Friday, December 12, 2014

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!! -- Game 29: Lightning at Capitals, December 13th

The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!

Look, these guys just played last Tuesday, and both teams played one game since, so if you think we’re writing 1,200 or so words about this matchup again, think again.*  Look at our prognosto and game wrap for Tuesday's game for some background.  We do have some more thoughts about this game, though…

-- The Caps are 1-1-2 in a rematch against an opponent they beat the first time they squared off this season.  Washington beat Carolina on December 4th after beating them in overtime on November 8th, they lost to Columbus in overtime on Thursday after beating them on November 11th, the lost to Calgary in overtime on December 4th after beating them on October 25th, and they lost to the New Jersey Devils in regulation time on November 14th after beating them on October 16th.

-- On Tuesday, Braden Holtby faced 23 shots on goal in the Caps' 3-2 overtime loss to Columbus.  It is the seventh time this season that he faced fewer than 25 shots in a complete regulation or extra time game (that is, not counting partial games played).  He is 2-2-3 in those games with a save percentage of .892 and has allowed three or more goals in four of those decisions.  It is quite a drop off from his career record in such games coming into this season (6-3-2, 1.78, .912).  It seems that Holtby, who still has only 128 regular season appearances in the NHL has a bit of work to do on this part of game management.

-- The Caps are the only team Tampa Bay has faced over the Lightning’s last nine games to score more than three goals against them, the 5-3 win on Tuesday.

-- Odd fact… the Caps have not lost this season when scoring four goals (4-0-0).  However, they lost two of the four games in which they scored five goals (2-1-1).

-- The Caps scored a power play against Columbus on Tuesday night and lost.  It happens more often than you might think.  Washington is 8-6-4 when scoring a power play goal.  On the other hand, they are 4-7-3 when allowing a power play goal, which is probably what many folks might expect.

-- John Carlson has points in six of his last seven games (2-7-9, plus-9) and is now tied for fifth in scoring among defensemen (4-17-21).

-- The Caps are 5-5-4 at home this season.  Through 14 home games last season the Caps actually lost six times in regulation.  They won the other eight games.  Here is the thing about those eight wins, though.  Four of them came in extra time, three of them in the Gimmick.  That’s how thin the margin can be in earning standings points.

-- Jason Chimera had been such a good fella, too.  His straying from the rule book was described in fine form at Japers’ Rink here.  He’s had an odd season when it comes to infractions.  In his first 16 games he took seven minor penalties, never more than one in a single game.  Then he ran off a string of 11 games in which he took just one penalty.  Then came Thursday night and taking a pair, including that penalty in overtime….ugh.

-- Don’t let Tampa Bay get to “four.”  The Lightning are 15-0-0 when scoring four or more goals, and only two of those wins are in extra time.

-- The Caps have a very respectable 9-5-2 record against Eastern Conference teams.  It is, however, something of a split personality.  Washington is 6-1-2 against Metropolitan Division teams, but only 3-4-1 against teams in the Atlantic Division.  Tampa Bay is in the Atlantic Division.

In the end…

The trick about losing streaks is nipping them in the bud before they become streaks.  Only once this season have the Caps had a losing streak longer than two games (a five-game streak, October 26 – November 4), so they have been fairly good at avoiding prolonged slumps of that variety.  On the other hand, they haven’t had a winning streak of longer than three games (twice, the more recent one snuffed out in the loss on Tuesday).

If the Caps can win three of every four games (they are 3-0-1 in their last four contests), it will make for a happy spring, certainly.  But the more immediate chore is to keep from getting that second straight loss.

Capitals 4 – Lightning 2

*  OK...734 words.

A ONE-point night -- Game 28: Blue Jackets 3 - Capitals 2 (OT)

Sometimes, you really do run into a hot goaltender. The Washington Capitals did just that, failing to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets last night at Verizon Center.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 39 of 41 shots, including 17 of 18 power play shots, in throttling the Caps. It was on a power play that the game’s scoring started, courtesy of Eric Fehr just over three minutes into the game.  After some deft passing in and through the Columbus zone, Fehr redirected a John Carlson drive through Bobrovsky 3:19 into the game. 

