The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals wrap up their three-game home stand with their
first meeting against the Carolina Hurricanes this season and their first
meeting against their old friend…
…Jordan Staal, as a Hurricane.
HA! Thought that was going to be
an Alexander Semin reference, didn’t you?
The Hurricanes, with the Brothers Staal and Alexander Semin, not to
mention a host of other names Caps fans have become acquainted with over the
years, will descend upon Washington looking to dig themselves out of a bit of a
rut. Carolina’s 4-2 win over the New
York Islanders on Sunday broke a three-game losing streak, their longest of the
It was not a very productive week for the ‘Canes. They were outscored by their opponents, 14-9,
and twice they dropped three-goal decisions.
They have had an anemic power play (1-for-12), although their penalty
kill was superb (a perfect 14-for-14).
But the big problem over these four games has been their third period
play. In the three-game losing streak,
the Hurricanes allowed a total of 10 goals in the final frame on 33 shots. They halted that slide, allowing the
Islanders no third period goals in Carolina’s 4-2 win.
The Hurricanes’ first periods have been anything but electrifying,
too. In these last four games, including
the win over the Islanders, Carolina scored one first period goal. No team has fewer first period goals this season
than Carolina (7), and only three teams have allowed more scores in the opening
period than the 20 allowed to date by Carolina.
It has really put the Hurricanes behind the eight ball early. In 17 games so far they have allowed the
first goal 13 times with a record of 6-7-0 in those games.
What the early-game troubles had meant for Carolina is that even with a
respectable record when trailing at the intermissions, they are fighting uphill
– 4-5-0 when trailing at the first break and 2-4-1 when behind after 40
minutes. Even though they lead the
woeful Southeast Division, Carolina has been very accommodating in terms of
letting teams get the early advantage.
Here is how the Hurricanes and Capitals compare in their season numbers
1. Cam Ward is in breathing
distance of putting up the worst regular season numbers for a full season in
his career. His 3.16 goals against
average would be almost a quarter of a goal game worse than his worst full
season number to date (2.93 in 60 appearances in 2006-2007). His save percentage of .898 is within a point
of his current low, .897, also in the 2006-2007 season. He does have a good career record against the
Caps, though. In 31 career appearances
Ward is 16-10-4, 2.53, .922, with four shutouts.
2. At the other end of the
spectrum of bests and worsts, Jordan Staal is on a pace to obliterate his
career best points per game average.
Last season he posted 50 points in 62 games while with the Pittsburgh
Penguins (0.81/game). Through 17 games
to date this season he has 15 points (0.88/game). He is on a pace to set a career assist mark
(31, with 28 being his previous career high, in a full 82-game 2009-2010), despite this being
a 48-game season. He has had mixed
success against the Caps, going 6-1-7 in 21 games, but with a minus-5 rating.
3. The other Brother Staal –
Eric – is having something of a renaissance year. Last season Eric Staal
posted his lowest goal total (24) since the 2004-2005 lockout. He was a minus-20 and was on ice for more
goals against than any NHL forward (98).
This season, though, he has nine goals in 17 games (a 43-goal pace per
82 games) and is a team-best plus-11. So
far he has been on ice for only nine goals against while being on ice for 26
goals of the 50 goals scored by the Hurricanes.
He has a fine career record against the Caps – 24-32-56, plus-7, in 54
4. Carolina has dressed nine
defensemen so far this season, including (we kid you not), Michal Jordan. How’s that for a Carolina theme? What it means is that only Jay Harrison has
played in all 17 games on the Carolina blue line. Harrison is tied with Joe Corvo and Justin
Faulk with two goals to lead the defense, and he is tied with Faulk for the
lead in points among defensemen with seven.
If there is a problem, it is that he has been on ice for 22 goals
against, high on the team for the defense.
5. Carolina might rank in the
top-ten in scoring offense with 50 goals in 17 games (2.94/game) but five of
them -- ten percent of their total – are of the empty-net variety, tied with
Pittsburgh for tops in the league.
