The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
After completing their longest remaining road trip of the regular season with a 3-2 Gimmick loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night, the Washington Capitals return home to begin their longest remaining home stand of the regular season when they host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night. The Caps will be trying to generate some momentum to reverse a recent 1-1-2 run, while the Red Wings continue their slow march to the end of one of the worst seasons in their storied history.
Then and Now…
The Capitals and Red Wings will meet for the 121st time in their all-time regular season series, the Caps holding a 54-45-5 (16 ties) record overall and 31-22-1 (five ties) on home ice. Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 18-5-4 overall against Detroit and 10-2-1 in Washington. This game will close the two-game series for this season, the Caps having beaten the Red Wings in Detroit on November 20th by a 5-2 score.
Active Leaders vs. Opponent…
If your leading goal scorer – the only one on your club with at least 20 goals – is tied for 63rd in the league in goal scoring, and your leading point producer is tied for 59th, your team has issues on offense. That is this season’s Detroit Red Wings. Tyler Bertuzzi is that leading goal scorer, posting 21 goals in 71 games played. Tyler, whose uncle Todd wrapped up his own 18-year career in the NHL playing his last five seasons with the Red Wings, was a second-round pick (58th overall) by the Red Wings in the 2013 Entry Draft. That was one of the more productive drafts in recent history with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Seth Jones, Sean Monahan, Bo Horvat, and Andre Burakovsky taken. Bertuzzi has outperformed his draft slot, ranked 17th in career goals in his draft class (49) and 19th in points (119). When he takes the ice on Thursday night he will become the 36th player in his draft class to dress for 200 NHL games.
This season, Bertuzzi has been more dangerous as a goal scorer on the road, where he has 13 of his 21 goals to date. But even here, his production is unsurprising for a team that is ground under a poor season. He had eight of those 13 goals in his first 13 games on the road and posted three multi-goal games in the process. Since then, though, he has only four goals in 21 road games, only two in his last 16 games on the road. And it has not matter much, even when he has scored on the road. In ten road games this season in which he scored at least one goal, the Red Wings are just 4-5-1. He has points in 15 road games to date, and the Wings are just 5-8-2. And then there is the time on ice. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a player who is the leading goal scorer and would be expected to be on-ice when the team needs a goal, the Red Wings are 5-18-3 in the 26 games overall in which he logged at least 20 minutes this season. He had goals in five of those games, and the Wings went 2-2-1. Bertuzzi is 0-1-1, minus-5, in six career games against the Caps.
The leading point producer for the Red Wings to date is Dylan Larkin, his 53 points so far ranking 59th in the league through Tuesday’s games. Larkin was a first-round draft pick of the Red Wings, taken 15th overall in the 2014 draft. Now in his fifth NHL season, he is third in his draft class in career points (266), trailing only Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (422) and Boston’s David Pastrnak (379), and fifth in his draft class in games played (389). In a way he has come to symbolize the Red Wings’ frustration over the last several years. He was the team’s leading point-getter in each of the previous two seasons (63 points in 2017-2018 and 73 points last season), but it was a bit empty in meaning, Larkin finishing tied for 58th in points in 2017-2018 and tied for 42nd last season. And now, his 53 points rank tied for 59th in the league. Being the top-ranked scorer on a team that struggles to score is a mixed blessing.
Larkin is one of the few Red Wings on a tear of late. He is 4-9-13 over his last ten games, those 13 points representing his having a hand in 62 percent of the 21 goals the Red Wings scored over that span. The Red Wings have almost held their own in games in which Larkin has a goal this season, going 7-8-2 in the 17 games in which he had at least one, and they are 17-20-5 when he had at least one point in a game. The odd part of his profile this season is the relationship of ice time and result, which is a bit unexpected. In the 17 games in which Larkin skated less than 20 minutes, Detroit is 3-13-1. His road production has trailed that on home ice this season as well, with a 9-14-23, minus-13 scoring line on the road compared to 10-20-30, minus-8 on home ice. Larkin is 2-6-8, plus-1, in 13 career games against the Caps.
Since 2005-2006 through this point of the 2019-2020 season, four players have been minus-40 or worse for a season. This season’s Detroit Red Wings have two of them. Andreas Athanasiou, who was a minus-45 with Detroit in 46 games, was traded to Edmonton last month. Valteri Filppula is still, however, skating for the Red Wings, lugging his minus-42 around the ice with him. Filppula is in his second tour with the Red Wings, having played his first eight NHL seasons in Detroit after being taken in the third round by the Wings in the 2002 Entry Draft. He is that rare Red Wing who has memories of playoff glory, having won a Cup with the Wings in 2008 and having played in the 2015 final with Tampa Bay.
This has not been a vintage season for the 35-year old Filppula who, with 21 points in 70 games this season, will almost certainly finish under 30 points for the first time since his first full NHL season, when he posted 17 points in 73 games for the 2006-2007 Red Wings. It has been an especially difficult season for Filppula at ends of the ice. He has been on ice for only 25 even strength goals scored by him and his teammates this season, but he has had an up-close-and-personal view of 65 even strength goals scored against the Wings, his minus-40 goal differential at even strength tied for worst in the league (with his former teammate Athanasiou). It is not even as if Filppula has been a victim of especially awful games. True, his five instances of being minus-3 or worse in a game this season is tied for third-most in the league, but then again Leon Draisaitl has had six such games, and he is a favorite for Hart Trophy consideration. What Filppula suffers from, as does the rest of his team for that matter, is a stunning consistency of frustration. He is a minus player in 37 games this season, most in the league. But he is one of five Red Wings with more than 30 such games this season. In 27 career games against the Caps, Filppula is 6-6-12, minus-6.
