The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals play their third game in four days on Sunday afternoon when they host the Philadelphia Flyers in a Sunday afternoon tilt. The Caps will be looking to halt a two-game losing streak on their post-bye schedule, while the Flyers will be looking to extend a successful run of late, having won seven of their last nine games.
What the Flyers will be looking to exploit is a somewhat leaky Capitals defense that has allowed three or more goals in six of their last seven games. Given that the Flyers have scored five or more goals in four of their last nine contests, it will be a challenge for the Caps.
Sean Couturier leads the Flyers in goals (nine) and points (13) in the Flyers’ 7-2-0 run of late. Couturier has found his goal scoring touch in a big way this season, having already obliterated his career high in goals scored (15 in 2014-2015) with 26 this season, tied for fourth in the league. And when he scores, the Flyers are successful, going 13-3-5 in the 21 games in which he scored a goal. In this current run of success for the Orange and Black, three of his goals were game-winners, one of them in overtime. He has three multi-goal games in his last six contests and points in nine of his last 11 games (10-5-15). One noteworthy number he has is his 20 even strength goals, twice as many as the Flyer with the next highest total (Claude Giroux with ten). Couturier is 6-5-11, plus-4, in 22 career games against the Caps.
Speaking of Giroux, he is second on the club in points in their 7-2-0 run of late. He did it by spreading the good cheer around, 11 of his 12 points in that run coming on assists. Giroux is having a rebirth of sorts, his 14 goals this season already tying his total for all of last season and his 55 points just three shy of last year’s total of 58. Giroux topping 50 points is nothing new, though. This is the seventh time in the last eight seasons he had done so, the only time he fell short being in the abbreviated 2012-2013 season when he had 48 points in 48 games. The odd thing about Giroux this season, though, is the Flyers’ lack of success when he gets heavy minutes. Philadelphia is just 6-9-4 when Giroux skated more than 21 minutes. In 34 career games against Washington, he is 18-18-36, plus-3.
Last season, Ivan Provorov finished fourth among rookie defensemen in scoring with 30 points. He is on a pace to top that this season with 23 points in 46 games. His nine goals (he scored his ninth yesterday in the Flyers’ 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils) is already well clear of last year’s total of six goals. In the Flyers’ 7-2-0 run he is 4-4-8 to lead the Flyers’ blue line in goals and points. With 52 career points in his second season, he is already just the ninth Flyer defenseman in franchise history to record more than 50 points in his first two seasons, and he is just the sixth defenseman in Flyer history to post 15 goals over his first two seasons. In five career games against the Caps, Provorov is 0-1-1, plus-2.
1. Little things…the Flyers are the best team in the league in taking draws, winning 52.9 percent of the faceoffs they have taken.
2. The Flyers might just as soon be on the road insofar as their power play is concerned. At 23.4 percent, it is the fourth-best power play on the road in the league and more than five percentage points better than their power play at home (18.1 percent).
3. Only three teams have fewer wins when leading after the first period than the Flyers (seven wins). Then again, only the Vancouver Canucks (eight) and the Buffalo Sabres (eight) have taken fewer leads to the first intermission than the Flyers (nine/7-0-2).
4. Scoring first is usually a good indicator of success, but not for Philadelphia, which ranks 24th in winning percentage when scoring first (.650/13-4-3).
5. Getting out of the gate quickly has been an issue for the Flyers. Only four teams have fewer first period goals than Philadelphia (33).
1. No team in the NHL has spent less time with a 5-on-3 man advantage than the Caps this season. Their total is just 20 seconds on one such opportunity.
2. The third period of games have not been kind to the Caps in one respect. Only three teams have a worse time differential between power plays and shorthanded situations (minus-26:44).
3. Scoring first matters to the Caps. They have the fifth-best winning percentage when scoring first in games (.809/17-2-2).
4. Only three teams have a better winning percentage in one-goal games than Washington (.650/13-3-4).
5. So the Caps get out-shot a lot. Thirty times in 47 games, in fact. Their 17 wins in those games is third-most in the league, trailing only Colorado (18) and Nashville (19).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Philadelphia: Wayne Simmonds
In the long arc of history for the Philadelphia Flyers, Wayne Simmonds might not get as much attention as he should. With 179 goals as a Flyer, he ranks 17th in club history. He among the most reliably productive goal scorers in the league, having topped 25 goals in five of the last six seasons preceding this one, the only time he missed being the abbreviated 2012-2013 season in which he scored 15 goals in 45 games. He has been on a run of late with five goals in his last nine games. And when he scores, it is all but certain the Flyers win. They are 13-0-1 in the 14 games in which he recorded a goal so far this season. In fact, Philadelphia has lost just one game in regulation this season in which Simmonds recorded a point (they are 17-1-4). The key might be to try to get him off his game and off the ice. The Flyers are just 4-5-3 in the 12 games in which he logged penalty minutes. Simmonds is 6-9-15, minus-3, in 29 career games against the Caps.
Washington: Evgeny Kuznetsov
If Evgeny Kuznetsov records a point on Sunday, it would tie his longest points streak of the season at four games. And since the Caps are 19-5-3 when Kuznetsov records a point, his contribution is certainly welcome. Although his goal scoring is off a bit lately, he is averaging more goals per game (0.28) than in any of his previous four seasons. That recent goal scoring is something to take notice of, though. He has just three in his last 18 contests. The good thing here is that eight of his 13 goals this season have been scored on home ice. Kuznetsov is slowly working his way up the all-time points list for the Caps, too. His next point will break a tie with Gaetan Duchesne for 34th place on the all-time list, both with 225 career points with the Caps. Doing it against the Flyers might be a good bet. Philadelphia is one of seven teams against which Kuznetsov has at least ten career points (2-8-10). However, he is also a minus-4 in his 13 career games against the Flyers, the worst plus-minus number he has against any team.
In the end…
Oddly enough, last season the Caps broke a two-game losing streak coming out of the bye week with a win over the Flyers. It was a game for the top-sixers, Kuznetsov getting a pair of goals, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie getting the others, and Backstrom, Oshie, Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin, and Justin Williams recording multi-point games. Sounds like a formula that could work again against a team playing its second game in 24 hours.
Capitals 4 – Flyers 1