Friday, November 14, 2014

A NO-point night -- Game 16: Devils 1 - Capitals 0

[Take a look at the QuickCap and the Recap we penned over at Japers’ Rink for more details on the Caps’ 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils.]

You could see it coming with every minute that was ticking by.  As the Washington Capitals and the New Jersey Devils moved long through their contest at Verizon Center on Friday night, it looked more and more as if the game would turn on a moment. A deflection, a shot through a screen, or a turnover.

If you had “turnover,” you win the prize.  Braden Holtby’s giveaway in the tenth minute of the third period – a gift that he placed on the stick of Mike Cammalleri – was the deciding moment in the Devils’ 1-0 win over the Caps.  Stopping a dump-in behind his own net, Holtby turned and looked to send the puck on its way on the other side of the net.  You might wonder just to whom Holtby is about to direct the puck…

And once he did, he remembered that it’s the open side of the net you really want to be in front of…

Which led to much rejoicing by the men dressed in white jerseys…

Other than that, this was one  of the more boring games you’ll see this season, which was just fine if you were a Devils fan.  They hounded, badgered, and frustrated the Caps all night, especially in their attempts to spring Alex Ovechkin loose on the power play.  Ovechkin registered no shots on goal in 6:54 of power play ice time.  This against the worst penalty killing team in the league, one that was perfect in killing penalties for only the fourth time in 17 games.

It made for an exasperating evening for the home team.  The threesome that started the game as the top line – Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Jay Beagle – managed only five shots on goal as a group, only three of those at even strength.  Andre Burakovsky was hemmed in and bottled up well enough to prevent his recording a shot on goal.  Welcome to Devils Hockey, Mr. Burakovsky.  Nine of the Caps’ shots on goal came from defensemen.

It was not as if the Caps played poorly.  After all, they “played” to what should have been a shutout from their end, a game in which they would likely have earned at least one standings point but for Holtby’s moment of brain lock.  There was, though, the matter of who dictated pace.  On that score, the Devils certainly had the advantage.  They won the Corsi wars marginally at 5-on-5 (36-34, according to, but the pace of the game slowed to a crawl over long stretches. 

In the end…

This game was especially disappointing.  It was a loss against a division rival who leapfrogged the Caps in the division standings.  It was a game there for the taking, given the Caps power play and Devils penalty kill performance coming into this game.  And, it would have been a good way to head out on a three-game road trip, trip that now looks more difficult given the way St. Louis is playing lately (very well), Arizona already having beaten the Caps once this season, and the memory of Colorado speed rushing the Caps into losses last year perhaps still a bit fresh.  It is going to be a challenging week, made more so by this loss.

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 16: Devils at Capitals, November 14th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

The Washington Capitals look to extend their three-game winning streak to four as they host the New Jersey Devils on Friday night at Verizon Center.   This will be the second of five meetings between the clubs, the first of which was won by the Caps on October 16th by a 6-2 score.

Starting with that first meeting with the Caps, one that ended the Devils’ three-game winning streak to open the season, New Jersey is 4-7-2.  They have won consecutive games only once in those 13 games, October 30 and November 2nd against Winnipeg and Columbus, respectively, teams with a combined record of 12-16-3.  Their power play has been anemic, their 8-for-42 run (19.0 percent) skewed by the fact that seven of those eight power play goals were scored in three games.  They went without a power play goal in nine of the 13 contests.  The penalty kill (28-for-46; 60.1 percent) has been worse.  It is almost impossible these days to have a special teams index lower than 90.0 (sum of power play and penalty kill percentages).  But there, they are, with a special teams index number of 87.1 for the season (79.1 in their 13-game skid).  It is hardly surprising that they have been outscored overall, 43-29 in those 13 games.  At the moment, this is not the New Jersey Devils team we came to know over the past two decades.

The Devils come into this game losers of four in a row before snapping their streak with a 3-1 win over Minnesota on Tuesday.  Over those last five games the Devils have only ten goals.  That’s the bad part.  Not that there is a good one, but if you’re looking for one, their meager scoring is balanced.  Eight different players share the ten goals, 17 different players have points. 

The Ageless Wonder, Jaromir Jagr, leads the Devils in points in those five games with four (1-3-4).  It figures.  Jagr leads the team in total scoring (3-9-12).  But here’s the thing.  That team-leading 12 points ranks tied for 53rd in the league.  If that’s your leader, what does the rest of the team look like?

As it turns out, not much, at least on offense.  Mike Cammalleri is the only other Devil in double digits in points (6-4-10) and leads the team in goals.  Those six goals rank tied for 27th in the league.  This is not a team that scores much, at least lately.

