Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 50: Capitals at Maple Leafs, January 23rd

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The curtain comes down on the traditional “first half” of the regular season for the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night when they head to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs in the last game before the All-Star Game break.

Some folks might look at last night’s 7-6 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks and say, “gee…tough luck,” but the Caps earned their fate, failing to close out a two-goal lead in the third period.  Finishing games weakly has been an issue all season and might be something deserving fans’ attention in Wednesday’s game.  Meanwhile, the Leafs are stumbling into the break, losers of four of their last five games and 3-7-0 since they had a five-game winning streak in late December.  Since that ten-game run started on December 29th, that record is the league’s worst.

Offense is an issue.  The good thing about it is balance.  The Leafs have had 14 different players record goals over the last ten games.  The bad thing?  Ten of them have only one goal in that span.  One of them happens to be Auston Matthews.  Once upon a time this season, Matthews was being talked about as the next great goal scorer.  It was understandable.  He started the season scoring goals in each of his first six games (ten overall).  And even though he was slowed by a shoulder injury that kept him out of the lineup for a month from late October to late November, he had 16 goals in the first 16 games in which he played this season.  Since then, however he has only four goals in 18 games and that lone goal in his last ten contests.  It matters.  In 34 games played this season, Toronto is 11-2-0 when Matthews scores a goal, 9-10-2 in the 22 games he played and did not score a goal.  He has only one goal at home in the last nine games he played at Scotiabank Arena .  Matthews is 2-4-6, plus-1, in six career games against Washington.

Another player whose offense has dried up in this ten-game slide is defenseman Morgan Rielly.  His start to the season mirrored that of Matthews in terms of points.  He had points in each of his first six games this season (3-10-13), and he maintained that frenetic scoring pace well into the season, going 13-31-44 in his first 37 games this season.  Those 44 points led all defensemen by a wide margin going into the Christmas break (Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot had 37 points).  But then, after the break, Rielly suffered a three-game streak without a point, his first pointless streak of that length this season.  He has only four assists on his ledger over his last 11 games and has been shut out in goals on a total of 29 shots over that span.  Rielly is 1-7-8, minus-3, in 16 career games against the Caps.

Frederik Andersen was having a nice start to his season in goal.  In his first 30 appearances, through December 22nd, he was tied for the league lead in wins (20, with Marc-Andre Fleury), eighth in goals against average among 44 goalies with at least 750 minutes (2.50), seventh in save percentage (.923), and had a shutout.  However, December 22nd was the last he would play for a while, sitting out eight games with a groin injury.  He returned to the lineup on January 14th against Colorado, but he has not yet discovered that early season rhythm.  In three appearances since his return he is 1-2-0, 3.04, .913. 

Pace is important for Andersen, at least so far this season.  A hectic pace.  In 14 games in which he faced more than 35 shots, he is 11-3-0, 2.21, .942.  In 19 appearances in which he faced fewer than 35 shots, he is 10-8-1, 2.75, .901, with one shutout.  The Caps might do well to try to put Andersen to sleep, if he gets the nod.  In six career appearances against the Capitals, he is 4-1-1, 2.72, .912, with two shutouts, the Caps being the only team in the league against which he has recorded more than one shutout.


1.  Toronto not only has the worst record in the league since December 29th, they are tied for 29th in goals scored, 30th in shots on goal, last in power play goals (one),  last in power play chances (18), and last in power play efficiency (5.5 percent).  This might be the most surprising and unexpected turn in the league at this point of the season, Toronto’s offense disappearing over the last three weeks.

2.  Give the Leafs credit, they are entertaining.  Or not.  In 48 games this season they have played in games settled by margins of three or more goals.  They are 10-9 in those games.

3.  On the other hand, Toronto does not play in very many close games.  Only 11 times in 48 games have they played to a one-goal decision, going 6-3-2.  Only three teams have fewer one-goal wins (St. Louis, New Jersey, and Colorado), and only four have fewer one-goal losses in regulation (Pittsburgh, Anaheim, Carolina, and Tampa Bay).

4.  It is best to score first against Toronto.  Only two teams have more wins than the Maple Leafs (22) when scoring first – Nashville and Calgary have 23 apiece.  They’re .786 winning percentage in such games (22-5-1) is fourth-best in the league.

5.  There is one area in which the Leafs are strong where the Caps have been weak – finishing games strong.  Toronto has a 63-48 goal differential (plus-15) in the third periods and overtimes of games this season.

1.  The Caps have allowed 50 goals over their last 12 games.  That is as many goals as they allowed in the 21 previous games.

2.  Washington has allowed 15 goals in their last two road games.  In their previous eight road contests they allowed only 18 goals and had two shutouts.  But even there, the writing was on the wall.  In two of those games they allowed five goals, which brings us to…

3.  The Caps have allowed five or more goals in five of their last 12 road games.

4.  Four times in their last 12 games, the Caps allowed opponents 40 or more shots.  Only five times have they had 30 or more of their own.

5.  The overtime loss to San Jose was the third straight time that the Caps lost in extra time (all in the overtime period).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Toronto: Patrick Marleau

Is there any more “under-the-radar” player over the last 20 seasons than Patrick Marleau?  Yes, 20 seasons.  Well, 21 actually.  Marleau, who entered the NHL the same season that the Caps appeared in their first Stanley Cup final (1997-1998) is among the active leaders in:
  • Career games played (1,623/1st)
  • Goals (546/2nd)
  • Assists (605/5th)
  • Points (1,151/4th)
  • Even strength goals (361/2nd)
  • Shorthanded goals (17/T-8th)
  • Game-winning goals (106/1st)
  • Shots on goal (4,090/2nd)

Almost as amazing is his uncommon durability.  In 21 NHL seasons, Marleau has never missed more than eight games in a single season, and he has appeared in 80 or more games 14 times.  He appeared in every regular season game 11 times, including the abbreviated 48-game season in 2013.  The last time he missed a game was in the 2008-2009 season, when he missed five games to a lower-body injury late in the season.  He brings a 754-game streak into this game, second among active players (Keith Yandle: 763).  However, he, like a lot of his teammates, has been in a scoring slump lately.  The goal and assist he posted in a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay last Thursday are his only points in his last 12 games.  Marleau is 9-14-23, plus-6, in 31 career games against the Capitals.

