The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
If it seems like weeks since the Washington Capitals last played at Capital One Arena, it has been. Two weeks, in fact, since the Caps dropped a 6-5 Gimmick decision to the Florida Panthers. The Caps return home on Saturday night to face the Dallas Stars after splitting a four-game road swing through Canada (2-2-0).
Washington will take the ice on Saturday hoping to find some epoxy or sealant to plug the holes in what has been a leaky defense so far. Despite splitting the four decisions on the road over the last couple of weeks, the Caps allowed 15 goals in the four games, the 3.75 goals allowed per game being only marginally better than the 3.82 goals allowed per game overall over their first 11 contests of the season.
Opening a five-game home stand against the Stars might not be the worst way to get back on track. The Stars have been a streaky team in the early going, opening the season winning three of four games, before dropping three in a row. They have won four of five games going into this contest, 2-1-0 on their current road trip.
“Streaky” might be a word to describe their offense, too. After scoring 17 goals in their first four games of the season (4.25 per game), Dallas has 19 goals in their last eight games (2.38 per game). It is balanced scoring overall, though, both in the lineup (16 players have scored goals) and at the top of the scoring list. Three Stars are tied for the team lead in goals with five apiece, and frankly, there are no surprises among them.
Jamie Benn, for example (five goals in 12 games), topped the 30-goalmark in four of his last five seasons. Since posting 34 goals in the 2013-2014 season, Benn has more goals scored (177) than any player in the league except Alex Ovechkin (246) and Sidney Crosby (179). Now in his tenth NHL season, he is sixth on the all-time franchise list in goals scored (259) and would seem to be a virtual lock to climb into fourth place (Neal Broten: 274) by year’s end. Of his five goals this season, three were recorded on power plays; he had ten or more power play goals in three of the last four seasons, coming up one shot last season. Despite being drafted in the fifth round (129th overall) in the 2007 entry draft, Benn is the second-ranked goal scorer in his draft class, trailing only Chicago’s Patrick Kane (323), although Benn has played in almost 160 fewer games (679 to 835 for Kane). Benn is 6-8-14, plus-13, in 13 career games against Washington.
Alexander Radulov isn’t much of a surprise at the top of the Dallas goal-scoring list, either. Although his NHL career has been beset by interruptions (2008-2009 through 2010-2011 with Salavat Yulayev Ufa in the KHL and 2012-2013 through 2016-2017 with CSKA Moskva in the KHL), he has been a productive goal scorer, averaging 24.9 goals per 82 games. He is shooting at a torrid pace, his five goals coming on only 18 shots (27.8 percent) in seven games (he missed four games in late October to lower body injury before returning against Montreal on October 20th; he missed Dallas 2-1 loss in Toronto to the Maple Leafs on Thursday). In six career games against Washington, Radulov is 3-3-6, minus-2. He is also listed as day-to-day after aggravating his lower body injury.
John Klingberg is the third member of the Stars with five goals and is one of a handful of defensemen averaging at least a point per game so far this season (5-7-12 in 12 games). In his fifth NHL season, he has demonstrated himself to be one of the most prolific offensive defensemen in the game. Over that span he ranks 14th in goals scored (47), fourth in assists (179), and third in points (226). With his production, his ice time has increased steadily, from 21:50 per game as a rookie in 2014-2015 to 25:10 in 12 games so far this season. The odd part of his season to date is that four of his five goals scored came in the Stars’ first five games, while five of his seven assists have come in his last seven contests. An odd feature of his scoring over his five-year career is his alternating high shooting percentage years (11.2 percent, 10.5 percent, and 15.6 percent this season in his first, third, and fifth seasons) with low percentage years (5.8 percent and 3.9 percent in his second and fourth season). Klingberg is 0-8-8, plus-1, in seven career games against the Caps.
1. Dallas is a great power play team at home (35.0 percent). On the road? Not so much. They are limping along at 12.5 percent, 26th in the league, and only two teams have had fewer man advantage chances on the road than Dallas (36) – Arizona and Pittsburgh (31 apiece).