1. Troy Brouwer likes southern
cooking, apparently. Of his eight goals
so far, five of them have come in five Southeast Division games, including at
least one against each of the three division teams he has faced to date.
2. Washington has 12 power play
goals over their last nine games. That
is more than 13 teams have in total for the season. With 17 power play goals for the season they
are averaging precisely twice as many per game (1.00) than they did last season
(0.50), and it is their highest PPG/game since averaging 1.04 PPG/game in
3. Alex Ovechkin has now gone 96
games and 46 straight goals without one of those tallies being an empty netter.
4. After starting the season
1-4-0, 4.73, .857; Braden Holtby is 4-2-0, 2.35, .926, with one shutout. If he gets the start on Tuesday and wins it
will be his best run of success since going 8-0-1 in his last nine decisions of
the 2010-2011 season. Of particular note
in this recent run is that in his last three appearances he allowed only one
even strength goal in each game.
5. The penalty kill might have
turned a corner. Since going 1-for-3
against the Penguins on February 7th, the Caps are 21-for-23 (91.3
percent) over their last six games. As
it turns out though, in the two games in which they allowed a power play goal,
they lost. Both the goals were
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
Carolina: Alexander Semin
What? You were thinking Drayson
Bowman? Alexander Semin comes into this
game having busted out of a slump in a big way on Sunday. After a five-game run in which he was 0-1-1,
minus-1, he was 1-2-3, plus-1 in the Hurricanes’ 4-2 win over the New York
Islanders. Curiously enough, that
five-game drought came on the heels of another 1-2-3 effort against the
Islanders on February 11th.
Think of it this way. Semin is
2-4-6, plus-5 in two games against the Fishermen, but he is 2-6-8, plus-5 in 15
other games. Not bad, but not especially
extraordinary, either. One of the odd
numbers in his totals so far has to do with shots on goal. Semin recorded 35 shots in his first eight
games. He has only 26 shots on goal in
his last nine contests.
Washington: Jason Chimera
If you looked at his career numbers against Carolina, you might think,
“nope, not going to happen tonight.”
Chimera, who is still without a goal so far this season, has only one in
19 career games against the Hurricanes (1-2-3).
What is worse, he has only three assists over his last 12 games (0-3-3,
minus-6), and he has only 15 shots on goal in his last ten contests. He has only seven goals over his last 66
regular season games. He is ninth among
Caps forwards in ice time per game.
Reading this, you might think us pessimistic about Chimera’s chances of
breaking out of his drought. You would
be wrong. He is breaking out… tonight.
1. Be a Front Runner. Carolina
has led a game at the first intermission once in 17 tries this season. They have led at the second intermission five
times. In all of those situations, they
won. Do the math.
2. Put 'em in a box. Carolina has had a bit of an odd progression
on special teams. In their first eight
games they faced 38 shorthanded situations, killing off 28 of them (73.7
percent penalty kill). In their last
nine games they have gone shorthanded only 31 times, killing off 25 of them
(80.7 percent). The Hurricanes suffer a
problem similar to that the Caps have faced, an inability to deal with high
volumes of power plays faced.
3. 40-60. In eight losses so far this season the
Hurricanes have allowed 14 third period goals and an overtime goal. This is a team that has had issues with 60
minutes of play. The Caps have not had
extraordinary success in the third period (16 goals in 17 games, 13th
in the league), but the Hurricanes are a team that has provided opportunities
In the end…
This is one of those “four-point” games that is worthy of the term. The Caps can close to within four points of
Carolina with a win (and Tampa Bay), with all of those teams stuck on 18 games
played after tomorrow night. It would be
a good springboard for a road trip that will take the Caps to Philadelphia and
Winnipeg. If the Caps lose they drop
eight points behind Carolina and would remain six behind Tampa Bay. It would compound a problem they already face
– too deep a hole and too few games left to dig out of it. But with a 4-2-0 record over their last six
games the Caps look more and more like the playoff contender folks expected
when the season started. Playing at that
pace over the rest of the year would get them at around the 54-point mark, on the cusp of a playoff spot.
It is important to keep up the pace.
Capitals 4 – Hurricanes 2