Washington: The Fans

When a team goes on an extended losing streak, their fans get impatient, and memories are set aside.   Over the course of an 82-game season, a team earns its record, good or bad.  However, there is a difference between being in a slump and being bad.  But between the two there might be a gray area where effort, focus, and attention lie.  And it is here where the Caps are coming up short, characterized by taking shortcuts and displaying lack of commitment to the things that made them successful last season.  Fans might be a bit too quick to call for trading this guy, or sending that guy down to Hershey, bringing that other guy up, or (the go-to-solution for fans) making a coaching change.  But the Caps stand squarely in that gray area at the moment, and they have less than half a season to figure out if they are a good team that was merely in a slump or a team whose expiration date has passed.

In the end…

Good teams that are focused play to the final horn.  Last night the Caps were a good team without focus.  There has been a lot of that in the last month.  Good teams that are focused play hard to the break in the schedule.  We’ll find out where the Caps stand on that matter on Wednesday night.

Capitals 3 – Maple Leafs 2

A ONE-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 49: Sharks 7 - Capitals 6 (OT)

Frustration mounts in Capitals Nation.  The Washington Capitals blew a two-goal third period lead in the last ten minutes of regulation, the latter of the two goals scored by the San Jose Sharks coming with one second left in regulation.  The Sharks went on to grab the extra standings point in overtime to send the Caps to a sixth-consecutive loss.


First Period

It was a wild first period, but hardly surprising for two teams who give up goals recently as if they could claim them as charitable deductions.  Joe Pavelski opened the scoring off a faceoff win in the offensive zone, gathering a rebound of a Brent Burns drive to the net and backhanding it past goalie Braden Holtby just 12 seconds into the game.  It was a sign of things to come.

Alex Ovechkin tied the game mid-way through the period on a power play when he jumped on a loose puck to the right of goalie Martin Jones, pulled the puck off his backhand to his forehand, and chipped it past Jones at the 10:41 mark.  And the deluge was on…

Andre Burakovsky scored 90 seconds after Ovechkin when he altered his skating line to give him shooting room through a defender and wristed the puck through Jones… Tomas Hertl tied the game barely two minutes later, converting a nifty passing play among Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and himself…T.J. Oshie scored less than a minute after Hertl to restore the lead, taking a backhand centering feed from Ovechkin, deking Jones to the ice, and slipping the puck past Jones’ right pad…

…and the first period finally came to an end, the Caps ahead, 3-2.

- San Jose had a 24-21 edge in shot attempts and a 15-14 edge in shots on goal.

- T.J. Oshie led the Caps with four shots on goal in the first period.

Second Period

And the rains came once more…

….Evander Kane tied the game once more just 52 second in as a power play expired… Evgeny Kuznetsov put the Caps in front again two minutes later by being patient, collecting a loose puck at the goal line to Jones’ right, pulling it back for a shooting angle, and snapping a tough-angle shot past a lunging Jones,,, Ovechkin gave the Caps a two-goal lead less than three minutes later by waiting until he could use two Sharks as a screen and snapping a shot past Jones just 5:41 into the period. 

The damage… the two clubs combined for seven goals (the Caps with five) over a 15:00 span across the first and second periods.  But it was not over…

Just after a Caps power play expired, a turnover led to a not one…not two… but a THREE-on-0 break for the Sharks, Logan Couture converting with a backhand between Holtby’s pads 14:39 into the period to make it 5-4.  And quiet settled over the land for the second intermission.

-  Six different Caps had points in the second period (Kuznetsov and Ovechkin with goals; Vrana, Wilson, Backstrom, and Oshie with assists).

-  Dmitrij Jaskin was the only Capital without a shot attempt through two periods.

Third Period

The teams traded goals less than five minutes apart to open the third period.  Ovechkin completing the hat trick 5:52 into the period when he took a cross-ice feed from Jakub Vrana and swept the puck from the left wing circle past Jones.  Hertl got the Sharks back to within a goal on a replay of the first period power play goal he scored, this one off superb passing to set it up from Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski at the 10:02 mark.  But it was not over…not nearly.

Evander Kane tied the game with one second left in regulation when he got free on the weak side, camped at the far post to Holtby’s left.  Pavelski threw the puck at the net, and it squeezed through to Kane, who swatted it in to force overtime.

Overtime

Hertl got the hat trick, snapping a shot under Holtby’s right arm and into the far side of the net 1:48 into the extra frame, and the Caps left a point they seemed sure to have earned on the table.  Caps fans hope that point won’t matter in April.

Other stuff…

-  This was the 334th multi-point game of Alex Ovechkin’s career, 18th on the all-time list and third among active players (Joe Thornton: 380, and Sidney Crosby: 350).  It was his 105th career game with three or more points, breaking a tie with Doug Gilmour for 16th all-time and tying him with Peter Forsberg for 15th on the all-time list.  He trails only Crosby (133) and Thornton (110) among active players.  It was his 26th four-point game, tied with Forsberg and Eric Lindros for 18th-place all-time and third among active players (Thornton: 28; Crosby: 31).

-  Ovechkin’s hat trick was his 23rd of his career, breaking a tie with Teemu Selanne for third place all-time.  He leads all active players (Eric Staal: 14).

-  T.J. Oshie also had a multi-point game, his 44th as a Capital, breaking a three-way tie for 25th all-time with Sylvain Cote and Scott Stevens.  It was his 14th three-point game as a Capital, 19th on the all-time franchise list.

-  Andre Burakovsky’s goal broke a personal 14-game streak without one.

-  The last time that the Caps allowed seven or more goals in consecutive games… October 7-8, 2005 (Ovechkin’s second and third career games). A pair of losses to the Atlanta Thrashers on consecutive nights, 7-3 and 8-1.

-  Nicklas Backstrom had a pair of assists, his 226th career multi-point game, second in franchise history and tied with Jason Spezza for eighth place among active players.

-  That’s three times in four games that the Caps allowed seven or more games.

-  The Caps allowed 43 shots on goal, the highest total for an opponent since Montreal recorded 44 in a 5-4 overtime win for the Caps on November 19th.

-  Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and an assist, his first two-point game since January 6th and only his second since December 11th.

