Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 35: Capitals at Blue Jackets, December 16th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals face the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second time in a week when they visit Ohio on Monday night.  The Caps will be looking to even the score with the Blue Jackets in the season series after dropping a 5-2 decision last Monday in Washington.  That loss is the only blemish on the Caps’ record over their last nine games (8-1-0) and the only regulation loss suffered by the Caps in almost a month, since a 4-1 loss to the Rangers in New York on November 20th.  On the other side, Columbus’ win over Washington is their only win over their last seven games (1-4-2), and they have lost three of their last four games on home ice.

Then and Now…

This will be the 42nd regular season meetings of the Caps and Blue Jackets, Washington holding a 245-11-5 (one tie) record against Columbus, 12-7-2 on the road.  Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 20-10-5 against the Blue Jackets overall, 9-6-2 in Columbus.

Active Leaders vs. Opponent…

Noteworthy Opponents…

Columbus is not an especially prolific team when it comes to scoring goals, but someone has to lead the team, and at the moment that someone is Pierre-Luc Dubois, the only player for Columbus having hit double digits in goals scored.  Despite his teammates’ struggles at finding the back of the net, Dubois is on pace to finish the season with 26 goals, which would challenge his career best of 27 set last year, his sophomore season in the league.  Where his teammates’ problems appear in his numbers are in his assists.   Dubois has ten, and at that pace would finish with the fewest of his three-year career (26).

Dubois has taken on a bigger offensive load with the departure of Artemi Panarin for the New York Rangers in one at least one respect.  His shot frequency has increased significantly, jumping from 2.12 shots per game last season to 2.53 shots per game going into this contest.  There do appear to be limits as to the effectiveness of the increased shooting frequency.  Four seems to be the magic number.  Four times this season Dubois recorded more than four shots and has one goal on 21 shots to show for it, the Blue Jackets splitting the games (2-2-0).  On the other end, though, he has not made much of fewer chances.  In the 13 games in which he recorded one or two shots on goal, he has only one goal on 21 shots.  His output has dried up of late, though, going his last ten games without a goal.  Dubois is 1-3-4, plus-2, in nine career games against the Caps.

Among Columbus defensemen, fans probably recognize Seth Jones.  They might also know Zach Werenski or Ryan Murray on the Blue Jacket blue line.  Even Markus Nutivaara might be known to more than a few fans.  Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, though, Werenski, Murray, and Nutivaara reported as injured.  That places more of a burden on rookie defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov.  Chances are that is a name fans outside of Columbus do not recognize.  He was taken in the sixth round (159th overall) in the 2015 Entry Draft, the 54th defenseman of 74 taken in that draft.  He was taken 30 spots ahead of Nutivaara not played a game in the NHL before this season, while Nutivaara dressed for 207 games over three years before this season.  Gavrikov has not made a big dent in the offensive side of the ledger (2-2-4 in 31 games), but he has been getting more ice time as the Columbus defensive ranks thin out.  Over his first 24 games he averaged 15:00 in ice time, but over his last seven he is averaging almost three minutes more a game (17:56).  In his only appearance to date against the Caps, last week, he went without a point and was plus-3 in 14:45 of ice time.

Next in the “Name That Blue Jacket” contest is forward Alexandre Texier.  Another rookie, although he did get into two games for Columbus last season.  The second round pick from the 2017 Entry Draft happens to be tied with Cam Atkiunson for the team lead in points (five) in December, and he is tied with Andrew Peeke (another rookie) for the team lead in plus-minus for the month (plus-5).  Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, Texier’s contributions just have not been enough.  He has points in four of the six games Columbus has played in December, and the Blue Jackets lost three of them (1-1-2), the lone win coming against the Caps when he recorded an assist.  His recent production is quite a turnaround, though.  He was 3-1-4, minus-4, in his first 22 games this season before going 3-2-5, plus-5, in his last six games.  That game against the Caps last week and the assist he recorded is the only game and only point he has against the Caps in his career to date.

1.  Columbus struggles to score at home.  They have only 42 goals (third fewest in the league) in 17 games on home ice this season, the 2.47 goals per game second worst in the league, topping only Detroit (2.24).

2.  Only Tampa Bay has allowed more shorthanded goals on home ice (four) than Columbus (three, tied with five other teams).  No team has allowed more shorthanded goals on home ice without scoring one themselves that the Blue Jackets.

3.  Columbus is one of four teams in the league to have taken no major penalties on home ice this season (Buffalo, Toronto, and Dallas are the others).

4.  Only the New York Islanders have more overtime goals scored (four) than Columbus (three, tied with Toronto and Pittsburgh).

5.  Columbus does not have elite goal scoring so far this season, but they are egalitarian about it.  Of the 24 skaters to dress, 19 have at least one goal.

1.  The Caps have had 24 skaters dress this season, too.  Of that group, 17 have goals.  The difference is that while Pierre-Luc Dubois leads the Blue Jackets with ten goals, the Caps have six players with more than that number.

2.  While Columbus has two players with 20 points – Dubois and Gustav Nyquist – the Caps have seven players with more than that number.

3.  No team has more players with 20 or more penalty minutes than the Caps, with seven (tied with San Jose).

4.  The Caps have 11 players with game-winning goals, a total more than the win totals posted by New Jersey or Detroit so far.

5.  Washington has hit the crossbar 10 times in 34 games.  Last season they hit the crossbar 10 times in 82 games.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Columbus: Gustav Nyquist

When it became certain that the Blue Jackets were going to lose Artemi Panarin to free agency, they had to try to replace his goal scoring with something.  The trouble is, replacing the 55 goals Panarin scored in two seasons in Columbus is not an easy task.  Part of the solution was to sign Gustav Nyquist as a free agent to a four-year/$22 million contract, a far cry from the seven-year/$81.5 million deal Panarin signed with the Rangers last July.  Nyquist is not and is not likely to be in Panarin’s class as a goal scorer, but he is a reliable sort who topped 20 goals four times in six seasons before this one.  However, he has only seven in 32 games so far this season, an 18-goal pace (Columbus fans no doubt have noticed that Panarin already has 19 with the Rangers this season).  He has fallen off of late.  Since recording a hat tricj in a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh on November 29th, he is without a goal in his last seven games.  And it is not a case of shooting in bad luck.  Nyquist has only seven shots on goal in his last six games, three of them in the most recent game, a 4-3 overtime loss to Ottawa.  Even with the hat trick against the Pens, he has a total of five goals over his last 23 games, precisely the 18-goal pace he is on overall.  Nyquist is 6-7-13, plus-2, in 18 career games against the Caps.