1. The Red Wings have 13 standings points earned in 34 road games to date. If they finish under 20 points earned, they would become only the second team to do so over a full season (not including the abbreviated 2012-2013 season) since 2005-2006. The 2013-2014 Buffalo Sabres finished with 19 points in 41 road games.
2. Detroit is the only team in the league averaging fewer than two goals scored per game on the road (1.94), a third of a goal per game less than the Ottawa Senators (2.27), the next weakest scoring offense on the road.
3. The Red Wings have allowed 4.06 goals per game on the road this season. If they finish over four goals allowed per game on the road, they will be only the second team since 2005-2006 to do so (Ottawa allowed 4.29 goals per game on the road last season).
4. Detroit’s net power play (accounting for shorthanded goals scored against them) of 4.4 percent on the road is the second worst in the league since 2005-2006. Florida was 2.8 percent in 2013-2014.
5. Detroit is on pace to score 23 third period goals on the road this season (they have 19) and allow 64 third period goals (they have allowed 53). If they keep pace, they would join the 2014-2015 Buffalo Sabres as the only teams since 2005-2006 to score fewer than 25 third period goals and allow more than 60 on the road in a full season.
1. Since the Capitals made the postseason for the first time since 2005-2006 in the 2007-2008 season, this club is the only one to allow more than three goals per game on home ice (3.12). The next leakiest defense in this playoff era was in 2013-2014 (2.76).
2. This year’s Caps team is the second weakest overall on the power play on home ice since 2005-2006 (16.8 percent). Only the 2005-2006 club was worse (14.6 percent).
3. The 2019-2020 Capitals is the best edition of penalty killers in Washington since 2005-2006 (88.1 percent).
4. Washington is 10-3-4 on home ice when scoring first. The .588 winning percentage in such games is their third-lowest at home since 2005-2006. The 2005-2006 club was 5-4-5 (.357), and the 2006-2007 team was 12-5-4 (.571).
5. This year’s club has the second-best shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 on home ice since the league started capturing the statistic in 2009-2010 (52.7 percent). The 2009-2010 team finished at 54.6 percent.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Detroit: Jimmy Howard
Jimmy Howard has not started a game in goal for the Detroit Red Wings since February 27th. Perhaps because he has not finished a game he started since February 7th. He was pulled in each of his last two starts, once after allowing four goals on 16 shots in 28 minutes of a 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh on February 16th, and again after allowing five goals on 17 shots in 32 minutes of a 7-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on February 27th. Jonathan Bernier has received all the starts since then.
His recent woes have merely added to a nightmare of a season for Howard, who is flirting with futility on an historic level. His is one of the worst individual seasons by a goalie in NHL history. How bad? He is 2-23-2 in 27 games this season, all of them starts. If he wins two or fewer game while getting three or more additional starts, he would be the fifth goalie in NHL history to appear in 30 or more games, win fewer than five games, and lose more than 20 games, and he would be the first to do so Jeff Hackett went 2-30-1 for the 1992-1993 San Jose Sharks.
Howard’s collapse has been stunning, even on a team struggling as much as this year’s Red Wings. As recently as 2016-2017, his goals against average was 2.10, half of what it is now (4.20). His save percentage that same 2016-2017 was a career-best .927, compared to this year’s career-worst for a full season .882. True, Howard appeared in only 26 games in 2016-2017 (he missed 32 games to a knee injury), but that season is comparable to this year’s 27 appearances to date. His “quality start percentage” of 25.9 percent this season (worst among goalies with at least 20 appearances) is ghastly when one considers that the league average is in the low 50’s. It has been a difficult season for the third-winningest goalie in team history (246 wins, trailing only Terry Sawchuk (350) and Chris Osgood (317)). In 13 career appearances against Washington, Howard is 4-4-3, 2.80, .901.
Washington: Dmitry Orlov
As an offensive defenseman, Dmitry Orlov seems stuck between two extremes. There was the player who, over a three year period, averaged eight goals per season on 7.1 percent shooting. Then there was the player of last year and this one, who has a total of seven goals on 3.4 percent shooting. That Orlov scored a goal against Buffalo in his last game is an encouraging sign, snapping a 31-game streak without a goal. The odd part of it all this season is how his goals align with his shooting. He recorded two or more shots on goal in 31 games and had goals in two of those contests. He had one shot on goal in 22 other games and had goals in two of them.
One other thing about Orlov recently has been the “high-volume event” nature of his time on ice. Over his last 25 games, Orlov has been on ice for 57 even strength goals – 30 for and 27 against. Only John Carlson among defensemen has been on-ice for more total even strength goals (61) – 30 for and 31 against. Much of that owes to the fact that over those 25 games, Orlov has logged more even strength ice time (519:16) than any other Caps defenseman (Carlson: 498:04).
Another odd feature of Orlov’s performance recently is his power play experience. Over those same last 25 games he has more power play ice time (47:20) than any other Caps defenseman other than Carlson (100:20), but he does not have a power play point. This might be a bit unsurprising, given that Orlov’s time is almost entirely devoted to being in the latter half of power plays and closing them out after the first power play unit fails to convert. On the other hand, over his first 43 games this season Orlov logged 49:58 in power play ice time and still went 1-4-5. The Caps are 4-1-0 in games in which Orlov recorded at least one power play point. In 15 career games against the Red Wings, he is 1-2-3, plus-1.
In the end…
This year’s Detroit Red Wings have the lowest points earned percentage of any team since 2005-2006 (.275). They are the only team over that span to have a points earned percentage on the road under .200 (.191 on a 5-26-3 record). They have won once in their last 17 road games (1-15-1) and have one road win in regulation since December 14th. Washington is 10-1-1 in their last dozen games against the Red Wings on home ice. There is no excuse – none – for the Caps failing to end the competitive portion of this game early and sending fans home happy late.
Capitals 5 – Red Wings 2