It might have signaled a big night for the Caps, but they could not pull away.  Columbus tied the game at the 15:36 mark when Nick Foligno recorded his 12th goal of the season by ringing a wrist shot off the pipe and behind goalie Braden Holtby.

After a scoreless second period, one in which Bobrovksy turned away 15 Capital shots, Washington regained the one-goal lead 9:20 into the third period.  Troy Brouwer got his eighth goal of the season on another redirection, this one coming when he circled all the way around the Blue Jacket net, appearing to Bobrovsky’s left just in time to get his stick on a Matt Niskanen drive from the right point to make it 2-1.

That might have been it, but an old bugaboo bit the Caps – allowing the quick goal after a score of their own.  Just 1:39 after Brouwer’s goal, Kevin Connauton tied the game with a long range shot that squirted through a disbelieving Holtby’s pads, the goalie staring down at them for several seconds after the puck settled into the back of the net.

That left it up to overtime to settle things, and Columbus did just that in the last half minute of the extra session when Foligno got his second goal of the game, one-timing a pass from Jack Johnson on a Columbus power play to end it at 4:41, Blue Jackets on top, 3-2.

Other stuff…

-- Alex Ovechkin… nine shots on goal, 16 shot attempts…no points. It was one of those nights for the captain and the team.

-- Marcus Johansson has a thing for the Blue Jackets. He had a season high eight shots on goal in the Caps’ 4-2 win on Veterans Day. He had four shots on goal last night, his third highest shot total of the season. He also had no points.

-- The 41 shots on goal was the second time this season the Caps topped the 40 shot mark. It was also the second time the Caps lost the game, the other time coming on November 22nd when the Caps had 44 shots in a 2-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

-- The 23 shots Holtby faced was the fewest he faced in a full game since he stopped 19 of 23 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss to Calgary on November 4th.  He is 2-2-3 this season in full games in which he faced fewer than 25 shots on goal with a save percentage in those games of .892.

-- It was target practice for the Caps on the power play.  Nine different players recorded shots on goal, but Eric Fehr’s was the only one of 18 shots to get through on what would be his only power play shot on goal.

-- The Caps were clearly out of practice on the power play.  They had six chances, the most in a game for the team since they went 1-for-6 in a 4-2 loss to Detroit on October 29th.  Going into this game the Caps had two or fewer power play chances in eight of their previous nine games and had only six chances combined over their previous three contests.

-- Corsi-haters will love this one.  Shot attempts… Caps: 73, Blue Jackets: 49.

-- Columbus made up for their lack of shooting with a high volume of hitting.  They were credited with 30 hits, perhaps just another way of saying the Caps always had the puck.

-- More of the little things the Caps did well…faceoffs.  Nicklas Backstrom was 13-for-19; Eric Fehr was 8-for-13; Troy Brouwer was 7-for-9; Michael Latta was 5-for-7.  The Caps overall won 36 of 62 draws.

-- Not the best of nights for Jason Chimera against his old team.  Two shots, no points, and two penalties, including the interference call that led to the game-winning goal, and barely ten minutes of ice time.

-- It kind of figured that Brooks Orpik and John Carlson would be on ice for the game-winner against.  They rank third (15) and fifth (13), respectively in power play goal against on ice among NHL defensemen.

In the end…

The Caps did everything but win this game.  More shots, more power plays, an avalanche of power play shots, more faceoff wins, perfect penalty kill in regulation.  That is the unique difference a goalie can make in a single game.  Bobrovsky was the difference for Columbus.  He could have been named all three stars for this game.  For the Caps, it’s deal with it and move on.  They still have points in four straight games and are 3-0-1 in their march through the Eastern Conference portion of their schedule to close the year.  It does get tougher, though, as a Tampa Bay Lightning team bent on revenge for the loss the Caps pinned on them last Tuesday come to town on Saturday.  Time to get back to work comes soon enough.