Washington: Lars Eller

Before Lars Eller burned his name into the Capitals history book with the game-winning, series-clinching, Cup-winning goal in Las Vegas in the 2018 postseason, Lars Eller scored the goal that made all of that possible, a goal in the second overtime of Game 3 of the first round series against Columbus on the Nationwide Arena ice sheet that kept the Caps from falling into an 0-3 hole and ending their Stanley Cup dreams before they started.  He added an empty net goal to clinch Game 6 for the Caps and send them on to the second round, but here is the odd thing about that.  Eller has more goals scored against Columbus as a Capital in the postseason (two in six games) than he has as a Capital against the Blue Jackets in the regular season (one in 13 games).  And, he does not have a point in his last six games against the Blue Jackets.  Not that he has been shy about sending pucks to the net; he has 18 shots on goal in those six games without finding the back of the net (he had only eight shots on goal in his first seven games as a Cap against Columbus).  If a Capital seems due to score against this team, Eller might be a player to watch.  Eller is 2-3-5, minus-4, in 24 career games overall against Columbus.

In the end…

The Caps have had success against Columbus on their ice sheet in the postseason, going 3-0 in the three playoff games the teams played in Ohio.  The regular season has been a different matter, the Caps going 6-5-2 in their last 13 visits to Columbus.  But these are teams going in different directions at the moment.  Columbus has stumbled at home recently with their 1-3-0 record over their last four games, while the Caps have been the gold standard in road play this season.  Makes it hard to pick against the Caps, regardless of last week’s result.

Capitals 4 – Blue Jackets 2

Washington Capitals: That Was The Week That Was - Week 11

For the Washington Capitals, Week 11 was one of those weeks where it is not how you start, but how you finish.  The Caps started the week and each of the three games on their schedule slowly, but they closed with a rush in the second and third games of the week to maintain their commanding lead in the Metropolitan Division and the best record in the league.

Record: 2-1-0

Another winning week for the Capitals.  That makes nine times in 11 tries that the Caps grabbed more than half of the standings points available, twice earning half.  Yes, it was only the sixth time in 11 weeks that the Caps recorded a loss at all, but that in itself is a rather amazing fact.  The loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets was equal parts surprising and not.  The Caps have generally done well in their first game back from a trip that included a visit to California.  As we noted in the prognosto for this game, “In each of the last five seasons in the Caps’ first home game following a road trip that included the California trip, they won, twice against Winnipeg, once each against Carolina, Minnesota, and the Islanders.”  So, in that respect, the loss was a bit of a surprise.  On the other hand, it was the first home game after a road trip, and these can be a problem, especially against a motivated divisional opponent.  In that respect it was less surprising.

But the Caps recovered smartly, continuing their spooky dominance of the Boston Bruins, beating the B’s for the 16th time in 17 tries, dating back to October 2014, on Wednesday.  Then, the Caps wrapped up the week with a chance to extend their unusual dominance on the road, and they did just that, beating Tampa Bay for their 15th win in 18 road games (15-2-1), those 15 road wins being as many or more than ten other teams have in total.

Offense: 3.33/game (season: 3.59/2nd)

Even with the relatively weak effort against Columbus to open the week, it was a good week on offense for the Caps.  With three goals against Boston and five against Tampa Bay, the Caps finished the week having scored three or more goals in eight of their last nine games.  And, while they might have slipped a notch in their scoring average for the season with ten goals in three games in Week 11, they still have the seventh-highest scoring average per game since the dark 2004-2005 season.  The Caps have done it be being unfriendly guests.  The five goals scored in Tampa against the Lightning was the eighth time in 18 road games this season that the Caps scored five or more goals in a game.

Individually, T.J. Oshie led the team with three goals, giving him 14 for the season and pushing him within one of Jakub Vrana for second place on the club.  Nicklas Backstrom was the other Capitals with a multi-goal week, posting a pair, one in the 5-2 loss to Columbus to open the week and the game’s first goal in the Caps’ 5-2 win over Tampa Bay to end the week.  In all, seven Caps shared in the ten goals that were scored over the three games.

Backstrom led the team in points for the week (2-3-5), posting points in all three games to extend his points streak to six games.  At week’s end, Backstrom was 4-10-14 in his last 13 games.  Oshie had four points for the week (1-3-4), and Evgeny Kuznetsov had three (all assists).  In all, 13 of the 18 skaters to dress for the week had at least one point.

Defense: 3.00/game (season: 2.79/11th)

That Columbus posted five goals on the Caps to open the week should not be surprising.  The 38 shots on goal the Blue Jackets had was the third highest shot total allowed on home ice by the Caps this season (they allowed 40 to both Montreal and Florida in November).  To their credit, they returned to more disciplined play in this category as the week wore on, allowing 32 shots on goal to Boston in the middle game of the week and only 28 to Tampa Bay to wrap up the week.  Those 28 shots the Lightning managed was the second-lowest shot total they recorded on home ice so far this season (they had 28 against Anaheim on November 23rd in a 6-2 win).

The shot attempts allowed pattern followed their win-loss success pattern as well.  They allowed Columbus 46 shot attempts at 5-on-5, the ninth time in 15 home games to that point in which they allowed at least 45 shot attempts at fives.  They followed that up with holding Boston to 39 shot attempts at 5-on-5, the fifth time in 16 games on home ice that they held an opponent under 40 attempts.  The 41 attempts allowed to the Lightning might not appear particularly impressive, but the Caps never trailed in the game and spent just under 23 minutes of the contest tied with the Lightning.  They spent most of the game with a scoreboard advantage, and the shot attempts appear to reflect this somewhat.  The Caps finished a minus-4 in shot attempt differential in that game, but it was the tenth time in 18 road games that the Caps were even or better in shot attempt differential at fives when leading, suggesting that they could still clamp down on defense when holding a lead.