-  Until this season, Braden Holtby had not allowed seven goals in a game.  This was the second time this season in which he did.  The first one also ended in overtime, a 7-6 loss to Pittsburgh on October 4th, the second game of the season.

In the end…

The Caps are a mess in their own end.  They cannot score enough to spackle over all the holes on defense and in goal.  It is arguably the worst sustained defense/goaltending performance over a series of games since the earliest games of the Ovechkin era, when the Caps just didn’t have much talent.  This team does not have that excuse.  Scoring 11 goals in consecutive games and getting one standings point out of it might be an aberration, but it doesn’t matter.  It has to end, and end soon, or this is going to be one long, frustrating winter.


The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 49: Sharks at Capitals, January 22nd

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals close the books on the home portion of their pre-All-Star Game schedule on Tuesday night when they host the San Jose Sharks at Capital One Arena.  The Caps are stumbling in the run-up to the break, carrying the burden of a five-game losing streak overall and a three-game losing streak on home ice.

The Sharks are visiting Washington in the back half of a back-to-back set of road games that wrap up a four-game road trip. They dropped the front half of that set, 6-2, in Florida to the Panthers on Monday night.  The loss extended San Jose’s own losing streak to three games.  It is a slap in the face for the Sharks, who before their current losing streak won seven in a row and nine of ten contests.

San Jose, their current struggles notwithstanding, have been among the better teams in the league since December 1st.  Their 16-7-2 record over that span is fifth-best in the league.  The Sharks have done it with an uncommon mix of volume and balance in their scoring.  In those 25 games since December 1st, six skaters have at least 20 points.  That group is led by defenseman Erik Karlsson, who has 28 points in only 21 games played, but he is being shut-down until after the All-Star Game break with a lower-body injury.  With Marc-Edouard Vlasic having been absent from the lineup since January 3nd with a wrist injury (he was placed on injured reserve on Monday), the Sharks are thin on the blue line.

They still have Brent Burns on the back end, though.  Burns has stepped up in a big way over the last 25 games, going 6-21-27, second on the team to Karlsson in points over that span.  Not that this should be surprising.  Burns leads all NHL defensemen in overall scoring (53 points) and is tied for eighth in goals (nine).  He is second in power play scoring (20 points) to Florida’s Keith Yandle (24) and is tied for third in power play goals (five, with Florida’s Aaron Ekblad and Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty). 

Burns has produced at a consistently high level in recent years – tied for second in points among defensemen last season (67, with Dallas’ John Klingberg) to Washington’s John Carlson (68); he led the league’s defensemen in scoring in 2016-2017 (76 points); he was second in scoring in 2015-2016 (75 points) to Karlsson (82 with Ottawa); tied for second the previous year (60 points).  You get the point.  In fact, over the last five seasons, no defenseman has more goals than Burns (94) or points (331).  Burns is 6-9-15, plus-1, in 16 career games against Washington.

Tomas Hertl leads the club in goals (13) since December 1st.  He had a big night recently.  Recall that in only his third NHL game, against the New York Rangers on October 8, 2013, he had four goals in a 9-2 win over the Blueshirts.  He would go 367 games without another hat trick.  Until last Tuesday night, that is.  Hertl put the hurt on the Pittsburgh Penguins with a hat trick, the last goal being an empty-netter, in a 5-2 win over the Pens.  It was also his 100th career goal.  He became the 12th player in Sharks’ history to hit the 100-goal mark for the club, and his next one will put him in the top-ten, tying him with Mike Ricci and Ryane Clowe for 10th on the team’s all-time goal scoring list.  Hertl is 1-1-2, plus-1, in eight career games against the Caps.

Goaltending might get overlooked when a team is scoring four goals a game over a 25-game stretch, but Martin Jones has not been playing up to his level of performance over his first three years in San Jose, and it is part of a season-long problem.  In those three seasons he posted save percentage in the mid-.910’s, but this year his save percentage has dropped.  Of 46 netminders with at least 1,000 minutes, he ranks 38th at .897.  It has not been much better recently, Jones posting a .901 save percentage in 20 games since December 1st, 29th of 44 goalies with at least 500 minutes played.  That he leads the league in wins over that span (13, tied with Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury) is a product of the goal support he is getting.  Nine times in 19 appearances since December 1st he allowed three or more goals, 11 goals on 47 shots in his last two appearances (.766 save percentage).  Jones is 4-2-0, 1.51, .944, with two shutouts in six career appearances against the Caps.


1.  San Jose is the only team in the league to record 100 goals since December 1st.  They have exactly 100 in 25 games.

2.  If the Sharks do not want Jones to start back-to-back games in goal, Aaron Dell would get the call.  Here is the thing about that.  Since he posted shutouts in consecutive appearances in November, his record in seven games he started and finished is 2-4-1, 4.41, .844.  At the moment, goaltending is an issue for this club.

3.  The Sharks are not being rewarded for tilting the ice in their favor on the road.  They have out-shot opponents by a 918-783 margin in 26 road games and are second in the league on the road in shot attempts-for at 5-on-5 (55.33 percent).  In spite of that, only three teams have allowed more road goals than the Sharks (98) – Chicago (99), Florida (103), and Ottawa (103).

4.  What special teams giveth, they taketh away for the Sharks.  Their power play on the road (25.0) ranks fifth in the league, but their penalty kill (78.3 percent) ranks 22nd).

5. San Jose is a rude visitor.  Their 264 penalty minutes on the road is third-most in the league, trailing only Florida (266) and Edmonton (267).

1.  The Caps can’t win for losing.  The five goals they scored against Chicago on Sunday were more than they scored in their previous four games (four).  They lost anyway, 8-5.

2.  Here’s one to impress your friends with.  The eight goals allowed on Sunday to Chicago was the 73rd time in team history that Washington allowed eight or more goals.  Total standings points earned over those 73 games?  OneThey scratched out a point in an 8-7 overtime loss to Pittsburgh on January 16, 2017.  Their 0-72-1 record includes an overtime loss to the New York Islanders in 1983, but standings points were not awarded for overtime losses back then.

3.  Only two teams in the Eastern Conference have committed more minor penalties on home ice than the Caps (85) – Montreal (88) and New Jersey (91).

4.  Montreal and Tampa Bay are the only teams in the East with more power play chances on home ice (86 and 91, respectively) than the Caps (84).