But here is where things take a turn.  Almost a quarter of the Devils’ goals this season come from the blue line.  Five different defensemen have goals, led by Damon Severson, who has four of them, including both of the Devils’ goals in the 6-2 loss to Washington in October.  He has only one goal since, covering a span of 12 games.  In this five-game skid in which the Devils find themselves, they have only on goal from the defense, that coming from Marek Zidlicky in a 4-3 loss at St. Louis on November 6th.

Here is how the teams compare in their numbers through Wednesday’s games:

1.  New Jersey is a respectable defensive team at 5-on-5, having allowed only 25 goals in 16 games (tied for ninth fewest).  They are the only ones getting killed on their penalty kill, though, allowing 20 power play goals to opponents, easily the worst in the league (Buffalo: 16).

2.  The Devils have not scored more than three goals in a game since Game 2 on October 11th, a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers.

3.  It’s not even as if the Devils are a poor-efficiency team when it comes to shooting the puck.  The league average shooting percentage is 8.9 percent; the Devils are shooting 9.9 percent as a team.  Four players appearing in at least ten games are shooting better than 15 percent.

4.  New Jersey’s problem is shooting the puck.  They are 29th in shots per game and have out-shot teams only five times in 16 games.  The strange part of that is that the Devils are just 1-3-1 in those five games.  Only Ottawa has won fewer games when outshooting their opponent (0).

5.  Despite their offensive shortcomings, the Devils remain a decent possession team.  They are 11th in Corsi-for percentage at 5-on-5 (51.60), right behind Washington (51.74), numbers from

1.  If it’s a blowout it is likely, as it was in the first meeting between these teams, to be in Washington’s favor.  The Caps are 3-3-3 in one-goal games, 2-2 in two-goal decisions.  They are 2-0 in games decided by three of more goals.

2.  The Caps have gone ten games without having to resort to the Gimmick to settle things.  It took the Caps until Game 66 last year before they went longer without going to the shootout.

3.  Not team in the league has spent less ice time on the power play than the Caps (69:44).  It is a little deceiving; the Caps are 11th in home power play time (52:28).

4.  Washington has not scored fewer than three goals in a game in the month of November.  They are also just 3-2-1 in doing so.

5.  The Caps are 3-4-4 in their last 11 games against the Devils dating back to November 2011.  They are winless in their last 14 games to the Devils in which they went to extra time dating back to April 13, 2002 (0-13-1).  The last time they beat the Devils in an extra time game was on January 14, 2000, when they beat Devils, 3-2, in New Jersey.  The last time the Caps won an extra time game at home against New Jersey was March 7, 1992, beating them by the same 3-2 score.

The Peerless’ Players to Ponder

New Jersey: Cory Schneider

Cory Schneider is expected to make it 17-for-17 in appearances in goal for the Devils on Friday night.  Glenn Hall’s record of 502 consecutive appearances in goal is not in immediate jeopardy, but the heavy workload for Schneider does seem to be exacting a toll.  He allowed four goals in consecutive games before stopping 23 of 24 shots in the 3-1 win over Minnesota last Tuesday, the first time he allowed for or more goals in consecutive games since last March, and those games were a week apart.  He already has more than a third of the total appearances he has all of last season (45), which was a career high.  It is not as if he is getting any special breaks in shot volumes, averaging 30.0 shot on goal faced per 60 minutes so far this season.  In four career appearances against the Caps he is 2-2-0, 2.16, .925.

Washington: Eric Fehr

Eric Fehr got off to a slow start, scoring-wise.  In his first eight games he had only two assists despite averaging more than 17 minutes of ice time per game.  In his last four games he has a pair of goals, even as his ice time was pared back to a little over 14 minutes a game.  The ice time situation seems to be resolving itself, his having increased in that area in each of the last two games after skating a season low 8:18 in the Caps’ 6-5 loss to Arizona on November 2nd and being scratched for the next two games.  Fehr has had intermittent visits to the dog house under a number of coaches, so the idea here is whether he can play at a high level of effort on a consistent basis, to the satisfaction of Barry Trotz.  His on-ice possession stats have been good (55.2 Corsi-for percentage at 5-on-5; numbers from, and his PDO (1049) is third among forwards appearing in at least ten games.  Still, there is something that coaches see in him that they find disturbing from time to time.  It would appear that it is on Fehr to change that judgment.  In 21 career games against the Devils he is 3-2-5, minus-1.

In the end…

The Devils are down, their win over Minnesota on Tuesday notwithstanding.  This game sets up like the Games against Carolina and Columbus, both Caps wins, but both of them games where they let an inferior opponent hang around much too long after dominating early.  New Jersey is a veteran group.  Let these guys hang around too long, and the Caps will pay a price.  It always seems that going for the jugular is always an issue for the Caps, and it might be the biggest issue they face in this game.

Capitals 3 – Devils 2