Goaltending: 2.68 / .918 (season: 2.67 / .913)

The Caps continue to improve in this category, if only marginally in Week 11.  Although the save percentage overall was not quite as good as it has been in weeks leading up to Week 11, it is worth noting that at the end of the week, 18 goalies logging at least 300 minutes Since November 1st had save percentages of .922 or better, and the Caps had two of them – Braden Holtby (.926) and Ilya Samsonov (.922).

Holtby got the call in the first two games of the week, and it was the last 40 minutes of the game against Columbus that kept him from having a better week.  He had already stopped 19 of 20 first period shots against the Blue Jackets, but he allowed three goals on 17 shots over the last two periods in the loss.  He followed that up with his usual mastery of the Bruins, stopping 30 of 32 shots in the 3-2 win.  It was the 15th time in 21 appearances that Holtby allowed two or fewer goals to the Bruins, the 13th time the instance ended in a win.  Overall, Holtby extended his career record against Boston to 18-3-0, 1.82, .944, with four shutouts of the Bruins.

The last game of the week belonged to Samsonov, and he was superb, stopping 26 of 28 shots in the 5-2 win over the Lightning.  Keep in mind, this was a team that, while they have had struggles winning on home ice, they have not had trouble scoring.  Six times in their previous 15 home games, Tampa Bay posted five or more goals, and they had been held to two or fewer only four times.  But here is the kicker.  Samsonov became the first visiting goalie to beat the Lightning at Amalie Arena this season.  OK, it was the first appearance by a rookie goalie against the Lightning against Tampa Bay this season.

Power Play: 1-for-8/12.5 percent (season: 23.5 percent/5th)

It would be hard to find a silver lining in the power play in Week 11.  The Caps did avoid being blanked for the first time this season over a week with the man advantage, but the 12.5 percent conversion rate was their second worst of the year (1-for-9/11.1 percent in Week 7).  Boston was the only team they faced for the week that finished the week in the top half of the penalty kill rankings (tenth).  Tampa Bay and Columbus, against which the Caps went 0-for-5 combined, finished ranked 18th and 20th, respectively.  It was worse as the week went on, at least from a shooting standpoint.  After posting seven shots on goal in 4:38 of power play time against Columbus, the Caps managed a single shot against Boston (their only goal for the week) in 4:47 with the man advantage and a single shot in 2:36 in power play time against Tampa Bay.

T.J. Oshie, who had the lone power play goal for the week, led the team with three power play shots on goal.  Alex Ovechkin (2), Evgeny Kuznetsov (2), Jakub Vrana, and John Carlson had the others.

Penalty Killing: 14-for-15/93.3 percent (season: 85.1 percent/5th)

If the power play had an off week, the penalty kill was having nothing of the sort.  Columbus finished the week as a mediocre power play squad (19th in the league), but Tampa Bay and Boston (second and third at the end of the week) are what pass for elite power play teams in the league this season, and the Caps were 9-for-10 combined against them.

The bad part was having to skate off 15 shorthanded situations, five in each game.  It was the first time this season that the Caps faced five or more shorthanded situations in three consecutive games and the first time they did so since Games 8-10 of the 2017-2018 season when they faced five against Detroit (an overtime win) and six each against Florida and Vancouver (both in regulation losses).  As it was, no team spent more time killing penalties than the Caps in Week 11 (25:56), and it meant that by week’s end, only San Jose had spent more time shorthanded for the season (218:22) than had the Caps (211:22).  The takeaway, though, was that the penalty kill allowed the Caps to be the only team in the league to rank in the top five in both power play and penalty kill.

Faceoffs: 88-for-173/50.9 percent (season: 49.6 percent/19th)

It was a pretty good week for the Caps in the faceoff circle.  In addition to winning the week, they were over 50 percent in both the offensive (52.0 percent) and defensive (52.1 percent) zones.  On the other hand, perhaps it should have been a good week here, given the nature of the opposition.  Tampa Bay finished the week as an above-50 percent team (51.2 percent), and the Caps’ 28-for-53 performance against the Lightning could be seen as a bright spot.  However, Columbus finished the week ranked 26th in the league (48.3 percent), so going 37-for-64 (57.8 percent) was not unexpected.  The odd part of the week was the game against Boston.  A team usually thought of as being very efficient in this part of the game, the Bruins are a below-50 percent team this season.  Still, they owned the Caps, holding the Caps to 23 wins in 56 draws (41.1 percent).

Individually, three of the four Caps taking at least ten faceoffs finished over 50 percent.  However, it was the Capital finishing under 50 percent for the week – Nicklas Backstrom – who was the only one of the four Caps to finish over 50 percent in both the offensive (53.3 percent) and defensive (63.2 percent) zones.

Goals by Period:

In the “it’s how you finish” theme, the goals by period certainly reflect strong finishes, for the most part.  The Caps did allow three goals to Columbus in the third period of their contest, but they scored two themselves.  To that, the Caps added the game-winner in the third period of their 3-2 win over Boston, and they broke open a close game with four third period goals against Tampa Bay in a 5-2 win.  The strong performances in the third periods of games allowed the Caps to move into second place in third period goals scored this season (45), one goal behind Bowton (46).  Their two second period goals gave them 40 on the season, allowing them to join Pittsburgh as the only teams in the league with at least 40 goals scored in both the second and third periods of games through Week 11.


A mere “year-over-year" comparison is becoming insufficient to illustrate how well the Caps have performed.  They continue to outpace almost all former editions of the club in performance.  The 24 wins and 53 points earned through 34 games is the second best start in team history, trailing only the 2015-2016 club that had 26 wins and 54 points at the same point of the schedule.

However, the year-over-year numbers to paint the picture of a solid team in each end of the ice.  The goals scored is identical to last season, so the effort to build a better two-way squad has not diminished production in that end of the ice to this point.  However, a seven-goal improvement on defense is more than a fifth of a goal per game, which goes a long way to explaining an eight-point improvement in the standings.  The improvement is more than explained by the penalty kill, which is more than nine percentage points better this year over last and, more important, 12 goals better.

Not that the Caps have been slouches at even strength, at least in limiting opponents in attempts.  The Caps have shaved more than two shot attempts per game off their attempts allowed at 5-on-5 while increasing attempts on offense slightly.  The net of the two result in almost a three-attempt improvement per game – one per period – at 5-on-5, this year over last.

