula has not yet recorded a point against the Caps in three career games played against them.

Once upon a time, Milan Lucic was going to be the next big thing among NHL power forwards.  Over a five-season span with the Boston Bruins from 2010-2011 through 2014-2015, Lucic potted 105 goals in 367 games, an average of more than 23 goals per 82 games.  Paired with his physical edge (1006 credited hits, 503 penalty minutes), he was earning a reputation for being a player to be feared when on the ice.  Then, he headed west to the Los Angeles Kings in a trade for Martin Jones, Colin Miller, and the Kings’ first round pick of the 2015 entry draft.  He had a productive season in Los Angeles (20-35-55) before heading to Edmonton as a free agent.  His first season there, in 2016-2017, he topped his previous season in goal scoring (23) and posted his fifth career 50-point season (50).  Last year, however, his goal total plummeted (to 10), and he finished with only 34 points, his lowest total of any season in which he appeared in more than 50 games since he had 27 points in 77 games in his rookie season in Boston.  He has not given any signs of coming out of that slump so far.  Lucic is 1-3-4, minus-6 (team worst), in 13 games.  In 34 career games against the Caps, Lucic is 7-14-21, minus-6.

1.  Since the league instituted the Gimmick, only four teams have more trick shot wins than the Oilers (70) – New York Islanders (75), Pittsburgh Penguins (75), New York Rangers (74) and New Jersey Devils (71).  Wonder what it is with the New York area teams.

2.  Nine teams went into Week 6 with eight or more wins in regulation and overtime.  The Oilers are one of them (eight).  Trouble for them is that six of the eight teams in that group play in the Western Conference.

3.  The Oilers’ penalty kill is something of which the Caps might take advantage.  At 70.8 percent, their road penalty kill is fifth-worst in the league.

4.  Edmonton does a very good job of playing within the rules.  Their 48 penalties taken so far is tied for the fourth-fewest in the league.  Only Vegas (45), Toronto (43) and Pittsburgh (38) have taken fewer.

5.  The Oilers can be sloppy with the puck.  They have been charged with 163 giveaways so far, fourth-most in the league.

1.  No team has scored more power play goals on home ice than the Caps (11), and their 47.8 percent conversion rate on home ice tops the league, almost eight points ahead of their closest pursuer (Winnipeg at 40.9 percent).

2.  Only five teams have fewer penalty minutes taken than the Caps (106).

3.  The 158 blocked shots recorded by the Caps are 30th in the league, only ten more than the bottom-ranked Florida Panthers, whose 148 blocked shots were recorded in one fewer game than Washington.

4.  If the volume of faceoffs is an indicator of game flow, things have flowed rather well in Caps games.  Their total of 734 draws taken is fourth-fewest in the league.

5.  Trailing after one period continues to matter for the Caps.  They are winless in four such instances this season (0-2-2).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Edmonton: Alex Chiasson

As a member of the Washington Capitals last season, Alex Chiasson played a support role, posting nine goals and 18 points in 61 regular season games, one goal and two points in 16 postseason games as the Caps marched to a championship.  It was a decent season, quite in line with his previous four full seasons in the league in which he scored 44 goals and posted 99 points in 313 games (nine goals and 19 points per 61 games).  Then he signed a one-year/$650,000 contract with the Oilers on October 2nd.  That contract has to be one of the most cost-effective in the early going this season.  Chiasson has six goals, third-most on the club, while having appeared in only eight of the Oilers’ 13 games played.  His 46.2 shooting percentage (six goals on 13 shots) is tops in the league among the 514 skaters with ten or more shots on goal this season.  His plus-7 in eight games is tied for third-best on the club, and he has yet to take a penalty.  He is one of eight players in the league having appeared in at least eight games with at least six goals, playing at least 12 minutes per game with no penalty minutes recorded.  It might be sustainable, but it feels good while it lasts.  Chiasson is 2-4-6, plus-5, in nine career games against the Caps.

Washington: Alex Ovechkin

Since he came into the league, Alex Ovechkin has 617 goals, 200 more than the second-place skater on that list (Sidney Crosby has 417).  Of that total, 313 goals were scored on home ice, a total that would tie him with Ilya Kovalchuk for 18th place on the total goals scored list.  With two more goals, Ovechkin will have tied Jarome Iginla for the most total goals scored on home ice over the last 20 seasons, and if he does it against Edmonton, he will have done it in 229 fewer home games (510) than did Iginla (739).  When Ovechkin went without a goal in the Caps’ 4-3 overtime loss to Dallas, it was the first time this season that Ovechkin went consecutive home games without a goal.  One thing that has been consistent in Ovechkin’s game is success with high shot volumes.  His 47 shots on goal ranks an uncharacteristically low 17th (tied with Claude Giroux and Johnny Gaudreau), but the Caps have not yet lost when he had five or more shots in a game this season (4-0-0).  On the other hand, the Caps are 1-4-3 when he had fewer than five shots on goal.  Ovechkin is 10-10-20, plus-2, in 17 games against Edmonton.

In the end…

The Caps are closing in on having played 20 percent of their schedule, and they have yet to establish much consistency or rhythm to their game.  Their defensive efforts have been spotty, their goaltending uneven, and their special teams tilted far to the power play side of success.  As they head into the second of a five-game home stand, the Caps still have an opportunity to take advantage of home ice to jump a couple of rungs on the standings ladder, but they will have to sustain a higher level of effort in all three zones and at every position to make that objective come through.

Capitals 4 – Oilers 2