5.  Since December 1st, forwards Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, and Devante Smith-Pelly have combined for a total of five goals in 83 man-games.  T.J. Oshie has five goals in 19 games (and he’s fourth among forwards on the team since December 1st).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

San Jose: Evander Kane

It took a while, but Evander Kane might finally have found a place where he could produce consistently and with a minimum of issues.  Injuries and off-ice issues were a feature of his early career with the Atlanta Thrahsers/Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres, but since he was acquired by the San Jose Sharks in a trade with Buffalo for Daniel O’Regan and two conditional draft picks last February, he is averaging 0.41 goals per game in 68 games, a higher average than any of his previous stops in the NHL (that is a 34-goal pace over 82 games).  Kane has been especially effective on the road of late.  In his last 11 road contests he is 7-5-12, plus-1. 

However, there is the matter of timing, and Kane’s was poor in the Sharks’ loss to the Panthers last night.  His double-minor penalty for high-sticking less than two minutes into the third period of a 2-2 game led to power play goals scored by Florida just nine seconds apart on the ensuing power plays.  He then took an unsportsmanlike conduct and ten-minute misconduct penalties with under a minute to play, the Panthers converting that power play into their last goal in their 6-2 win.  It brought his penalty minute total over those same 11 road contests to 36, and his total this season to 74 penalty minutes on the road, most in the league.  Kane is 14-6-20, minus-3, in 30 career games against the Caps.

Washington:  Jakub Vrana

If there is one thing one might be picky about in Jakub Vrana’s performance this season, it is his production on home ice.  The youngster already has a career-high 15 goals in 48 games, surpassing the 13 he had in 73 games last season, his first full-time season in the league.  However, only six of those goals have come in the 24 games in which he has played at Capital One Arena.  That total is tied for fifth on the team with Tom Wilson (whose production has come in only 13 games on home ice).  It is not for a lack of shooting.  He has 50 shots in 24 games on home ice (a 12.0 percent shooting rate) and 46 shots on goal on the road (19.6 percent).  Half of that home ice goal production came over two games straddling the end of the old year and the beginning of the new, breaking what was a stretch in which he had just one goal in 12 home games, but he will go into this game without a goal in three straight games on home ice.  Vrana is 1-0-1, even, in three career games against San Jose.

In the end…

In the baseball movie, “Bull Durham,” Crash Davis tells pitching phenom Nuke LaLoosh the secret of getting out of a slump…

“You know what the difference is between hitting .250 and hitting.300?  I got it figured out.  Twenty-five hits a year in 500 at bats is 50 points. Okay?  There's six months in a season, that's about 25 weeks -- you get one extra flare a week -- just one -- a gork, a ground ball with eyes, a dying quail -- just one more dying quail a week and you're in Yankee Stadium!”

For the Caps, score one off a post, ricochet one off a skate, a shot from the point with eyes that snakes through a maze of players, and you’re back in the lead in the division, or at least closer to it.  That might be what it takes more than some fancy tic-tac-toe passing play or a deke-and-a-shot off a breakaway.

Capitals 4 – Sharks 3

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 16

Week 16 was the worst for the Washington Capitals this season.  It was the first time in 16 weeks this season that the club failed to earn at least one standings point.  It was the first time that the Caps finished a week looking up at a team in the Metropolitan Division standings in quite some time.  And it had the look of a team running on fumes as they dead stick their way toward the All-Star game break.


Record: 0-3-0

Not since Week 22 of the 2016-2017 have the Capitals gone an entire week without earning at least one standings point (they were 0-3-0 in that week almost two years ago).  In 46 weeks since then, going into last week, the Caps had 30 winning weeks, seven weeks of a .500 record in standings points earned, six losing weeks, and none in which they were shutout in standings points.  It is – was – a remarkable record of consistency.

It was not just the losses, though, it was the “to whom.”  The Caps had chances to avenge lopsided losses to two opponents barely two weeks before the rematches and lost in lopsided fashion once more.  They lost at home to the St. Louis Blues, 4-1, after dropping a 5-2 decision in St. Louis on January 3rd, and they lost to the Nashville Predators, 7-2, in Nashville after being clocked, 6-3, on December 31st at Capital One Arena.

The Caps closed the week with a loss to the surging New York Islanders, 2-0, in what might have been the most purely uninteresting game of the season.  Not that former head coach Barry Trotz minded.  He got to visit the scene of some of his greatest triumphs, watch a well-done appreciation video of his seasons in Washington, and lead his team to a win that propelled them into the top spot of the Metropolitan Division ahead of the Caps.

The two losses at home to St. Louis and the Islanders gave the Caps eight regulation losses on home ice this season, surpassing the seven they had in 2016-2017, tying the eight they had in 2015-2016, and putting them on a path to surpass the 11 that they had last season.


Offense: 1.00/game (season: 3.28 / rank: 8th)

Three games, three goals, one-two-none.  There isn’t enough paint at Home Depot to cover up that mess.  No team in Week 16 scored fewer goals  Shoot, even the utterly pathetic Los Angeles Kings, who finished the week last in scoring offense in the league (2.22 per game) had five goals in three games.  The Caps had one even strength goal for the week.  I will repeat that…

The Washington Capitals had one even strength goal for the week.

For the record, that was T.J. Oshie, who scored an entirely cosmetic goal to make a 7-1 game a 7-2 game with 3:49 left in the Caps 7-2 loss to Nashville on Tuesday.

Lack of goals sometimes stems from lack of shots.  Such was the case for the Caps, who managed only 76 shots on goal for the week (25.3 per game), far below the 29.3 shots on goal per game at which they finished the week.  Even for a team that prides itself on “quality over quantity,” that was a low volume.  How low?  Nicklas Backstrom tied Alex Ovechkin for the team lead with 10 shots apiece.  Only two other Caps had more than five – Evgeny Kuznetsov (eight) and Oshie (seven).

Defense: 4.33/game (season: 2.98 / rank: 15th)

Thirteen goals in three games is a lot of goals.  It resembles the difficulties the Caps were having at the start of the season, when they could not keep pucks out of their own net.  Over their first dozen games of the season they had a rolling three-game total of 13 or more goals five times in 10 instances.  In their last ten instances, they have 13 or more goals allowed over three games four times.  Put another way, this is a club that has allowed four or more goals four times in their last ten games.