In the end…

When the worst you can say is that the Caps had a “good” week, not a “great” week, things are going pretty well.  Through 34 games, the Caps are on a pace to match the point total that Tampa Bay finished with last season (128).  That would be a point total exceeded only three times in NHL history, only once since the Montreal dynasty days in the 1970’s when they did it in consecutive years, 132 points in 1976-1977 and 129 points in 1977-1978 (Detroit had 131 points in 1995-1996).  It would be tough to maintain this pace for another 48 games, but it is an impressive feat nonetheless to have reached this point in the season with a record as remarkable as this.

Three Stars:
  • First Star: Nicklas Backstrom (2-3-5, plus-2, 58.8 percent faceoff wins in offensive/defensive zones, led forwards in ice time (58:17))
  • Second Star: T.J. Oshie (3-1-4, even, one power play goal)
  • Third Star: Garnet Hathaway (1-0-1, even, game-winning goal, ten credited hits, five blocked shots (led forwards))

Captain rates the week…

Three puppers

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 34: Capitals at Lightning, December 14th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals embark on the first leg of a three-game road trip on Saturday night when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.  The Caps shook off a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday with a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday for their seventh win in eight games.  The Lightning might finally be waking up from their long slumber to start the season.  After dropping four of six games (2-3-1), they have won two in a row, both by one-goal margins, a 2-1 win on the road against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and a 3-2 win over Boston on home ice on Thursday.

Then and Now…

The Caps and Lightning will meet for the 130th time in the regular season on Saturday.  Washington has an 80-33-10 (six ties) record against the Bolts, 36-21-5 (two ties) in Tampa.  Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 44-17-10 against Tampa Bay, 18-12-5 on the road.

Active Leaders vs. Opponent…

Noteworthy Opponents…

Fans expect Steven Stamkos to lead the Lightning in goals.  He does (13).  They expect Nikita Kucherov to lead the team in points.  He does (33).  But if there is an underrated player on the club, it might be Alex Killorn.  If one word describes him in his eight years with the Lightning, it might be “consistent.”  In six full seasons with the club coming into this season, he posted goals in a range of 14 (in 2015-2016 to 19 (in 2016-2017) and points in a range of 36 (in 2016-2017) to 47 (in 2017-2018). He has missed only two games in the last four seasons coming into this one.  He was a plus-22 in each of the last two seasons before this one.  He had 45 penalty minutes in each of the last two seasons before this one.  With Killorn, one knows what one gets.

This season, however, Killorn might have found another level. In 28 games to date (he missed two games to a lower body injury at the end of November), he has nine goals and 24 points, putting him on a pace for 25 goals and 69 points, both of which would shatter previous career highs (19 goals in 2016-2017 and 47 points in 2017-2018).  Part of his success is due to his production on the power play, where his four goals have already tied a career best (four in 2016-2017).  Killorn has been on fire of late.  After going 2-4-6, plus-3, in his first 13 games, he is 7-11-18, plus-4, in his last 15 games, including a four-point game (1-3-4) in a 7-1 win over San Jose last Saturday.  Killorn is 8-1-9, minus-5, in 22 career games against the Caps.

The Lightning have a veteran defensive group.  Of the eight defensemen to dress this season, six are age 29 or older.  At the other end, as the youngest defenseman in the group, is Mikhail Sergachev.  The 21-year old, former ninth overall draft pick (2016, by Montreal) is in his third season with the Lightning after spending four games of the 2016-2017 season with Montreal and then being traded to Tampa Bay with a conditional second round pick in the 2018 Entry Draft for Jonathan Drouin and a conditional sixth round pick in the 2018 Entry Draft.  Sergachev had a fine first season with the Lightning, going 9-31-40, plus-11, in 79 games in 2017-2018.  His nine goals tied for second among rookie defensemen (with Thomas Chabot), trailing only the New York Islanders’ Ryan Pulock (10).  His 31 assists trailed on New Jersey’s Will Butcher (39) among rookie defensemen, and he and Butcher were the only rookie defensemen to post 40 or more points, Sergachev with 40 and Butcher with 44.  He slipped a bit last season, posting six goals and 32 points in 75 games.

This season, Sergachev is back to averaging just over a half-point per game (4-12-16 in 30 games).  He arrived at those totals to date in a roundabout way.  He had six points (all assists) in his first five games, but then he went 0-3-3 in his next 13 games.  He got hot again, going 4-3-7 over the following eight games, but he is now without a point in his last four contests and managed only two shots on goal over those four games.  Watch his ice time.  In 12 games in which he skated less than 18 minutes, the Lightning are 9-1-2, while they are 7-10-1 in the 18 games he skated more than 18 minutes.  Sergachev is 1-2-3, even, in seven career games against the Capitals.

He led the league in goalie wins in 2017-2018 (44).  He did so again last season (39).  Both years, he was a Vezina Trophy finalist, winning the prize last season while also being named as the goalie on the league’s first team all-star squad.  However, there are lingering doubts about Andrei Vasilevskiy being in that elite group of NHL netminders, and that is a product of an iffy postseason record (15-15, 2.83, .912).  If anything, that playoff record has deteriorated over time.  In his first 22 postseason appearances, Vasilevskiy was 12-7, 2.51, .923.  In his last 11 appearances, he is 3-8, 3.41, .890, and he has lost his last six decisions.  Until that record changes, there will be those lingering doubts about whether Vasilevskiy is in that top echelon of NHL goaltenders.

In that regard, perhaps his start to the 2019-2020 season will take some of the heat off, if only because he is off the pace he set over the previous two seasons.  His 2.78 goals against average in 22 games would, if he finished the season there, be his worst in six years in the NHL.  His .910 save percentage is within rounding error of his worst season (2015-2016, when he appeared in only 24 games).  He does not yet have a shutout this season after posting a total of 14 over the previous two seasons.  Vasilevskiy has already lost eight games in regulation this season.  He did not suffer his eighth loss in regulation last year until March 7th and had only ten all year.  And, streakiness has crept into his game.  Starting on November 1st, he had a four-game stretch with an aggregate save percentage of .875.  He followed that up with a three-game stretch with a .941 save percentage.  Then, it was four games with a .876 save percentage.  And now, he goes into the game against the Caps with a three-game streak with a .958 save percentage.  Vasilevskiy is 4-5-1, 3.66, .899 in ten career appearances against Washington.

