The Peerless Prognosticator is ON THE AIR!!!
The Washington Capitals, fresh off their 2-1 win over the
Columbus Blue Jackets, jet out of town for a Saturday night meeting in South
Florida where the Florida Panthers will be waiting. The Panthers will be coming off their own
game the night before, having lost by a 3-1 margin to the Boston Bruins. Florida will have the advantage of playing
both sides of their back-to-back games at home.
Before heading into their weekend set of back-to-back games,
the Panthers put together a fairly impressive trio of games against Western
Conference opponents. They dropped a 3-2
decision in Chicago to the Blackhawks, then the roared back (get it?) with a
pair of wins – a 6-2 thumping of the Stars in Dallas and a 4-1 win over the
Colorado Avalanche last Tuesday.
Over those three games in which the Panthers recorded a
dozen goals, the points burden was borne primarily by Vincent Trocheck, who
recorded two goals and three assists to have a hand in almost half the Panther
goals. Trocheck, now in his third – and
first full – season with the Panthers after being drafted in the third round in
2011, was tied for second on the team in goals (4) and points (9) going into
the weekend. He leads the team in power play points (2-3-5). He has a goal in his only previous appearance
against the Caps, and he should be considered dangerous. His hometown is Pittsburgh.
Reilly Smith chipped in a goal in each of the Panthers’ wins
heading into the weekend. Smith, another third round draft pick (by Dallas in
2009), is already on his third franchise (Boston between stops in Dallas and
Florida), despite the fact that he will not turn 25 years of age until next
April. The right winger has one assist
in six career games against Washington.
So, you are a goalie with a 2.01 goals against average and a
.939 save percentage.
You also have a
win-loss record of 3-3-1. You are Roberto Luongo, Florida Panther
This is Luongo’s seventh
season with the Panthers, split into two tours of duty.
In 399 career games with the club he has a
.921 save percentage, but his goals against average is 2.61, and his record is
He has faced an average of
33 shots per game as a Panther.
phrase “lack of support” comes to mind.
He has yet to allow more than three goals in any game so far this season,
but allowing three seems to be a problem.
He has losses in all three games when allowing three scores (one in
And for good measure, he also
has a 1-0 loss on his ledger this season. He does give the Caps fits,
In 36 career games against
Washington, he is 20-10-0, 2.29, .926, with two shutouts.
He is also a real hoot on Twitter
Here is how the two teams compare in their numbers heading
into Friday’s games:
1. Florida is one of
only four teams with a positive goal differential per game of 1.0 or more (3.10
goals for per game, 2.10 goals against per game).
2. The Panthers are a very efficient shooting team. They rank seventh in team shooting percentage
(10.9 percent), and there are five players currently shooting at 20.0 percent
or better (Connor Brickley, Vincent Trocheck, Jaromir Jagr, Reilly Smith, and Quinton
3. Getting off to
good starts against the Panthers is difficult.
They are tied for third in fewest first period goals allowed (5).
Florida will make teams pay in the third periods of games. They are tied for fourth in most goals scored
in the third period of games (14).
5. When they are
good, they are very good. Four of
Florida’s five wins to date have been by three or more goals.
1. Last season, the Caps were 9-17-6 in games in
which they scored two or fewer goals.
With last night’s 2-1 win over Columbus, the Caps are 1-2-0 in such
games this season.
2. The power play,
one of the presumed strengths of the team, is 2-for-14 (14.3 percent) over
their last five games.
3. Washington is the
only team remaining in the league for which every penalty assessed so far has
been a minor penalty. They have been
whistled for 33 infractions, all minor penalties.
4. This year’s
version of the Capitals is less “heavy” than last year’s, at least to the
extent they are credited with hits. They
have been credited with the fourth fewest number of hits in the league
(193). Only San Jose, Minnesota, and
Carolina have fewer.
5. Philipp Grubauer
is likely to get the start in goal tonight for Washington. In his brief career to date, he is 4-5-2,
2.80, .915 in 12 road appearances.
The Peerless' Players to Ponder
Florida: Jaromir Jagr
In hockey terms, Jaromir Jagr is old. How old?
He is probably a Hall of Famer based on his record in Pittsburgh alone:
806 games, 439 goals, 1,079 points. But
since then he has played in another 753 games in the NHL. There are only 93 other active players in the
league with that many career games played.
There are 244 players having dressed for games this season who were not
born when Jagr took the ice for the first time in the NHL on October 5,
1990. Oh, and about that October 5, 1990
debut. It was against, who else, the
Capitals. Who else made their NHL debut
in that game? Peter Bondra. He retired in 2007. If Jagr appears in 74 games this season, he
will rise to fourth all-time in games played after the age of 40 (Gordie Howe,
Tim Horton, and Chris Chelios would still rank ahead of him). Another full season, and there would be only
Chelios ahead of him.
What is even more confounding is his production. He leads the Panthers in goals (six, before
Friday’s game), points (10), and shooting percentage. If there is one concession to his age, it is
that he averages only 15:16 in ice time per game. And it is not a case of a big burst in one
game; Jagr has points in six of the nine games in which he played going into
Friday’s game with Boston. He is still
dangerous. While Caps fans might think
that he has been particularly hard on the Caps, that is more a product of his
Pittsburgh years. With 90 career points
in 78 games (30-60-90), his career 1.15 points per game against Washington is
just 16th among the 30 franchises in points per game.
Washington: Marcus Johansson
Marcus Johansson was born on October 6, 1990, the day after
Jaromir Jagr made his debut in the NHL.
With all the attention paid to Alex Ovechkin’s five-game goal streak to
start the season, Evgeny Kuznetsov’s hat trick/five-point game, the additions
of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, and the emergence of John Carlson among the
elite performers among NHL defensemen, it is easy to overlook a player line
He is one of nine Caps at the moment who has recorded five
or more points (2-3-5). His plus-3 is
third on the team (going into Friday’s game), and he is playing with his usual
discipline with respect to the rule book (no penalty minutes). Since he came into the league in 2010-2011,
Johansson is one of four players who has appeared in more than 300 games,
recorded more than 50 goals, and has been charged with fewer than 50 total
penalty minutes (Loui Eriksson, Ryan O’Reilly, and Michael Grabner are the
others). He has been neither flashy nor
extraordinarily prolific. He has been
solid, a fine complementary player on a team with a full complement of top-six
forwards. In 18 career games against
Florida, Johansson is 3-8-11, plus-2.
In the end…
The Caps played a tough 60-minute game last night, now head on the road. Even for elite athletes, this can be a difficult situation, especially against a team with a surprisingly effective offense such as Florida's (even if Jaromir Jagr is held out another game with a lower body injury). Add in the fact that the Caps will be giving number one goalie Braden Holtby a breather, and this is a game that can be dangerous. It will put a premium on playing smart, on playing efficiently. The Caps have become just such a team from the early evidence this season.
Capitals 3 - Panthers 2