The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals try for the third time to win their
first home game of the season on Thursday night when they host the New Jersey
Devils at Verizon Center. This game
presents an interesting symmetry. The
Caps have not yet won at home (0-0-2), the Devils have not yet lost on the road
(3-0-0). The last time that the Devils
won their first three road games was in 2009-2010 when they beat the Tampa Bay
Lightning and the Florida Panthers before knocking off the Capitals in a
Gimmick. It was the start of a nine-game
road winning streak to start the season.
This edition of the Devils shows some early season
punch. Thirteen goals in four games
ranks New Jersey third in the NHL in scoring offense. Not that they have abandoned their signature
defense for a run-and-gun attack. Their
2.00 goals allowed per game in the early going is tied for sixth in scoring
defense, and they have allowed just one goal in each of their last two games,
both wins in Florida against the Panthers and the Lightning.
The Devils have done the right things. They score first (true in all three games),
they take a lead to the locker room (four leads in six intermissions; they have
never trailed at a break), they close fast (four third period goals), they win
the even strength battles (outscoring teams 10-3 at evens). They have “lost” only one period of hockey
this season, the second period in their opener against the Philadelphia Flyers
when the Flyers scored three to the Devils’ two. The Devils won, 6-4, on the heels of a 3-1
We take special note here of the ageless wonder, Jaromir
Jagr. Here is an amazing fact that Caps
fans might uniquely appreciate. Since
Jagr was traded from the Caps to the New York Rangers in Janauary 2004, he has
played in 477 games and has a scoring line of 183-292-475, plus-86. That’s a career most guys would be thrilled
to have, and he’s done it having passed the prime of his career. And, while he
ranks only 76th all-time
in games played after the age of 35 (285,
and counting), he is 34th in points
and counting; tied, curiously enough, with former teammate Mario Lemieux. If you
are not impressed with that, consider that he missed three full seasons after
age 35 playing in the KHL and missed another half season in the 2012-2013
lockout. He is eighth all-time in points
recorded after reaching age 40 (104, and counting).
Here is how the teams compare in their numbers from last season:
1. Mike Cammalleri
has four goals for the Devils in the early going. No other player has more than one, but there
are nine other “ones,” which is why the Devils are third in scoring offense in
this early part of the season.
2. Jordin Tootoo
signed a one-year, league minimum contract with the Devils on October 7th. He’s not there to score or play a lot of
minutes. In his last 33 games he is
1-4-5 and has played more than ten minutes in a game just three times.
3. The Devils have
used just 18 skaters so far this season, the minimum complement. Only two of them are as bad as “even” on the
plus-minus meter: Martin Havlat and Bryce Salvador.
4. The Detroit Red
Wings have long been regarded as “Team Geriatric” as one of, if not the oldest
team in the league. No more. The Devils are the only team in the NHL with
an average age over 30
and more than three years older than the league
average. Thirteen of the 18 skaters they have skated
are older than 30.
5. As of games
through Tuesday the Devils faced the second-most shorthanded situations in the
league – 17, one fewer than the Montreal Canadiens. Only three teams had more power play
opportunities (12). As a gross measure
of the effectiveness of their special teams, the Devils are third in special
teams time differential with minus-7:30 (lower numbers are better).
1. The Last time that the Capitals went their
first three home games without a win was in the three games to open the
1984-1985 season. That season, the Caps
lost their home opener to the New York Islanders in overtime, 8-7. Then they were shutout by the Pittsburgh
Penguins, 4-0, and lost to the Quebec Nordiques, 4-2. It was part of a seven-game losing streak to start the season. They finished that season with a 48-27-5
2. Of 20 skaters
taking the ice for the Caps so far this season, only five are on the minus-side
of the ledger. Given their
responsibilities, they are five players one hopes do not spend much time there:
Joel Ward (minus-1), Brooks Laich (minus-2), Brooks Orpik (minus-2), Jason
Chimera (minus-2), and John Carlson (minus-3).
3. Andre Burakovsky
has scored four points, has three shots on goal, ranks second in rookie
scoring, and has a power play goal.
Partridge in a pear tree, extra.
4. The Caps have two
of the top seven rookies in scoring: Burakovsky (1-3-4) and Evgeny Kuznetsov
(0-2-2) and three of the top 15 (add in Liam O’Brien’s assist). Only Columbus has as many rookies in the
top-20 (which means “the only 20 rookies who have points”). Yeah, it’s early.
5. From the “Let’s
Give the Fans a Show” file… the Caps have gone to extra time in 37 of their
last 102 games, 26 of them were Gimmicks.
That’s a lot of hockey.
The Peerless’ Players to Ponder
: Damon Severson
Where once the likes of Scott Stevens, Scott Niederrmayer,
and Ken Daneyko roamed for the New Jersey Devils, so today does Damon
Severson. “Who is Damon Severson,” you
ask? He is a rookie defenseman for New
Jersey who has been fast-tracked to the NHL.
Drafted in the second round (60th overall) in 2012, young Mr. Severson
followed that up with two more seasons with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western
Hockey League (with a couple of games in Albany of the AHL thrown in), then was
in the Devils’ lineup to start the 2014-2015 season. In three games thus far he has averaged 19:03
in ice time and has a goal (the only one so far scored by a Devils defenseman)
and an assist.
Brooks Orpik has been on ice for five goals against in three
games so far, all of them in the Caps’ 6-5 Gimmick loss to the San Jose Sharks
on Tuesday night. Consider that last
season Orpik was 75th
in total minutes played and tied for 41st
in most goals against/on-ice. Sounds not-so-good. But he was right in the
middle in plus-minus/on-ice per 60 minutes last season with the Pittsburgh
Penguins (108th of 197 defensemen
appearing in at least 40 games). Three games is not a trend, given that he was
a middle-of-the-pack player last season in his plus-minus. It is something to watch, though, and whether
the defensive pairs are shaken up to improve the 5-on-5 performance.
Is New Jersey a good team playing well, or merely a team
playing well? The new guys – Mike
Cammalleri and Martin Havlat – have made their contributions. They have combined for five of the Devils’ 13
goals so far, each of them with a game-winner.
Cory Schneider has been solid in his last two starts, even if his GAA (2.00)
and save percentage (.937) are probably past a sustainably high level. Nevertheless, this is a team against which
the Caps will have to contend for a playoff spot in the tight Metropolitan
Division. The Caps are still in the
Barry Trotz Beginner Class phase of their season’s development and still have
four points in three games (a 109 point pace).
The Devils are always a tough team to play against, and the Caps will
have to wade through a lot of obstacles to get their chances. It is another good early season test.