1.  Only three teams have fewer standings points earned on home ice than the Lightning (17) through Thursday’s games – Ottawa (16), New Jersey (13), and Detroit (11).  The Lightning already have six losses in regulation in 15 games on home ice; last season they had a total of seven in 41 home games.

2.  No team in the league has more power play goals scored on home ice than Tampa Bay (21), and they have the league’s best home power play (36.2 percent).  On the other hand, their 37 even strength goals on home ice are ranked in a tie for 19th place with New Jersey and the New York Rangers.

3.  Only Buffalo and St. Louis have fewer blocked shots on home ice (156 apiece) than the Lightning (165).

4.  The Lightning have the best ratio on home ice of takeaways to giveaways (1.42:1 on 122 takeaways and 86 giveaways).

5.  Tampa Bay has a positive shot attempts differential at 5-on-5 on home ice in almost all situations: when ahead (plus-19), when behind (plus-101), in close situations (plus-9).  Not when tied, though.  Their minus-29 is fourth-worst in the league in those situations.

1.  Washington leads the league in goals scored on the road (61) and scoring average (3.58 per game).

2.  The Caps lead all Eastern Conference teams in power play goals scored on the road (14, three more than Carolina).  Their power play is also best among Eastern Conference teams on the road (27.5 percent).

3.  Washington has spent more time on the road than any other Eastern Conference team in killing penalties (108:57).

4.  No team has been charged with more giveaways on the road so far than the Caps (179).

5.  John Carlson has 27 points on the road this season.  By itself, this would rank fifth in total points among defensemen through Thursday’s games.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Tampa Bay: Kevin Shattenkirk

From February 19, 2011 until February 27, 2017 a span of time that encompassed defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk’s tenure with the St. Louis Blues, Shattenkirk was 11th in total goals scored by defensemen (59), ninth in assists (199), ninth in points (258), tied for fourth in power play goals (32), second in power play points (129), ninth in personal shot attempts differential at 5-on-5 (plus-958).  He was even second among defensemen in Gimmick goals scored (eight).  Little wonder he was considered the prize among players available at the 2017 trading deadline.

And then he came to the Caps.  It did not go well.  His regular season numbers were good enough (2-12-14, plus-4, in 19 games), but he was 1-5-6, minus-4, in 13 games in the postseason, and there weren’t many tears shed when he signed in the ensuing offseason as a free agent with the New York Rangers.  Starting with his stay with the Caps through last season, he played in 138 regular season games with Washington and the Rangers, went 9-56-65, minus-25.  The goal total was tied for 93rd among defensemen over that span, the assists were tied for 40th, the points were tied for 60th.  He had four power play goals (tied for 44th) and 26 power play points (tied for 30th).  There didn’t seem to be many tears shed in Manhattan when he signed with the Lightning as a free agent last July.

He has rehabilitated his image, to a point, with the Lightning.  Through 30 games he has five goals, almost his total in 119 games with the Rangers (seven), and his 22 points put him on a 60-point pace that would eclipse his total of 51 with the Rangers.  Part of the solution might be in a simplified role.  He is getting a lot less power play ice time (1:38 per game) than he had in any of his previous nine seasons (almost a full minute less than he had with the Rangers last season (2:26) that was his previous low average).  On the other hand, he is getting more even strength ice time (17:09 per game) than he had in either Washington or New York.  In 18 career games against the Caps, Shattenkirk is 1-6-7, minus-2.

Washington: Nicklas Backstrom

There are some players of whom it could be said, “he could fall out of bed on his 50th birthday and put up points.”  Nicklas Backstrom did not fall out of bed, and he is not yet near his 50th birthday, but he did miss eight games with an upper body injury before returning to the lineup against Columbus last Monday.  Backstrom had a goal and an assist in that game, and then he followed it up with an assist against Boston on Wednesday to give him points in five straight games, a streak interrupted by that injury absence.  He has averaged a point per game over his last dozen games (3-9-12).  Scoring at a point per game pace is not new for Backstrom.  Among the 103 Capitals to dress for at least 200 games with the club, he is fourth in points per game (0.97), trailing only Mike Gartner (1.04), Alex Ovechkin (1.11), and Dennis Maruk (1.26).

Backstrom is closing on other personal milestones.  With two more assists he will become the first player in team history with 700 career assists with the club.  Six more points, and he will become the second player with 900 points (Ovechkin has 1,244).  He is already the all-time leader in plus-minus, but with a plus-2 in this game would hit the plus-120 mark for his career.  With six power play points he would pass both Brothers Sedin, Daniel and Henrik, on the all-time ranking in power play point among players born in Sweden with 370 power play points.

The odd part of Backstrom’s performance this season is not the points, though.  It is the absence of them.  The Caps are 6-1-3 in games in which he went without a point, 11-3-1 in the games in which he had one or more points.  Backstrom is 13-47-60, plus-9, in 50 career games against the Lightning.  Those 60 points against the Lightning are the most he has against any NHL team in his career.  Since he came into the league in 2007-2008, only Ovechkin among all other players has more points against Tampa Bay (72).

In the end…

The Capitals have had good luck recently in Tampa, earning points in eight of their last ten visits (6-2-2), outscoring the Lightning, 36-32.  Over those ten games, the Caps have power play goals in nine of them (12-for-31 overall, 38.7 percent) while allowing only five power play goals to the Lightning in 28 chances (17.9 percent).  It is on that which the result might turn, the Caps ability to make the Lightning pay for playing outside the rules.

Capitals 4 – Lightning 3

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 32: Bruins at Capitals, December 11th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

It is a mid-week matchup on national television on Wednesday night, pitting the Washington Capitals against the Boston Bruins at Capital One Arena.  These two teams sit atop the league standings, the Caps with 22 wins and 49 points, while the Bruins have 20 wins and 46 points.  The odd part of this matchup, though, is that both teams are coming off losses, the Caps dropping a 5-2 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday in their first game at home after sweeping a four-game road trip, and the Bruins are losers of two straight, a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday and a 5-2 loss in Ottawa to the Senators on Monday.