Shots allowed is not necessarily the culprit here, at least at the level of volume alone.  The Caps allowed 91 shots on goal for the week.  Of the 14 teams playing three games in Week 16, that is tied (with San Jose) for the eighth-highest amount.

Shot attempts are a different matter.  The Caps were minus-27 for the week in shots attempted-for and shots-attempted against at 5-on-5 for the week.  Being 11th among 14 teams playing three games in shot attempt differential at fives was bad enough.  Being minus-27 when tied (13th of 14 teams) and minus-30 in close situations (13th of 14 teams) was worse.  The Caps could not get teams off their collective back.

Goaltending: 4.44 / .857 (season: 2.85 / .910 / 3 SO)

It was not a good week overall, but in a way it was a long time coming.  Pheonix Copley allowed six goals on 36 shots in his first appearance this season, a 6-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on October 11th.  In 15 appearances after that he stopped 385 of 417 shots, a .923 save percentage.  Only two of 46 goalies logging at least 750 minutes over those two months had a better save percentage (Tuukka Rask and Frederik Andersen, both at .928).

However, an injury to Braden Holtby against Columbus in the last game of Week 15 kept him out of the lineup to start the week, and it gave Copley a chance for consecutive starts for the first time since he had three consecutive starts in Games 17- 19 this season.  He won two of the decisions, all of them on the road, sandwiching wins over Minnesota and Colorado around a loss in Winnipeg and stopping 71 of 77 shots overall (.922 save percentage).

Things did not go as well for Copley in Week 16.  The week started well for him, stopping all 14 shots he faced in the first period against St. Louis to open the week.  However, he allowed four goals on 23 shots to end the game and then allowed all seven goals to Nashville on 29 shots in the middle game of the week, a true “take one for the team” moment for Copley, given Holtby’s injury status.  It made for a .788 save percentage over his last five periods of hockey for the week.

Holtby returned against the Islanders on Friday, and he looked superb for 45 minutes.  He stopped the first 22 shots he faced over that span, but he allowed goals on consecutive shots 2:26 apart, to Josh Bailey and Cal Clutterbuck, in dropping a 2-0 decision.  Still, it was the 16th time in 32 appearances that Holtby stopped at least 92 percent of his shots.  If you want a basis of comparison for that fact nugget, he was at a .920save percentage or better 35 times in 66 appearances in his Vezina Trophy season in 2015-2016.

Power Play: 2-for-7 / 28.6 percent (season: 21.3 percent / rank: 11th)

If there is a silver lining, it is in special teams in Week 16.  The Caps had two power play goals for the week, the first time they recorded more than one man advantage goal for a week since they went 3-for-8 in Week 11.  In fact, the two power play goals they recorded matched the total they had over the last four weeks (2-for-35/5.7 percent).

On the other hand, you could say two things about the power play to stick a pin in the balloon of hope.  First, the Caps scored on their first power play of the week, and then they went 1-for-6 (16.7 percent).  The other thing is that they had only seven opportunities in three games.  While it is true that the two opponents faced at home– St. Louis and the Islanders – generally play well within the rules (St. Louis and the Islanders rank in the bottom ten in the league in road shorthanded situations faced), the Predators had the fourth-highest number of shorthanded situations faced at home to end the week, and the Caps managed only two power plays against them.

For the record, the power play goals were scored by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.  For Backstrom it was his first power play goal since recording one in a 6-3 win over New Jersey on November 30th and his second power play goal on the road this season (and first in regulation), his first coming in overtime in a 3-2 win in Colorado against the Avalanche on November 16th.

It was a bit of an odd week, the infrequency of opportunities masking a level of efficiency the Caps have not had on their power play in a while.  They managed 11 shots on goal in 11:48 of power play time, and they spread the shots around, five different players with at least one, Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov leading with three apiece.


Penalty Killing: 8-for-9 / 88.9 percent (season: 78.4 percent / rank: 23rd)

The other side of special teams had a good week, continuing a nice run of late.  In killing off eight of nine shorthanded situations, the Caps are 22-for-25 (88.0 percent) over the last two weeks, seventh-best in the league over that span.  Take the result with a grain of salt, since the Islanders and Predators, who went a combined 0-for-7 against the Caps, rank in the bottom ten in power play efficiency this season (24th and 29th, respectively), but one takes their opportunities for improvement where presented.

For the week, the Caps allowed only 12 shots in 15:06 of shorthanded ice time.  That makes only 21 shots allowed in 35:50 in shorthanded ice time over the past two weeks.  If there is something on which to build as the Caps try to navigate their way out of their recent slump, penalty killing seems to be it.


Faceoffs: 74-for-160 / 46.3 percent (season: 46.4 percent / rank: 31st)

By now, we know that the Caps just are not very good at this aspect of the game.  Week 16 was no exception.  It was, in fact, typical – a 46.3 winning percentage week in a season in which they are winning 46.4 percent of their draws.  For the week, they won one zone in one game (they were 11-for-18 in the defensive zone against Nashville).  Otherwise the Caps lost all three zones for the week and won more than 50 percent only against Nashville (30-for-58). 

One might look at the offensive zone performance as a factor in the low offensive production for the week.  The Caps won only 22 of 53 offensive zone draws (41.5 percent), and no Capital taking more than three draws finished the week over 50 percent in the offensive end.

The odd part of the week from an individual standpoint was the performance of Evgeny Kuznetsov.  He has had a season-long antagonistic relationship to faceoffs, it seems, but in Week 16 he was 50 percent in the offensive end and 54.5 percent in the defensive end.  That is progress.  But he did finish the week under water (42.4 percent overall) one of four skaters taking at least ten draws to do so.  Only Nic Dowd (9-for-15/60.0 percent) among that group finished at 50 percent or better.


Goals by Period:


When a club scores only three goals and allows 13, the goals by period will not look good, and for the Caps they do not in Week 16.  The most troubling aspect of the week is that they were weakest in what was their strongest period this season.  They were outscored, 7-1, in the second periods of games, all of the goals allowed coming against St. Louis (three) and Nashville (four), blowing open what were (at least on the surface) competitive games.