2. The Stars are one of six teams left that have not allowed a shorthanded goal. Oddly enough, five of those teams play in the West (the New York Islanders being the exception).
3. Getting power play time in the third period is a comparatively rare occurrence, but Dallas has spent only 14:18 with the man advantage in the final 20 minutes this season. Only the Islanders have spent less (11:33).
4. Only the Nashville Predators have more wins when scoring first this season (eight) than the Stars (six, tied with the Islanders and the San Jose Sharks).
5. Dallas has only eight first period goals so far this season. Only Vegas (seven) and Los Angeles (5) have fewer.
1. Washington has nine third period goals this season. Only Los Angeles and Florida (eight apiece) have fewer.
2. The Caps could do without the bench penalties. The three they have is exceeded by only three teams – Colorado (four), Minnesota (four), and the New York Rangers (five).
3. The Caps have played one-goal games right down the middle; they are 2-2-2 so far. Their other three wins were by three or more goals.
4. Nicklas Backstrom has eight power play point, a total exceeded only by Taylor Hall and Blake Wheeler (nine apiece).
5. Quality...Quantity…Quality…Quantity. The Caps rank 26th in the league in shot attempts at 5-on-5 (487, tied with Minnesota).
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Dallas: Tyler Seguin
Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Erik Karlsson. There are a lot of star-caliber players in the NHL, but few are as productive over as big a range of statistical categories as Tyler Seguin since he moved to Dallas from Boston in a trade with Rich Peverley and Ryan Button for Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser. Since his first season in Dallas, in 2013-2014, Seguin’s rankings are impressive:
- Goals: 176/4th
- Points: 398/6th
- Game-winning goals: 30/T-7th
- Shots on goal: 1,548/2nd
- Goals per game: 0.44/8th
- Points per game: 1.00/5th
He just doesn’t seem to get the attention such numbers might deserve. When he takes the ice against the Caps, it will be his 400th game with the Stars, the 38th player to reach that milestone in franchise history. His numbers this season (3-11-14, plus-5, in 12 games) are in keeping with his productive nature in Dallas generally, but his three goals on 60 shots so far (5.0 percent) is the worst shooting percentage of his career. His season to date has also been a bit inconsistent. He torched Winnipeg, Toronto, and Anaheim for three goals and ten points in a three-game stretch early in the season, but he is without a goal in his last nine games and is 0-4-4 in his last eight contests. He has yet to score a goal on the road this season. In 21 career appearances against Washington, Seguin is 9-5-14, plus-4.
Washington: Matt Niskanen
Matt Niskanen does not have the booming shot or responsibility to tee up Alex Ovechkin one-timers like John Carlson. He doesn’t have quite the physical edge of a Brooks Orpik. He just gets the job done, night in and night out. He has been a reliable point producer from the blue line, ranging between 29 and 39 points over his four seasons in Washington preceding this one, that lower end of the range being a product of his missing 14 games last season. Over those four seasons he led the team in games played by a defenseman (310), was second in assists (110 to 155 for Carlson), was second in points (131 to 199 for Carlson), and was a team-best plus-61, regardless of position. He goes into Saturday’s game against the team that drafted him (28th overall in 2005) with a good start to this season (2-5-7 in 11 games). He has points in four of five home games to date. Coincidentally, those are the four games on home ice in which the Caps have earned points so far (3-0-1). He is also a minutes-eater, only once in 11 games skating under 20 minutes. In 12 career games against Dallas, Niskanen is 1-5-6, minus-2.
In the end…
The Caps have been a hot mess in their own end over the first month of the season. They allow too many goals (3.82 per game, fourth-most in the league), their penalty kill is iffy (73.8 percent, 24th in the league), and they are still underwater in shot attempts-for at 5-on-5 (48.46 percent). Their offense has kept them competitive, but a 3.82 goals per game scoring offense and a 36.1 percent power play are not likely to be sustainable over an 82-game season. This is a club that certainly has the appearance of having lingering effects from the championship season (and off-season), but that is what November is for, to get back to business. And there is no better place to start than with some home cooking.
Capitals 3 – Stars 2