Then and Now…

This will be the 162nd meeting of these teams in the all-time series.  Washington has a 63-69-8 (21 ties) record against the B’s, 33-31-4 (12 ties) on home ice.  Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 31-12-7 against the Bruins overall, 16-5-4 on home ice.

Active Leaders vs. Opponent…

Noteworthy Opponents…

David Pastrnak has received the attention this season with his hot goal scoring start, but it is Brad Marchand with whom he is tied for the team goal scoring lead on the road at nine goals apiece.  Marchand is also the team’s points leader on the road to date with 22, tied with Connor McDavid for fourth place in the league in road scoring.  Marchand, for all his annoying qualities, has become one of the most prolific scorers in the game.  Since 2016-2017, he is one of only three players to record at least 125 goals and at least 300 points (127/316).  Mc David (131/376) and Nikita Kucherov (130/344) are the others.  When one adds suspensions and fines, Marchand stands alone as a combination of high-end production and high-end aggravation.  How aggravating?  Six suspensions in his career totaling 19 games, eight fines totaling more than $670,000, and two licking incidents

Marchand has yet to run afoul of the league so far this season, but with him it always just seems a matter of time.  What he has done this season is produce points in bunches.  He has 14 multi-point games, tied for second in the league behind Leon Draisaitl (16).  And, perhaps not surprisingly, they are important to Bruin success.  The Bruins are 12-1-1 in those 14 multi-point games, their first regulation loss coming in Boston’s 5-2 loss to Ottawa on Monday night.  Putting up points in bunches has not diminished Marchand’s consistency.  Only three times in 31 games this season has he had consecutive games without a point. However, even with the two assists he posted against Ottawa on Monday, he has only three points in his last six games, all of them assists.  Marchand is 7-9-16, minus-13, in 30 career games against Washington.

Sometime this season, defenseman Zdeno Chara is likely to dress for his 1,000th game as a Bruin, becoming only the second defenseman in team history to do so, joining Ray Bourque (1,518).  No active defenseman in the NHL is within 7,000 minutes of ice time recorded of Chara (36,444 to 29,373 for Jay Bouwmeester).  However, he is also the oldest skater in the league at age 42, and a concession to his age is ice time.  At the moment it is Charlie McAvoy who has the highest average ice time among Boston defensemen so far this season (22:35 to Chara’s 21:21).  What McAvoy has not done with all that ice time, though, is score a goal.  He is the only one of six Bruins defensemen to dress for more than five games yet to record one this season, all nine of his points (second to Tory Krug among defensemen) coming on assists.  McAvoy is no stranger to high ice time loads. He averaged more than 22 minutes per game in each of his first two seasons.  On the other hand, he has an injury history, missing 19 games of the 2017-2018 season to heart arrhythmia and an MCL sprain and 27 games of the 2018-2019 season to a lower body injury and a concussion.

The odd part about McAvoy’s ice time is that more is not necessarily a good thing.  Boston is 7-2-6 in the 15 games in which he skated more than 22:30, 13-3-0 in the 16 games in which he skated 22:30 or less. He has some other odd statistical quirks about his record this season, too.  For instance, the Bruins have not lost a game in regulation in which he did not receive credit for a hit (6-0-2).  Blocked shots, though, are a good thing.  Boston is 11-1-3 in the 15 games in which he recorded two or more, 9-4-3 in the 16 games in which he had one or none.  Another… he has three shots on goal in only three games this season, but the Bruins lost all of them (0-1-2).  McAvoy is 0-3-3, even, in six career games against the Caps.

Can Tuukka Rask make it tuukka…uh, two in a row?  Rask won his last appearance against the Caps, pitching a 24-save shutout last February 3rd in a 1-0 Boston win.  It was only the second win Rask has against the Caps in his career, the odd thing about the wins being that both came via shutout.  The other came in a 3-0 win over the Caps in March 2014.  The Caps have been Rask’s personal nightmare for almost all of his 13 seasons.  Consider that against the rest of the league, Rask has a career record of 276-142-56, 2.24, .923, with 45 shutouts.  But against Washington, he is 2-11-5, 3.10, .889, with two shutouts.  Against individual teams, Rask has a higher GAA only against Anaheim (3.62 in eight games), and only against the Ducks (.886) and Vancouver (.865 in ten games) does he have a lower save percentage.  Anaheim and Caolorado are the only teams against which Rask has fewer wins (one in eight games against each team).

Rask has been unbeatable so far on home ice, at least in regulation, posting an 8-0-3, 2.05, .931 record with two shutouts.  He has been more vulnerable on the road, though, barely… 5-3-0, 2.39, .921. He has been universally stingy though, the seven complete games he has in allowing one or no goals being tied for second-most in the league, trailing only Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck (nine).  Four of the instances came on home ice, three on the road.  Rask goes into this game having allowed seven goals on 57 shots (.877 save percentage) in his last two outings, both of them losses (0-1-1).

1.  Boston is the only team in the league that, through Monday’s games, is top-five in the league in scoring offense (fifth), scoring defense (third), power play (third), and penalty kill (fourth).

2.  Only Philadelphia has suffered more losses via the Gimmick (five) than Boston (four, tied with Chicago and New Jersey). They are the only team with four or more Gimmick losses without a win and only one of two with two or more losses without a win (St. Louis is 0-3).

3.  This might be a game in which shots matter.  Both Boston and the Caps are tied for second fewest losses in regulation when outshooting opponents (two; the Islanders have one).

4.  Boston has the second-best winning percentage in the league when allowing the first goal (.583/7-2-3), trailing only the New York Islanders (.600/9-5-1).

5.  Odd Bruins stat… they recorded 40 or more shots in road games four times so far this season and lost three of them (1-2-1).

1.  Only the New York Rangers among Eastern Conference teams have been charged with more penalties (136) than the Caps (131), and in the league as a whole, only Calgary has been charged with more minor penalties (124) than the Caps (119).

2.  No team has missed the net more than Caps when shooting the puck this season (420 missed shots).

3.  If history is a guide, don’t turn in early.  The Caps and Bruins rank 1-2 in third period goals, Boston leading the league with 43 and the Caps tied with three other teams with 40.