That the Caps allowed 11 of their 13 goals allowed for the week in the second and third periods continues one of the more disturbing trends in this area.  They have been unable to finish well.  They have allowed only 38 first period goals this season (tied for sixth-fewest) and have a plus-10 goal differential.  But they have allowed 49 goals in each of the second and third periods of games (ranking tied for 12th and tied for 14th, respectively, in those categories), and only their impressive second periods to date (63 goals, third-most in the league) is keeping them from looking even worse as finishers.

Year-over-Year


The winless week slipped the Caps behind their 47-game points pace of last year, albeit be a single point (one fewer win, one more loss in extra time).  Otherwise, as has been the case for some weeks now, the Caps are tracking this year’s performance with last year’s in many categories.  They remain virtually unchanged on a year to year basis in wins (27 this year, 28 last season), points (59/60), power play goals (30/28), shot attempts at 5-on-5 (2064/2060), shot-attempts against at 5-on-5 (2225/2222).  However, while the Caps opened the 2018 portion of last season with a 4-2-1 record, they are just 3-4-2 so far in the 2019 portion of this season.  That is not the kind of divergence the Caps want to continue.

In the end…

There are really few good things to say about Week 16, fewer that have much meaning to explain the current state of the club.  The Caps are not playing well, either in their performance numbers (wins, losses, goals scored and allowed) or their production numbers (shots, shot attempts taken and allowed).  Individually and collectively they look slow, sluggish, and distracted, almost what you or I might look like at work two weeks before we embark on an eagerly anticipated vacation.  The Caps cannot afford to coast into the All-Star Game, though.  At week’s end they find themselves looking up at the Islanders for the top spot in the Metro, but lurking under the surface is the fact that they are only five points ahead of (and with a game in hand on) the Buffalo Sabres who occupy the first non-playoff qualifying position.  It is not the best place to be for the defending champs.

Three Stars:
  • First Star: Brooks Orpik (0-0-0, even, the only player to dress for all three games to finish the week “even;” appeared in his 1,000th career game)
  • Second Star: Alex Ovechkin (1-1-2, minus-4, the only Capital with more than one point for the week)
  • Third Star: Braden Holtby (23 saves on 25 shots returning in goal from injury)

Friday, January 18, 2019

A NO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 47: Islanders 2 - Capitals 0

The Washington Capitals dropped their fourth straight game on Friday night, a 2-0 loss to the New York Islanders in former head coach Barry Trotz’s first return to Capital One Arena as head coach of the Islanders.  It was the sort of game that will not lure new fans to hockey, a largely grind-it-out, zone-to-zone affair that wore down the beleaguered Caps and left them looking up from a standings position they have not occupied in quite a while.

First Period

The first period resembled a chess match between players using the same strategy.  Hardly surprising given the principals behind the respective benches, but it made for the sort of hockey that only hockey x’s and o’s geeks could love.  There were few scoring chances, and fewer of a truly dangerous variety as the clubs jockeyed for position and possession. 

-  New York led in shot attempts, 19-15, and shots on goal, 11-7, but it was not a dominating period for either team.

- Jakub Vrana led the Caps in shots (two) and shot attempts (three).

Second Period

Neither team could find the back of the net in the second period, making it the first time this season that the Caps went to the second intermission in a scoreless game.

-  The Caps had a 25-22 advantage in shot attempts in the second period and a 9-8 advantage in shots on goal.

-  New York won 20 of 32 faceoffs through two periods (62.5 percent).

-  Andre Burakovsky took a team low seven shifts through 40 minutes.

Third Period

The Islanders scored two goals less than three minutes apart, Josh Bailey redirecting a Mathew Barzal drive and Cal Clutterbuck finishing off a 2-on-0 break with a snap shot past goalie Braden Holtby.  And that, as they say, was all she wrote.

Other stuff…

-  The Caps were 7-1-0 when recording fewer than 25 shots on goal going into this game.  They finished with 19 shots on goal.

-  The 19 shots on goal was the first time this season they recorded fewer than 20 shots in a game.

-  The 19 shots on goal was the first time that the Caps finished a home game with fewer than 20 shots on goal since they had 17 in a 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets last February 9th.

-  The 19 shots on goal was the first time the Caps had fewer than 20 shots on goal in a home game and lost since they finished with 14 shots on goal in a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on February 8, 2015.

-  The Caps had only ten shot attempts in the third period of this game.  Given that the Islanders were playing in the second-half of a back-to-back set of games (they are now 7-0-0 in such games this season) and their fifth game in seven nights, that's equal parts bizarre and inexcusable.

-  The four-game losing streak (0-3-1) is the Caps’ first this season, their first since Games 65-68 in March 2017.

-  The shutout was the first one the Caps suffered on home ice this season and the first suffered on home ice since dropping a 2-0 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 17, 2017.

-  The shutout left the Caps with 16 goals in their last eight home games (3-3-2).

-  Odd that Michal Kempny, the team leader in plus-minus, was minus-2.  It was only his third game this season at minus-2, but it was his third game in his last ten at minus-2.  He is “even” during that span.

-  This was only the fourth game this season in which the Caps allowed an opponent 25 or fewer shots on home ice (the Islanders finished with 25 shots).  It was the Caps third loss in those games (1-2-1).

Other stuff…

The Caps now find themselves in third place in the Metropolitan Division, behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and the surging first-place Islanders.  They are only five points ahead of the Buffalo Sabres, who are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.  That is an uncomfortable place to be for the defending Stanley Cup champions, and waiting for the All-Star Game break to get their second wind might not cut it. 


Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 47: Islanders at Capitals, January 18th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals, among the league’s streakiest teams of late, try to end one streak and start another when they host the New York Islanders on Friday night at Capital One Arena.  The Caps go into this game carrying the weight of a three-game losing streak, their second three-game losing streak in less than three weeks.

The Islanders were scheduled to host the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night, taking a tw0-game winning streak into that game.  The last month has been rather kind to the Isles, who are 12-3-0 through Wednesday since beating the Detroit Red Wings, 4-3, in a Gimmick on December 15th.  That is the best record in the league over that span of time, pending the Islanders’ outcome against New Jersey on Thursday night.