4.  The Caps have out-shot opponents 17 times this season and earned points in 15 of those games (13-2-2).  The win total tops the league; the total of games with points earned is tied with Pittsburgh (12-7-3).

5.  The Caps time differential on special teams (minus-33:17) is second-worst in the league, trailing only San Jose (minus-38:01).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Boston: David Pastrnak

Since 2005-2006, only three players in the league recorded at least 25 goals in his team’s first 31 games – Alex Ovechkin (twice – 28 goals in 2018-2019 and 26 goals in 2013-2014) and Sidney Crosby (26 goals in 2010-2011) are two of them.  The other is Boston’s David Pastrnak, who has 25 goals in 31 games to date.  He has slowed down a bit, though.  After putting up 11 goals in his first ten games, he had six in his next ten and eight in his last 11 games.  It is still a 55-goal pace that he put up in his last 21 games, but what might be signaling a slowdown a bit stronger is that he is without a goal in his last four games, his longest goal scoring drought, so to speak, of the season.

Pastrnak has displayed a home-road split in his goal scoring.  In 18 games on home ice this season he has 16 goals, well clear of the 13 goals on home ice scored by Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel for most in the league.  On the road, he has nine goals in 13 games (as many as Caps’ defenseman John Carlson, but we will get to him in a moment).  That is still tied for fifth-most in the league (with, among others, teammate Brad Marchand), but it is less impressive than, say, the 15 goals scored in 17 road games by Alex Ovechkin (most in the league). 

Pastrnak is certainly no fluke or fly-by-night goal scorer.  He is almost certain to be a 30-plus goal scorer for the fourth straight season and is a good bet to shatter his career best of 38 goals set last season in just 66 games.  It does raise the question of whether, at still the young age of 23, he is the next in a series of “heir apparents” to Ovechkin as the league’s premier goal scorer.  Over the last four seasons, including this one, he is second to Ovechkin in total goals scored (132 to 154 for Ovechkin), so he has to be considered a contender.  In 13 career games against the Caps, Pastrnak is 4-5-9, minus-11.

Washington: John Carlson

John Carlson is putting up some wild numbers early, but there is a distinct “home versus road” quality to them.  On the road he is 9-18-27, plus-17, in 17 games.  That would be first in goals, first in assists, first in points, and first in plus-minus.  And, he is shooting 18.0 percent, tops among all defensemen with at least ten shots on goal.  Only once in 17 road games did he not record a point, that in Vancouver on October 25th in a 6-5 Gimmick win. 

Then there are the home games.  In 15 games at Capital One Arena, Carlson is 2-14-16, plus-2.  The goal total is tied for 37th among defensemen, the assists still rank first, the points rank second, and the plus-minus is tied for 88th.  His 4.8 shooting percentage ranks tied for 93rd (with, among others, Dmitry Orlov).  Carlson has points in eight of 15 games played on home ice.  He has been all or nothing in wins on home ice, posting four multi-point games in wins and four games without a point in wins.  He has four games on home ice with four or more shots on goal in wins, four others in wins in which he had one or no shots.

Then there is the odd plus-minus thing on home ice.  Three times he has been plus-2 on home ice, but he did not record a point.  Three times he has been minus-2, and he had points in two of those games.  However, Carlson is 5-10-15, plus-12, in his career against Boston.  All of his career goals against the Bruins have been scored on home ice.

In the end…

Boston does everything well – score, defend, play special teams.  The Caps just roll over opponents like Lord Juggernaut’s cart.  When the Caps beat the Bruins in Boston, 3-2 in a Gimmick, in mid-November, it was their 15th win in the last 16 games against the Bruins.  They are 11-3-0 in their last 14 games against the Bruins on home ice and will be trying to avoid consecutive losses to Boston on home ice for the first time since April 2010 and the first time losing consecutive games to Boston in regulation on home ice since the 1995-1996 season.  It is the kind of odd dominance one team has over another in team sports, even when both teams have a history of strong play otherwise.  There is little reason to think it won’t continue in a manner pleasing to Caps fans.

Capitals 3 – Bruins 2

Sunday, December 08, 2019

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 32: Blue Jackets at Capitals, December 9th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals return home for the first time in ten days when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at Capital One Arena.   The Caps come home on a hot streak, winners of six in a row and with the best ten-game record in the league (8-1-1, tied with Boston).  Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets are sinking in the standings and are on a four-game losing streak, one short of their season longest.

Then and Now…

This will be the 41st meeting of these division rivals in the all-time series.  Washington has a 24-10-5 (one tie) record against Columbus, 12-3-3 (one tie) on home ice.  Since 2005-2006, the Caps are 20-9-5 against the Blue Jackets overall, 11-3-3 on home ice.

Active Leaders vs. Opponent…

Noteworthy Opponents…

Rick Nash owns most of the meaningful career records in Columbus Blue Jacket history, but Cam Atkinson is second in many of those categories and could end up on top of most of them before his years in Columbus are over.  Atkinson is currently second on the all-time list in games played for the franchise (556), second in goals (191), fourth in assists (167), second in points (358), tied for fourth in plus-minus (plus-24, with Brandon Saad), second in power play goals (41), second in shorthanded goals (12), second in game-winning goals (39), and second in shots on goal (1,673).  Last season he set a personal best in goals scored (41) and posted his second season of 35 or more goals in his career (he had 35 in 2016-2017).

This season, perhaps the loss of Artemi Panarin to the New York Rangers in free agency is weighing on him, creating the pressure to be the go-to goal scorer.  He has only five goals in 29 games to date, only two on 53 shots (3.8 percent shooting) in his last 19 games.  His goal scoring on the road has been non-existent.  He has yet to record his first goal outside of Ohio, going 0-for-32 shooting in 12 road games to date.  It is part of a longer goal-scoring drought on the road that extends back to last season.  Atkinson has two goals in his last 22 road games dating back to last March.  Washington might provide a remedy to his problems.  Atkinson is 10-7-17, plus-2, in 25 career games against the Caps.

Staying healthy on the blue line has been a challenge for Columbus.  Only two defensemen have dressed for all 29 games to date, Seth Jones and David Savard.  Jones, a former fourth overall draft pick (of Nashville in 2013) has developed into one of the premier defensemen in the league.  Savard is less renowned.  Taken in the fourth round (94th overall) in the 2009 Entry Draft, the 34th defenseman drafted among 70 defensemen taken overall, only four defensemen taken in that draft have dressed for more than the 518 games on Savard’s resume (Victor Hedman: 721, Oliver Ekman-Larsson: 688, Nick Leddy: 683, and Dmitry Kulikov: 651).  He has not been a big point-getter, but he has been consistent, posting more than 20 points in four of his six full seasons before this one. However, like many Blue Jackets it seems, the off-season changes have left him struggling to contribute.  He has only four assists and no goals in 29 games to date and has yet to post a point on the road this season.  Savard is 3-1-4, even, in 24 career games against the Caps.

With the changes in Columbus come opportunities for young players.  The Blue Jackets have dressed six rookies so far this season, a group led in scoring by forward Emil Bemstrom.  Taken in the fourth round of trhe 2017 Entry Draft (117th overall), Bemstrom might not have received a lot of attention in the draft, but with 28 games on his resume to date (all of them this season), he has more NHL games under his belt than any player taken after the second round of that 2017 draft so far.  He has run into a bit of a wall, though.  Bemstrom was 3-5-8, even, in his first 20 games this season, but he is just 0-1-1, minus-2 in eight games since.  At least he has points on the road, though, going 2-1-3 in 12 games.  This would be Bemstrom’s first career appearance against the Caps.

1.  No Blue Jacket appearing in more than three games is so much as “even” in the plus-minus ratings. Four players – Jakob Lilja, Markus Nutivaara, Eric Robinson, and Riley Nash – are minus-1.

2.  The Blue Jacket power play has had its problems in one respect.  No team has allowed more shorthanded goals than the Blue Jackets, the five goals tied with Calgary, Buffalo, and Edmonton for most road shorties allowed.

3.  Only three teams have taken fewer penalties than the 91 charged to Columbus (New York Islanders: 90, Winnipeg: 82, and Florida: 82).

4.  No team has taken fewer leads into the first intermission than Columbus (five), and no team has a worse record when doing so (2-2-1).  Ditto with leads taken into the second intermission – four (fewest in the league) with a 2-1-1 record (.500 winning percentage).

5.  Columbus doesn’t blow other teams out.  Their two wins by three or more goals is second-fewest in the league.  Only Detroit, who has yet to record such a win, has fewer.

1.  The Caps don’t get blown out.  Only Boston and Arizona, with one loss by three or more goals apiece, have fewer than the Caps (three, tied with Montreal and Tampa Bay).

2.  The Caps and the New York Rangers are the only teams in the league without a two-goal loss this season.

3.  Washington is tied with Winnipeg for the most one-goal wins so far this season (11).

4.  If the Caps get shots, they win.  No team has more wins when out-shooting an opponent (13), and no team has fewer losses in regulation (one, tied with the Bruins and Islanders).

5.  The Caps are a top-ten team in scoring in every period this season – tied for sixth in first period goals (32), tied for second in second period goals (38), tied for fourth in third period goals (38), and tied for third in overtime goals (four).  They are also fourth in total Gimmick goals scored (six).

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

Columbus: Joonas Korpisalo

With Sergei Bobrovsky now working on his tan in south Florida, the goaltending duties for the time being fall to Joonas Korpisalo.  He is not a goaltender with a long resume.  Taken in the third round (62nd overall) in the 2012 Entry Draft by the Blue Jackets, he is in his fifth NHL season.  However, his 22 starts this season have already surpassed last year’s 21 starts, and his 11 wins top last year’s ten victories.  Only in his 2015-2016 rookie season did he have more starts (30) and wins (16).  That rookie season (16-11-4, 2.60, .920) gave him a long leash, it appears, to prove himself, and this season he has clear control of the number one spot for the first time in his career.

What Korpisalo has not done since that rookie year, and what he has not done this season, is approach the level of performance that rookie season appeared to foretell.  In 81 games since that rookie season (73 starts), he is 36-30-6, 3.00, .899, with two shutouts.  That includes an 11-10-1, 2.85, .900 record this season with one shutout.  He has been better of late, though.  After going 6-7-1, 3.13, .895 in his first 14 appearances this season, Korpisalo is 5-3-0, 2.38, .909, with the one shutout.  What is ominous about that record is the he lost his last two appearances, despite facing low shot volumes, stopping only 40 of 46 shots in losses to Arizona and the Rangers.  He has had his troubles in limited road action, going 3-2-0, 3.42, .903.  In two career appearances against the Caps, Korpisalo is 1-0-0, 1.16, .958.

Washington: Alex Ovechkin

Three games.  It does not sound like a lot, but that is the streak of game without a goal that Alex Ovechkin brings into Monday night’s game, tying his longest of the season.  But no need to panic.  He did have goals in each of the three games before this mini-slump.  It is a case of sometimes the shots going in (five goals on 16 shots in three games) and sometimes the shots not going in (no goals on 12 shots in his last three games).  What Ovechkin has been doing, regardless of being hot or cold, is ramping up his shots.  The 4.74 shots per game he is averaging so far this season is his highest average since the 5.04 shots per game he posted in 2015-2016, although that average still does not rank it the top half of season averages in his career (it is ninth-highest in 15 seasons to date).

Even with the increase in shot frequency this season, Ovechkin is continuing his late career improvements in shooting efficiency.  At 13.6 percent shooting this year, three of his highest six shooting percentage seasons have come in the last three years, including the career best 15.1 percent he had last season (this season’s 13.6 percent is sixth best in his career).  But shots have hardly mattered much, an indicator of the depth of this team.  The Caps are 11-2-5 in the 18 games in which Ovechkin recorded five or more shots on goal, 11-2-0 in the 13 games in which he had fewer than five shots on goal.  In 34 career games against Columbus, Ovechkin is 17-8-25, minus-13.

In the end…

Columbus doesn’t score much on the road (second fewest goals scored on the road this season: 29), and they don’t defend well (44 goals on the road).  And here is another nugget to chew on.  In each of the last five seasons in the Caps’ first home game following a road trip that included the California trip, they won, twice against Winnipeg, once each against Carolina, Minnesota, and the Islanders.  Time to add the Blue Jackets to that list.

Capitals 5 – Blue Jackets 2