The offensive spark for the Islanders in this extended run of success has been provided by Mathew Barzal, who has a hand in 18 of the 50 goals scored by the Islanders over their last 15 games.  The production includes a team-leading 10 goals in addition to eight assists, including a hat trick in a 4-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 29th.  Barzal has been especially productive on power plays over this stretch of games, going 3-4-7, figuring in almost all of the team’s nine power play goals in those 15 games.  Barzal set for himself a very high standard last season, when he went 22-63-85 to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.  He has produced at a comparable pace this season, going 13-30-43 in 45 games through Wednesday.  Keeping him off the score sheet is important.  The Islanders are 19-7-3 in games in which he recorded at least one point this season, 9-2-0 in multi-point games.  Barzal is 1-3-4, minus-3, in six career games against the Capitals.

The Islanders have veterans on defense – Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk have a combined 1,254 regular season games of experience through Wednesday, for example.  But over the last 15 games, it is Devon Toews who leads the defense in goals scored (three, tied with Boychuk).  Most impressive about that fact is that he has done it over a span of just 11 games, scoring all three goals since he was recalled from the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers in late December.  His first goal was a memorable one, coming in the Islanders’ first game of the new year.  Toews scored in overtime to give New York a 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks (and no, he is not related to Blackhawk forward Jonathan Toews).  Coincidental or not, Toews has been something of a good luck charm.  The Isles are 9-2-0 since he was called up.  What he has not yet done, though, is make his presence known on the road.  While he is 3-0-3 in six home games, he is just 0-1-1 in five road contests so far.  This will be his first career appearance against the Caps.

Robin Lehner has been so hot in goal lately that there is the danger of melting ice in his crease.  In New York’s 12-3-0 run, he is 9-1-0, 1.46, .951, with one shutout.  Even his lone loss was impressive, stopping 24 of 26 shots in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers.  It is quite a turnaround for Lehner, who before going on this run lost six straight decisions (plus a no-decision) over a month-long period from mid-November to mid-December (0-4-2, 2.87, .891).  After starting his career in Ottawa, without establishing himself as a number one goalie over five seasons with the Senators, and a three-year stint with the Buffalo Sabres, during which he serve in the number one role in his last two seasons, he appears to have found a home with the Islanders.  His goals against average to date (2.16) and save percentage (.928) are career bests for any season in which he appeared in at least 20 games.  Lehner is 1-3-1, 2.60, .913 in five career appearances against the Caps.


1.  How impressive is the Islanders record to date?  Only once since 1983-1984 have they had more wins through 45 games (as of Wednesday) than the 26 recorded this season.  They had 30 wins at the 45-game point (tying the team record) in 2014-2015.

2.  If the Islanders score three or more goals on the road, they win.  They are 12-0-0 on the road when scoring three or more goals.  On the other hand, they are 2-8-1 on the road when scoring two or fewer goals.

3.  The Isles have shown a willingness to sacrifice in their 12-3-0 run through Wednesday.  Their 248 blocked shots rank second in the league (Philadelphia has 267 blocked shots through Wednesday) over that span.

4.  The Islanders and the Winnipeg Jets are the only teams in the league to allow only one goal in overtime this season.  New York gave one up on a power play in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on October 24th.

5.  The Isles are upside down in one area – scoring first.  When scoring first, New York is just 14-7-4, their winning percentage of .560 tied for 23rd in the league.  On the other hand, the Islanders are 12-8-0, their .600 winning percentage ranking third.

1.  The Caps have had seven different defensemen record at least one goal this season John Carlson, Matt Niskanen, Michal Kempny, Dmitry Orlov, Madison Bowey, Brooks Orpik, and Tyler Lewington), matching the total from last season. 

2. The Caps are one of three teams in the league with two defenseman having a plus-20 or better (John Carlson is plus-22; Michal Kempny is plus-25).  Toronto and Calgary are the other clubs.

3.  The Caps, despite troubles lately, still have the second-best home power play in the Eastern Conference (26.8 percent).  Boston is at 33.8 percent.

4.  Through 46 games, the Caps have scored first 23 time and given up the first goal 23 times.  They are a top-ten team in winning percentage in both scenarios, fifth when scoring first (.739/17-6-0) and eighth when allowing the first goal (.435/10-8-5).

5.  The Caps have out-shot opponents only 16 times in 46 games so far.  This bears watching because the Islanders are one of the few teams that have out-shot opponents fewer times (15).  The Caps are the superior team in those situations, a 9-4-2 record to the Islanders’ 5-9-1.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New York: Anders Lee

Anders Lee is a go-to player for the Islanders.  His 16 goals is tied for the team lead (with Brock Nelson).  His eight power play goals leads the club.  And, his three game-winning goals are tied for the top spot (with Valteri Filppula and Jordan Eberle).  He does it despite being only fourth on the team in average ice time (17:16 per game), although he does get top power play minutes (3:08 per game, second to the 3:19 Mathew Barzal gets).  Lately, though, Lee’s contributions have been more in setting up others.  He is 2-6-8, plus-5, over his last eight games.  He has been dangerous on the road more recently, too.  After recording only two goals in his fist 11 road games this season, he has seven goal in his last 12 road contests.  Lee is 7-3-10, minus-5, in 19 career games against Washington.

Washington: Braden Holtby

It would seem likely that Braden Holtby will return between the pipes on Friday night after missing a pair of games from taking a stick to the face in the Caps’2-1 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets last Saturday night.  Holtby has had a preponderance of his appearances on home ice this season (19, to 12 on the road).  His numbers are, in fact, better on home ice, both in his goals against average (2.70 versus 3.07) and save percentage (.916 versus .906).  The strange part of his recent game overall has been the inconsistency.  In his last 13 appearances, he had five instances of a save percentage over .940, and he had five instances of a save percentage under .890.  Splitting the difference among them, his .906 save percentage in those 13 games is not what Caps fans might consider “Holtby-esque.”  Holtby is 15-4-3, 2.39, .922 in 22 career games against the Islanders.

In the end…

This game has a large distraction attached to it, the first time Islander head coach Barry Trotz will coach a game at Capital One Arena since the Caps beat the Vegas Golden Knights, 6-2, in Game 4 of last spring’s Stanley Cup final.  Trotz, who won the Jack Adams Award as the league’s top coach with the Caps in 2016, has to be on short lists for consideration to win the award for a second time this season.  The underlying test for the Caps, though, is that the Islanders are playing at the top of their game.  The Caps are not.  If the effort/performance/focus level remains at the relative levels these teams established over the last month, it will be a difficult game for the Caps, who have alternated winning and losing streaks of three of more games (two each) over the last month.  On the other hand, what more motivation could the Caps want to ramp up their effort than to let their former coach know that they are getting along just fine under new management?

Capitals 4 – Islanders 3

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A NO-Point Night: Washington Capitals -- Game 46: Predators 7 - Capitals 2

The Washington Capitals looked tired, slow, and frankly, unmotivated on Tuesday night in a 7-2 loss to the Nashville Predators in a game that was settled early.

First Period

Nashville broke on top early when a feed from Tom Wilson to Alex Ovechkin in the Nashville zone was broken up, Mattias Ekholm collecting the loose puck and springing Viktor Arvidsson for a breakaway that beat goalie Pheonix Copley low on the glove side 3:45 into the contest.

An odd-man break gave the Preds a 2-0 lead mid-way through the period, Nick Bonino one-timing a Colton Sissons feed on a 2-on-1 break, a goal of uncertain nature given that the shot was buried in the padding at the back of the Capitals’ net and unseen by the referee until Copley dug it out.

Washington had a great chance late to cut the lead in half with goalie Jusse Saros out of the net, but Nashville backchecked well to deny Tom Wilson a chance to receive a pass and get a shot on an open net with less than five seconds left in the period.  The Caps skated off down a pair to their hosts.

-  Nashville held a 20-16 edge in shot attempts and a 9-8 advantage in shots on goal. 

-  Nicklas Backstrom had a decent first period with three of the Caps’ eight shots on goal and winning four of five faceoffs.

-  Jonas Siegenthaler defended… two hits and two blocked shots in 5:38 of ice time.

-  The Caps spread their misery around in one sense; ten different players were minus-1 for the period.

-  This was only the 15th time this season that Nashville took a lead into the first intermission.

Second Period

It took the Predators less than two minutes to extend their lead.  After beating the Caps to loose pucks deep in the Capitals’ zone, the puck went out to P.K. Subban at the left point.  His shot was redirected by Arvidsson down and between Copley’s pads just 81 seconds into the period.

Washington dug deep and pinned the Predators in their own zone, Tom Wilson eventually getting a chance from the low slot, but his backhand shot that slid through the defense and past Saros hit the far post.  But with Alex Ovechkin poised to jump on a rebound just off that post, the puck caromed back across the crease instead of out to Ovechkin for what would have been a tap-in goal.  The Caps did continue the pressure, earning a power play as a result when Subban was whistled for a tripping call.

The Caps were rewarded for their hard work when John Carlson’s slap-pass from the top of the zone was redirected by Backstrom behind Saros to cut the lead to 3-1.

The momentum the Caps took early in the period was snuffed out when, skating on a power play, they were loose with the puck at the offensive blue line and allowed a shorthanded breakaway to Arvidsson, who completed the hat trick, sliding the puck through Copley’s pad to make it 4-1, 7:52 into the period.

The Preds poured it on late in the period when Rocco Grimaldi skated into the Caps’ zone with Jonas Siegenthaler back.  Grimaldi took advantage of Siegenthaler giving ground and while spinning clockwise, backhanded the puck past Copley’s right pad to make it 5-1 at the 14:57 mark of the period.

Nashville got another redirected shot for a goal with less than ten seconds in the period when Nick Bonino got the shaft of his stick on an Ekholm drive from the left point to make it 6-1.

-  The power play goal was just the Caps’ second on the road since December 1st, and their first in more than a month, the other recorded in a 6-5 Gimmick win in Carolina on December 14th.

-  Dmitrij Jaskin had a chance to cut the lead to 3-1 mid-way through the period but hit the post behind Saros.  It was one of three posts the Caps hit in the period.

-  The Predators out-attempted the Caps, 22-17, in the second period and out-shot them, 11-10.

-  Through two periods, Backstrom had five of the Caps’ 18 shots on goal.

- Through two periods, Brett Connolly, Lars Eller, and Dmitrij Jaskin were the only Caps not toting a “minus” on their ledger.

Third Period

With the competitive portion of the game over, Nashville managed to add to their lead eight minutes into the period when Calle Jarnkrok one-timed a feed from Kevin Fiala cleanly past Copley’s glove to make it a 7-1 game.  As if to add insult to injury, the Caps then immediately went to a penalty kill when John Carlson, who was high-sticked under his helmet visor by Filip Forsberg, let the referees have it and was sent off for the night with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a game misconduct for good measure.

The Caps did get one back late when Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie broke out on a 2-on-1.  Kuznetsov did a fine job of changing the puck position on his stick to allow him a passing angle through defenseman Yannick Weber, hitting Oshie for a lay-up over Saros’ right pad with 3:49 left in the contest.

Other stuff…

-  Nicklas Backstrom led the team with six shots on goal, his high for the season.

- With seven goals allowed, the Caps have now allowed the Predators 23 goals over the last four games these teams faced one another, and it is the fourth time in the last six meetings that the Caps allowed five or more goals to Nashville.

-  This is the second time this season that the Caps played consecutive games against St. Louis and Nashville and allowed 11 games over the two contests.  They lost to Nashville, 6-3, and St. Louis, 5-2, in Games 38 and 39.  It is the third time this season that the Caps allowed 11 goals over two consecutive games (a 6-5 loss to Anaheim followed by a 5-3 loss to Vegas in Games 26 and 27).

-  The Caps more than doubled the hits Nashville had, 27-12, but that’s largely a product of Nashville controlling play.

-  The Predators finished with a 64-49 edge in shot attempts, a 29-28 lead in shots on goal.

-  With an assist on the Backstrom goal, Alex Ovechkin extended his points streak to four games, his longest streak in a month.

- Jonas Siegenthaler had seven blocked shots, tying the season high for a Capital (Matt Niskanen had seven in a 4-2 win over Chicago on November 21st).

- Viktor Arvidsson had 11 shot attempts (six shots on goal) for Nashville.

- The seven goals allowed by Pheonix Copley is his season and career high and worst since allowing six goals in a 6-0 loss to New Jersey on October 11th, his first appearance of the season.  In 16 appearances after that he allowed as many as four goals only twice.

- The loss gave the Caps their second three-game losing streak over their last nine games.

In the end…

…ugh. ‘Nuff said.